2020-01-14 ne-okrapekitsp1

These are rape kits used by the Tulsa Police Department to collect evidence. John Clanton/Tulsa World file

Law enforcement agencies and medical facilities ought to be ready for the new law in effect giving rape victims power to track the progress of their evidence.

Entities that collect, test and retain sexual assault evidence have been required since Jan. 1 to use a statewide electronic system.

Last April, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 967, sponsored by Sen. Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City, directing the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to create the system. It will provide the location of a rape kit and whether it has been processed.

The law grew from the startling, and unacceptable, finding during a two-year audit that more than 7,200 kits sat untested. That led to a series of recommendations from the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence.

A uniform, statewide tracking system was a centerpiece of reforms to reduce the backlog and prevent the problem from recurring. It is to provide a consistent way to investigate and solve crimes and let victims know how their cases are progressing.

Since its launch, 159 of the more than 350 law enforcement agencies have registered with the system, according to a recent story from The Oklahoman. In addition, 42 medical facilities have engaged with it.

Agencies and facilities not involved may have a legitimate reason, such as not having evidence to submit.

Ignorance of the law is not an acceptable excuse. For at least a year, the OSBI has been notifying agencies of the requirement, providing training and offering an online course for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs.

Much has been done in other areas to bring justice and attention to sexual assault victims.

The Legislature passed reforms to require holding evidence longer and submitting kits for testing faster. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office in October received a $2.5 million federal grant to process pending evidence.

We congratulate those involved on the work done to fix the system and hope lessons have been learned.

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