Last week, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin stated that only about half of the police departments in the state were complying with an executive order she issued in April instructing them to perform an audit of all untested rape kits. To be clear, the order wasn’t to complete the testing of the thousands that are sitting in evidence rooms throughout the state. In fact, it wasn’t even actually to begin testing them. It was simply to perform an inventory and determine just how many of them there are.
For many of those departments, though, the deadline of December 31, 2017 has come and gone. A lieutenant at the El Reno Police Department who states that they did do the audit but it somehow slipped his mind to send the information in. Meanwhile, according to “News9.com” Sgt. Jillian Phippen of the Tulsa Police Department maintains that they just don’t have the personnel or money to do it.
“For us, to do that, to comply with this unfunded mandate, it’s just a lot of money,” said Sgt. Phippen. “We’re already putting my sex crimes detectives back into the field to work patrol positions, so it’s not like we just have extra individuals that can stop what they’re doing and then complete this audit.”
It’s kinda obvious where the priorities of police department are when one representative states that he “just forgot” to provide the information and the other says that their department has their rape investigators out generating revenue by writing tickets, instead of solving sex crimes.
For her part, Governor Fallin, who has now given them until Feb. 15th to comply, doesn’t seem terribly worried about the fact that thousands of rapists are walking the streets and potentially victimizing other women, when they could have been caught long ago. She “isn’t happy with the lack of cooperation she is getting from law enforcement.” However, she seems to be willing to afford them the benefit of the doubt that they (eventually) will.
“That’s not enough.” Governor Fallin said. “We need to do better and I think everybody’s certainly willing to step up and do it but we need to finish the job.”
Rape survivors, such as Danielle Tudor, aren’t quite so patient, though:
Tudor says that’s not acceptable.
“What is says to me as a rape survivor and unfortunately what it says to future sexual assault victims is, ‘Is it worth it to report it? Is it worth it to have that rape kit done because I have no guarantee that my evidence will even be used in my case.'”
A National Issue and a Question of Priorities
It’s a valid concern for victims of rape and other crimes involving sexual assault and it’s not just limited to Oklahoma, either. A 2015 story by USA Today estimated at least 70,000 untested rape kits existed nationwide, based on data obtained through a massive campaign of open records requests. A year earlier, in 2014, the Daily Beast published their own estimate of 400,000 kits that have failed to be tested since the mid 80’s when DNA testing began to be widely used.
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While it’s a handy excuse to ignore things the police don’t really want to be bothered with the “lack of funding” doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny. Early last week, I posted about former LVMPD Police Officer Arthur Lee Sewall Jr.,who was (finally charged with rape and murder twenty years after the crime was committed.
In spite of the fact investigators suspected Sewall literally from day one of their investigation in 1997, the victim’s rape kit wasn’t processed until 2017. Prosecutors supposedly couldn’t find the money to process a rape kit in a case where they already had a suspect, that suspect had a previous history of sex crimes, and they already had access to his DNA profile.
Meanwhile, the LVMPD and the City of Las Vegas managed to scrape together over a half billion dollars between them to build a new police headquarters and city hall. Just for good measure the nearby suburb of North Las Vegas also built new fancy building for their police department and city government.
Just as outrageous is the story Joey Lankowski posted here at NVCopBlock.org yesterday. Within it, he detailed how it was recently exposed that Henderson (another Vegas suburb) Police Chief Patrick Moers and his second in command, Deputy Police Chief Bobby Long, were forced to resign as the result of a sexual harassment scandal.
As part of what was originally characterized as a “voluntary separation,” Moers and Long received about $400,000 for accrued vacation hours and benefits. I have very little doubt that that money alone would have funded testing for quite a few of the 4,000+ untested rape kits within Southern Nevada. If not, then the $750 million in public funds the Clark County Commission voted to give the Raiders for a new stadium certainly would.
Are There Other, Worse, Reasons for the Lack of Urgency?
Of course, the reason that there wasn’t a more immediate uproar about Chief Moers’ and Deputy Chief Long’s large payoffs was because the Henderson City Government kept the true reason for their resignations under wraps for months until an anonymous source tipped off the local newspaper.
Similarly, Officer Sewall spent the vast majority of those twenty years violating his probation terms without suffering any significant repercussions. Nor did anyone in a position to do so make much of an effort to get the one rape kit that could confirm what they already suspected was true processed. It’s almost like the respective prosecutors, city governments, and police departments were just not that interested in pursuing the case, if they could avoid it. Almost exactly like that.
(Not to mention the mayor of North Las Vegas, for whom the former NLV police chief admitted having covered up the presence of child porn on his computer and the current number two man in charge at the LVMPD, who once had to resign after he asked a woman to expose herself in exchange for not being arrested.)
It’s no secret that some police have used their position and the vulnerabilities of women they often interact with to pressure or physically force them into performing sex acts. In fact, just three years ago, right there in Oklahoma City, Officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted of raping 13 women and had preyed upon numerous more during his time as a police officer.
Experts say that DNA evidence is as high as 99% accurate and has led to the identification of over 1,200 serial rapists in Detroit and Cleveland alone after concerted efforts were made to test the backlogs there. It would seem that Oklahoma, Nevada, and everywhere else would want to do the same, thereby bringing justice to past victims and preventing future ones.
Unless they’re afraid that a certain occupation might pop up a little too often once those tests are conducted…
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Kelly is a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who’s been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He’s also the founder/main contributor of Nevada Cop Block, served as editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official Cop Block Press Passes.
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