April 13, 2024

Prosecutors said Thursday that the US Department of Justice is investigating the New York Police Department’s treatment of victims of sexual crimes after concluding there was “significant justification” to do so and after receiving reports of shortcomings for more than a decade.

Kristen Clark, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and two US attorneys in New York Announce the investigation In a statement, saying they would carefully review the department’s Special Victims Division to see if it was participating in a pattern of gender-biased policing.

“Survivors of sexual assault should expect effective, informed, victim-focused investigations by police departments,” Clark said. “Based on information provided to the Department of Justice, we have found significant justification for investigating whether the NYPD Special Victims Division is engaging in a gender-biased policing pattern or practice.”

The investigation comes after years of reports of minor practices by the NYPD in its investigation of sexual crimes and a 2019 lawsuit in which two women allege that the NYPD Special Victims Department mistreated them.

One of the women claimed that investigators ignored her report of her being raped by someone with whom she was involved, calling it a “dispute” rather than a sexual crime.

Another woman said her account of her being kidnapped and gang raped was blatantly mishandled by a sex crime investigator for months before she was told the case was “too complicated” to investigate.

After the lawsuit and a driving adjustment, the NYPD vowed to change its tactics. But victims say promised reforms are yet to come.

Justice Department officials said they would reach out to community and public groups to learn about their interactions with the department.

They said the investigation will include a comprehensive review of police department policies and procedures and training in sexual assault crimes investigations by the unit, including how it interacts with survivors and witnesses and how it gathers evidence and completes investigations.

They said they also wanted to know what steps the police department had taken to address deficiencies in its handling of sexual assault crimes, including recruitment services and support for survivors of sexual assault.

US Attorney Bron Pace said the NYPD has already done so Steps have been taken To address concerns, however, authorities want to ensure that victims of sexual assault are treated fairly in the future.

US Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan said victims of sexual crimes “deserve the same rigorous and impartial investigations into their cases that the NYPD provides for other categories of crime.”

“Likewise, the diligent and effective prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence, without being weighed down by gender stereotypes or differential treatment, is essential to public safety,” he added.

A message requesting comment has been left with the NYPD.

Mayor Eric Adams’ spokesman, Max Young, told CBS News in a statement that the mayor’s office will “fully cooperate” with the investigation.

“There is no higher priority for law enforcement than ensuring that victims of sexual assault get the justice they deserve and the care, support and treatment they need,” he said.

After the 2019 lawsuit, the NYPD appointed a woman, Judith Harrison, to lead the besieged department and switched to what it called a “victim-focused” approach — but moved to a different position within two years.

In 2020, the department named Michael King, a veteran investigator and forensic nurse, to the position. King, whose experience included performing physical exams and gathering vital evidence to solve sexual crime cases, spent part of his first few days on the job going to the hospital to help doctors with rape kits.

But King was sacked in February, amid complaints about his leadership and the department’s continued mishandling of cases.

Last October, a woman who identified herself as Christine told a city council hearing that investigators had made fundamental errors in their rape investigation.

She said they failed to interview witnesses or collect security camera footage from the bar where she was before the attack.

Instead, she said, they wanted to make a “painful, controlled phone call to the man who raped me,” failed a rape drug test and closed the case twice without telling her.

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