Rape Culture Is Real: N.O. Detectives Failed To Investigate Over 1,000 Sex Crimes

November 14, 2014  |  

For those still wondering if there is such a thing as rape culture? The short answer is: absolutely.

While the long answer comes courtesy of CNN.com. In particular this article about five New Orleans Police Department Special Victim Unit detectives, who may have failed to investigate a combined 1,111 sex crimes over a three-year period.

According to CNN, the revelations are from a recent study entitled Documentation of Sex Crime Investigations by Five Detectives in the Special Victims Section of the New Orleans Police Department, which was conducted by the New Orleans Office of Inspector General. You can read the report in its entirety here.

However in the executive summary, N.O Inspector General E. R. Quatrevaux writes that the office conducted the investigation after reviewing information gathered by the Audit Division of this Office for its Audit of NOPD’s Uniform Crime Reporting of Forcible Rapes and discovering that 23 out of the 90 sex crime related reports audited, “raised concerns about the documentation of the investigations.”

At the time of the investigation, there were only nine detectives working the special victim unit, which is mostly responsible for sex crimes. However, in the Inspector General’s report, the five detectives being audited only conducted thorough investigations (including supplemental investigations) on a total of 179 instances (or 13 percent) of the 1,290 sex crime-related calls assigned to them. The rest of were mainly “short and vague” incident reports.

The CNN article highlights one particularly heinous case involving a toddler:

According to the seven-page document released Wednesday by the city’s Office of Inspector General, a 2-year-old was brought to a hospital emergency room after an alleged sexual assault. Tests would show the toddler had a sexually transmitted disease, the report said.

The detective in the case wrote in his report that the 2-year-old “did not disclose any information that would warrant a criminal investigation and closed the case,” the inspector general’s report said.

The Inspector General’s reports cites the lack of supervisor as a major cause for the detectives’ negligence. According to CNN, most of the incidents in question occurred under the reign of previous police chief Ronal Serpas. However Cmdr. Michael Harrison, interim N.O police chief, calls the findings of the report “a disappointment” and reflective of the need for “ more work to do within the department than he originally thought.” CNN also reports that the officers in question have been transferred the five detectives to “patrol-related duties.” And the department has instituted policies to ensure cases are being thoroughly investigated.

Outside of the failure to follow up on sex crime allegations, a couple of the officers in question failed, on several occasions, to follow up on medical reporting including rape kits within some of these cases, which could have led to suspect matches in the cases. And as CNN reports:

A review of the DNA Laboratory’s records shows that as of October 13, 2014, the NOPD has failed to respond to 53 state lab requests for “reference samples” to confirm that DNA obtained in an investigation matches DNA in an FBI database, the report said. The requests date back to July 2010.”

The lack of followup on physical and other medical evidence is particularly frightening and also corresponds with another national problem related to untested rape kits. According to the website EndTheBacklog.com, while there is no comprehensive national registry on hand with actual numbers, experts estimate that there are an upwards of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits (the site also offers a map to show just how pervasive the problem is and what legislation is on the books or has been introduced to combat it).

The issue of untested rape kits was one, which I had also profiled in a piece from last year about Wayne County D.A Kim Worthy’s attempt to get 11,000 untested rape kits in the Detroit area tested. Thankfully, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced earlier this week his office’s intentions of issuing up to $35 million in grant money to help prosecutors around the country test the tens of thousands of rape kits currently collecting dust on police evidence shelves.

Great news, but what good is it going to do if we can’t even get officers in charge of handling the evidence to take it seriously?

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