New Orleans Police Department Special Victims Section Fails To Pursue Hundreds of Sex Crimes

A recent examination of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) revealed that five seasoned detectives of the Special Victims Section failed to pursue over 800 sex crime cases between 2011 and 2013. The report, prepared by the city’s inspector general, states that only 14% of reported sex crimes cases had any records of follow-up efforts. 

The Inspector General’s report of inquiry stated that each of the 1,290 sex crimes calls received during the three-year time frame was assigned to one of five Special Victims detectives; of those, 840 were designated as “miscellaneous,” and no action was taken to pursue those cases. Not even a single word was written down to create an initial report. Of the 450 calls that did culminate in an initial report, which provides very little information, only 179 had any sort of supplemental reports, documenting any additional investigative efforts beyond the initial report. 

The Inspector General’s report also provided details about the detectives’ mishandling of interactions with victims and cited instances in which detectives ignored victims’ reports of sexual assault and failed to send evidence to the crime lab. CNN reported on one especially disturbing case, where a 2-year-old was brought to the emergency room with suspicion that she had been sexually assaulted. Tests showed that the toddler had a sexually transmitted disease, however the detective assigned to the case did no follow up and closed the case without an investigation.

In a news conference on Wednesday, November 12th, the inspector general’s lead investigator Howard Schwartz attributed the “systemic problem” to a “lack of supervision and management” by NOPD and noted their failure to recognize the magnitude of the problem. In addition, recently appointed superintendent of police, Michael S. Harrison, stated that the special victims section detectives from the report had been transferred from that unit and are now being investigated by the Police Department’s public integrity bureau. The bureau is also reviewing all of the special victims cases that were handled by the detectives.

This is not the first time that the New Orleans’ police force has come under scrutiny for their sex crimes investigations. In 2011, the United States Department of Justice reported that the unit often treated victims with suspicion and blame while failing to interrogate suspects. 

NOPD is also currently under federal court supervision due to a pattern of inefficient, abusive and corrupt police work. 

Update: September 19th 2014 - New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu ordered hundrends of rape and child-abuse cases to be reopened and thoroughly investigated. At a recent press conference Mayor Landrieu stated, "I can't express how angry and frustrated I am about the findings in this report."

- By Vivian Long, November 18th, 2014

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