The Department of Justice has opened a sweeping investigation of the New York City Police Department’s Special Victims Division and its handling of sex crimes, officials said on Thursday.
Prosecutors in New York and Washington will examine allegations of officers “failing to conduct basic investigative steps and instead shaming and abusing survivors and re-traumatizing them during investigations,” according to a Justice Department news release. They will investigate the division’s policies, procedures and training, and evaluate interactions among officers, victims and witnesses.
The department had received allegations of deficiencies in the unit “that have persisted for more than a decade, depriving survivors and the public of the prompt, thorough and effective investigations needed to protect public safety,” the release said.
The federal probe is another setback for the Police Department, which is already under consent decrees governing its stop-and-frisk and surveillance practices. The state attorney general has also sued to install a monitor to oversee changes in the way the department handles protests after finding evidence of widespread abuse during the George Floyd social justice demonstrations in 2020.
The announcement came 10 months after more than a dozen women wrote a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation of the division. Many had spoken out for years about their experiences with investigators who they said lacked sensitivity, skill and time to properly investigate their cases, even after the #MeToo movement forced a cultural reckoning on rape.
Leslie McFadden, one of the signers, said Thursday she was “ecstatic” that the Justice Department had decided to act. Police officials have acknowledged botching the investigation into her report that a former colleague drugged and raped her in October 2015.
“So many survivors have been robbed of justice, and they’ve been waiting in vain for many years now,” Ms. McFadden said. “Although this is just a first step, it’s a step in the right direction and a modicum of justice for all of the survivors who have been wronged by the N.Y.P.D.”
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Ashley Southall and Troy Closson