Federal prosecutors in New York and Washington have opened a civil rights investigation into the New York Police Department’s Special Victims Division and its handling of sexual abuse cases, officials said Thursday.
Investigators will investigate allegations, including “failing to take basic investigative steps and instead shaming and abusing survivors and re-traumatizing them during investigations,” according to a Justice Department press release. They will examine the division’s policies, procedures and training and evaluate interactions between officers, victims and witnesses.
“The department has received information about alleged deficiencies at SVD that persist for more than a decade, depriving survivors and the public of the prompt, thorough and effective investigations necessary to protect public safety,” the Justice Department said in a statement. the press release.
Some victims have argued for years that the police did not adequately investigate their allegations. Four years ago, the police found that police leadership had prioritized rapes where the perpetrators were strangers over those where the assailants knew their victims. Some detectives also mistreated victims, the department concluded, by treating their cases insensitively or dismissing their stories.
“Sex crime victims deserve the same rigorous and unbiased scrutiny of their cases that the NYPD assigns to other categories of crime,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in the press release. “The relentless and effective pursuit of perpetrators of sexual assault, unburdened by gender stereotypes or differential treatment, is essential to public safety.”