The N.Y.P.D. Sex Crimes Unit Still Needs Help

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea speaks during a press conference at the New York City Police Department headquarters on June 27.

Earlier this year, New York City’s Department of Investigation presented a report showing that the Police Department’s adult sex crimes unit was severely understaffed, even though victim advocates and the unit’s commander had requested more resources for years, as reports of rape increased.

Now, the New York Police Department says the Department of Investigation got it all wrong: There’s no problem at all.

In its formal response this week, the Police Department complained that the report ignored the department’s “focused and concerted efforts to increase the reporting of sexual assaults, promote transparency … and improve the experience of survivors.” It said the Department of Investigation foolishly considered a model developed by a small-town sheriff in Charlotte County, Fla., that was inappropriate for the country’s largest police department.

Yet nothing in the 30-page response fully addressed the report’s central finding, that the Police Department failed to increase the adult sex crimes unit’s staffing as reported rapes rose in New York City and caseloads for its detectives grew by 65 percent from 2009 to 2017. The investigation department recommended doubling the number of seasoned detectives to roughly 145. Instead, the police have added 20 investigators. Though all receive training, most are not yet detectives.

The Police Department does not explain why repeated requests for more resources from Deputy Chief Michael Osgood, the longtime head of the sex crimes unit, fell on deaf ears at headquarters, even while the rates of other major crimes continued to fall. All the while, the police budget has grown by more than $800 million under Mayor Bill de Blasio, to nearly $5.6 billion.

The police said they plan to implement some of the report’s recommendations, like ensuring that acquaintance rapes and domestic sexual assaults are investigated by adult sex crimes detectives, rather than at local precincts. They said the newly named chief of detectives, Dermot Shea, was still in the midst of a review of the special victims division. And a spokesman for the Police Department said more changes could come.

That’s fine but so far, the Police Department’s formal response is unjustifiably self-confident for an agency that refuses to acknowledge its challenges. The detectives who would solve rape cases are overtaxed. They need help, not platitudes.

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