A rapist strikes, but the Philadelphia police fail to respond aggressively. He attacks again. This time, he kills. A promising medical student is dead, the Philadelpia Inquirer reports. Student Rebecca Park was sexually assaulted and slain last month. The same pattern unfolded five years ago in the case of Shannon Schieber.
Now the question is how much the police department’s rape squad has shaken off its troubled past, the Inquirer says. “Everybody is drawing the parallel between what happened to Shannon and what happened in this particular case,” Schieber’s father, Sylvester Schieber, said last week.
Police officials acknowledge that they failed to alert the news media about a sketch of the rapist who they say later went on to kill Park. “I feel accountability,” said Capt. John Darby, who commands the Special Victims Unit. “Certainly, every mistake, the human factor being what is, is under the microscope. It’s going to be looked at. We try to keep that in mind. We try to do the best we can.”
Even former critics say the police are doing much better. The squad’s rate for rape arrests and for solving those cases has skyrocketed and the department has begun a policy of DNA testing that has cracked several less-publicized “stranger rape” cases. It may be small comfort to the Park family, but the mistake in her case is dwarfed by police missteps that preceded Schieber’s murder.