The St. Louis Police Department, the target of criticism over how it handles rape investigations, is touting three initiatives designed to prevent sexual assault and encourage victims to come forward, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Next year, police will begin providing brochures with resources for sexual assault victims. Police will start a program in which young, male police officers serve as role models for teenage boys. The two programs join a police sensitivity course already in place. St. Louis police Chief Joseph Mokwa said new training and cooperation with advocates has been successful in drawing out victims. The city has seen a 20 percent increase in rape reports this year. “What is really happening is more women are coming forward, not more women are being raped,” Mokwa said yesterday.
Last year, the Post-Dispatch reported that for many years, police kept many rape cases off their books by detailing them in informal memos, which were periodically shredded. The series reported that the department often failed to analyze rape kits and officers repeatedly gave women waivers to release police from investigating and counting their complaints as crimes. Mokwa insists that the new initiatives came because commanders recognized that sexual assault crimes were underreported. Since June, at least 500 officers have completed training meant to teach sensitivity to police who first respond to sexual assault calls.