Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said a focus on homicides and nonfatal shooting investigations may have contributed to neglect of growing problems with the way the department investigated sex offenses, reports the Baltimore Sun. Bealefeld said that patrol officers no longer will be allowed to dismiss rape claims at the crime scene, something that accounts for nearly four in 10 rape calls to 911 failing to generate a police report. All claims will now be referred to specialized detectives.
The Sun reported last month that, since 2004, Baltimore has led the U.S. with more than 30 percent of rape reports marked “unfounded” by detectives, meaning police believed the victim was lying. Advocates and sexual assault victims also described harsh interrogation tactics by officers that in some cases compelled alleged victims to recant their story. Those factors might have contributed to an 80 percent decline in rapes since the 1990s, while such crimes fell 8 percent nationwide. Bealefeld has called the issue a “crisis” and Monday night on Maryland Public Television’s “Direct Connection” program said he accepts “full responsibility.” Bealefeld credited the Sun’s reporting for pointing to a wider problem, saying, “I can’t tell you that we would have seen that by ourselves.”