Women’s advocates, police, and academics appeared yesterday before a U.S. Senate panel asking Congress to exercise greater oversight over numbers reported by local police departments to the FBI, and to update antiquated definitions that lead many rapes to be classified as lesser offenses, says the Baltimore Sun. The Crime and Drugs subcommittee hearing was prompted partly by the Sun’s reporting on the widespread dismissal of rape cases in Baltimore, where for years police have discarded reports at a higher percentage than in any other city in the country or failed to take reports on the streets. Said. Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), “I’m concerned that in other areas of this nation, they may not be hitting the radar screen.”
Cardin and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) said they would push the FBI to adopt a more consistent definition of sexual assault to determine better the extent of rape nationwide; they agreed that uniform guidelines for reporting were needed. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced that the Police Executive Research Forum will convene an executive session in early 2011 for police leaders, medical and mental health professionals, and advocacy groups to discuss the current state of sexual assault reporting and investigations. Ramsey said the goal is to advise police agencies on best practices and how to partner with their local social service and advocacy organizations.