The New York Police Department has accepted recommendations from a committee chosen by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly aimed at decreasing the number of misclassified complaints in sexual assault cases and increasing officer sensitivity when dealing with victims, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Sex Crimes Working Group was convened in April after sex-crime victim advocate groups and rape counselors said they believed many rape and sexual-assault complaints were being classified as lesser crimes or reports weren’t being taken at all.
Harriet Lessel of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault said, “We found that people, in all five boroughs, were having a hard time reporting sexual assaults.” The police department audited 1,922 sex-crime cases and found the charges in 19 cases were misclassified and needed to be corrected. The committee recommended that all sexual-assault complaints be assigned to Special Victims Division (SVD) detectives who are specially trained in sex-crime investigations. Currently, sexual-assault complaints are also handled by patrol officers. The committee members believe the change will lead to a decrease in the number of sex-crime misclassifications. The committee also suggested having SVD investigators and not patrol officers respond to interview victims being treated in hospitals. The committee found that prosecutors, medical professionals and victim advocates have complained that patrol officers often fail to demonstrate the proper sensitivity when dealing with sex-crime complainants.