The Tallahassee, Fl., police department, the target of what the New York Times calls stinging criticism and national attention for its handling of a rape accusation against Florida State University's Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, has begun working with a respected women's advocacy group to rewrite its sexual assault complaint policy. Police Chief Michael DeLeo has agreed to an external review of the department's overall policies by the Police Executive Research Forum. The Times reported in April that the police had conducted virtually no investigation of the rape allegation against Winston, leading in part to a prosecutor's decision not to file criminal charges against him. Florida State knew about the allegation as well but waited nearly a year to ask Winston about it, and only then after he had led the university's football team to the national championship.
DeLeo said his department was working on its sexual assault complaint policy with the advocacy group End Violence Against Women International. “They're looking at our procedures, how we document things, to make them better,” he said. Meg Baldwin of Refuge House, a provider of services to sexual assault victims, said Tallahassee was not the first community to push for systemic change in sex crime investigations. She cited cities such as Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Washington as having “already gone to the drawing board” to encourage overhauls, transparency and accountability in their handling of sexual assault complaints.