The Baltimore County Police Department says detectives will now personally interview every person who reports a rape, BuzzFeed reports. The move comes in response to a BuzzFeed News investigation showing that the department often dropped rape cases without taking that elemental step. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the change on Wednesday and said it was effective immediately. He also announced that the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and retired Judge Barbara Howe will lead an independent review “to identify recommendations for significant improvements to police responses to sexual violence.”
BuzzFeed found that the department often dismissed rape allegations as “unfounded” despite having conducted little to no detective work. Between 2009 and 2014, the department classified more than one-third of rape allegations as “unfounded,” a rate far higher than the national average and one that experts said raises questions about how the department handles rape cases. When women reported rape to the Baltimore County police, they were often interviewed only by the beat cop on duty. After those initial interviews, the beat cops passed the cases to specialized sexual assault detectives, who often dismissed them without any further investigation at all. Next year, Maryland’s state lawmakers are set to consider a bill intending to clarify that women do not need to show that they physically resisted their attackers in order for rape to be proved.