Joe Biden’s Department of Justice has announced that it has opened an investigation into the NYPD’s special sex crimes unit after repeated allegations of victim abuse.
The DOJ said in a recent press release regarding the complaints, that the department had received information about “deficiencies” within the NYPD’s Special Victims Division stretching back more than a decade, including allegations that the division failed to conduct “basic investigative steps” and instead “re-traumatized” victims during its investigations.
“Survivors of sexual assault should expect effective, trauma-informed, and victim-centered investigations by police departments,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “Based on information provided to the Justice Department, we find significant justification to investigate whether the NYPD’s Special Victims Division engages in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing.”
The investigation will include a comprehensive review of the NYPD’s policies, procedures, and training for sexual assault investigations and will include outreach to community groups and the public.
Federal law allows the DOJ’s division to pursue civil litigation against state and local police departments that engage in practices that deprive individuals of their constitutional or federal rights. The DOJ said the investigation would assess potential violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Safe Streets Act.
The NYPD said in a statement that it welcomed the DOJ’s review, also pointing to the results of an independent review of its sex crimes division by outside experts published in May.
The review observed multiple strengths in the NYPD’s sex crimes response but also noted that 6 percent of 150 randomly selected sexual assault cases handled by the division resulted in arrests.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said she was working to implement the group’s recommendations.
“We continue the NYPD’s commitment to the development of the Special Victims Division,” said Sewell. “Our goal is for [the division] to be the national model. I believe any constructive review of our practices in the Special Victims Division will show that the NYPD has been evolving and improving in this area, but we will be transparent and open to criticism as well as ideas in the process.”
Max Young, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D), said the mayor’s office will cooperate with the investigation.
“There is no higher priority for law enforcement than ensuring that victims of sexual assault get the justice they deserve and the care, support, and treatment they need,” said Young. “We welcome this review, will cooperate fully in this investigation, and will continue to take all steps necessary to ensure we fix problems that have been decades in the making.”
The NYPD Special Victims Division served as the basis for the long-running television crime drama “Law and Order: SVU.”