To the United States Congress
Pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization
Act (VAWA). While the bill never reached the President last year, separate
versions of VAWA before both the Senate and House in 2012 funded training for
law enforcement agencies on how to improve investigation of sexual assault
cases and on how to appropriately treat victims. The bills also provided grants
to help appoint victim counselors for the prosecution of sexual assault cases.
To the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice
Information Services Division Advisory Policy Board
the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), recommend collecting and publishing data
separately for crimes law enforcement has “cleared by arrest” and
cleared “by exceptional means.”
Clarify in the UCR Handbook that “clearing by
exceptional means” does not include cases in which a prosecutor has
rejected a warrant request for insufficient evidence.
revising UCR data collection to include collecting data that would reflect
prosecutorial outcomes in order to provide the public with more meaningful
information on what ultimately happens to sexual assault cases reported in
To the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights
an investigation into the MPD’s handling of sexual assault cases to
determine whether it has engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that
deprives individuals of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected
by the Constitution or US laws.
To the Council of the District of Columbia and the D.C.
a task force (including a nationally recognized expert on sexual assault
investigations) to examine the MPD’s policies and practices for handling
sex crimes cases and recommend changes to ensure all complaints of sexual assaults
are documented and investigated and victims of sexual assault are treated
appropriately. The task force should also examine the definition of sex abuse
in D.C. to ensure it is in line with current standards.
legislation giving victims the right to have an advocate, victim specialist, or
support person of their choosing present during law enforcement interviews and
a permanent independent oversight body tasked to conduct regular reviews of
police sexual assault investigation files. The body should report publicly to
the city council. It should include members representing civil society, such as
groups that provide support services to victims.
Victim Services within the MPD (which provides support, information, and referrals
to sexual assault and domestic violence survivors) has adequate resources to
expand support to the Sexual Assault Unit (SAU). Request regular reports on
implementing recommended changes to handle sexual assault cases from the MPD as
part of the council’s regular performance oversight hearings.
To the Metropolitan Police Department
To Improve Accountability for the Follow-Up on Sexual
treatment of victims as a factor in evaluation of SAU detectives and follow-through
on any complaint regarding how a case was handled by MPD. Victims, support
persons, witnesses, or third parties should be able to lodge complaints. A
supervisor should investigate complaints, with second-level review. Transfer out
of the unit and, as appropriate, discipline detectives who are regularly the
subject of complaints.
responding officers to document all reports of sexual assault and require SAU supervisors
(a sergeant or lieutenant) to compare call log sheets for sexual assault cases
to PD-251s to ensure each report is documented.
that supervisors ensure that forensic evidence kits and other relevant evidence
are collected regularly.
all allegations to detectives for follow-up investigation, and require
supervisors to review sexual assault allegations to determine whether they are
being properly converted to sexual assault cases.
a tracking system allowing supervisors to monitor the reporting, clearing, and
closing of all cases by each detective to identify potential problems.
regular multidisciplinary review of closed cases to discuss ways to improve the
investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases, as well as treatment of
a system allowing victims to complete and submit victim satisfaction surveys for
the MPD to review and respond to, in order to change responses to sexual
assault based on input by survivors.
a prosecutor to review all cases in which the perpetrator has been identified
before it is closed.
To Treat Sexual Assault Survivors Fairly
the confidentiality of all victims reporting a sexual assault, regardless of
the classification of the offense as a sex abuse offense, an allegation, or an
“office information” (or “miscellaneous”) case,
including cases in which sexual assault is not the “primary”
victims the option of having an advocate, victim
specialist, or support person of their choosing present during law enforcement interviews or
referral information for counseling for all victims who report sexual assault.
detectives to provide victims with transportation from the hospital after a
forensic exam unless he or she has made other arrangements.
all victims with a case number and the detective’s contact information and
work hours. Tell victims to call 911 in an emergency.
a detective or victim specialist to return calls from victims within one
business day; work with victim advocates or Victim Services to keep victims
regularly informed of the status of the investigation.
a decision is made not to prosecute, inform the victim in a timely and
sensitive manner and, if appropriate, offer referrals to community resources
an anonymous reporting system.
a comfortable and private place to interview victims at the SAU.
the role of victim specialists within the SAU to provide support and referrals
to all sexual assault victims and help with practical arrangements.
in urgent circumstances, allow victims at least one full sleep cycle before
scheduling a follow-up interview by a detective.
a former SAU member in upper echelons of MPD management or establish an advisor
on sexual assault investigations for the chief of police.
implementing reforms, conduct public outreach to encourage members of the
community to report sexual assaults and strengthen trust in the police.
train all police officers and recruits to understand the realistic dynamics of
sexual assault (including non-stranger cases and drug or alcohol-facilitated
assaults), the effects of trauma, and proper treatment of victims.
detectives to interview sexual assault victims appropriately using
trauma-informed techniques and to understand the impact of trauma on victims of
sexual assault; to investigate non-stranger and drug-facilitated sexual
assaults; and how to document sexual assault using the language of
the selection of detectives for the SAU, take into account the detectives’
suitability for handling sensitive victim interviews and their ability to be
open to understanding the realistic and evolving dynamics of sexual assault.