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The Department of Justice has been sent a letter by nearly 20 sexual assault victims or mothers of survivors in New York City requesting that a pattern-of-practices investigation be launched at the federal level into the NYPD’s treatment of special victims, according to a new report this week.
The letter, which was viewed by the New York Post, according to the tabloid’s Tuesday report, was addressed to Attorney General Marrick Garland and other DOJ top brass. It asks that federal investigators look at alleged gender bias when the NYPD is investigating sex crimes. The accusations mostly highlight the allegedly shoddy and demoralizing practices within NYPD’s Special Victims Division.
“We expected that the well-funded, technologically sophisticated police agency of the nation’s largest city would respond to our assaults with professionalism and with thorough, skillful, truth-seeking investigations,” the letter states.
Instead, detectives’ “negligent and sexist” practices damaged the cases that the victims brought forth to the authorities “beyond repair and destroyed their hopes of accountability for the horrifying experiences,'' the letter states.
The Post reported that one case claimed an NYPD detective asked an individual who brought a case to the department if she was in fact certain she’d like to prosecute her alleged attacker.
“Who knows, you could end up dating him,” the detective allegedly told the victim.
Leslie McFadden, 37, told the newspaper that instead of the swift justice she sought after a rape, the department tricked her into closing the case.
“‘Is this really a case of assault, or is it a case of regret?’” McFadden recalled the detective telling her in an interview with the paper. “So I had to start my conversation with this detective defending myself, having to explain why I was wasting his time with my rape, and it just went downhill from there.”
Detectives even allegedly retraumatized her by having her record a phone call with her attacker — an incident that she says left her in tears. It was at that moment that the NYPD detective presented her with what turned out to be a case closure form, she said. She signed it while in distress, she said.
“From the very beginning, I was lied to, I was dismissed,” McFadden said, calling her dealings with New York’s so-called finest “a gut punch.”
Another victim told the paper that an officer said they “should toughen up” after an attack was reported.
The letter comes amid years of controversy within the SVD. In 2019, NYPD Internal Affairs seized log books dating to January 2018 as it investigated potential misconduct, as the Daily Beast reported. Those allegations had led to the sacking of a detective on the case against ex-movie mogul and now-convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein. The detective had allegedly asked a Weinstein accuser to delete cell phone messages.
A March 2018 report by the Department of Investigation said the SVD was vastly understaffed and had poorly trained staff. The report’s aftermath saw Deputy Chief Michael Osgood booted as SVD commander and moved to a post on Staten Island; Osgood retired a week later.
In a statement to the Post, the NYPD touted the SVD’s new commanding officer’s forensic nursing bona fides, staff increases, and deepened training to create a victim-centered approach.
“The NYPD is committed to ensuring that all sexual assault survivors feel the safety and support needed to come forward and help the NYPD bring them the justice they deserve,” the statement reads.
As of Tuesday afternoon, it is unclear if the DOJ will respond to the letter by opening a probe into the NYPD. In the aftermath of the police murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, the department launched sweeping federal investigations into the practices of those city’s police departments.
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