New Orleans police to revisit hundreds of mishandled sex crimes

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 18, 2014 2:38 PM

By Jonathan Kaminsky

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - New Orleans police will reopen at least 271 sex crime and child abuse cases that were not properly investigated by the department and launch an internal investigation to determine what went wrong, city officials said on Tuesday.

The cases, which are among hundreds more that went uninvestigated between 2011 and 2013, will be reviewed by a group of five officers, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison told a news conference.

"This investigation will take us wherever it takes us, and we will follow it wherever it takes us and to whomever it takes us to," Harrison said.

Of roughly 1,300 sexual assault calls assigned to five detectives over the three-year period, 65 percent were filed as "miscellaneous" with no report written, the office of the city's inspector general said in a report filed last week.

The detectives only followed through on 179 of the remaining 450 cases with supplemental reports, according to the office, which added that the lack of information suggested there was no real supervision of their work within the department.

Some of the hundreds of cases closed as "miscellaneous" may also be revisited, but the department will start by examining the 271 cases for which an initial investigative report was filed without proper follow-up, Harrison said.

In one case, a toddler was found to have a sexually transmitted disease after being treated at a hospital for a suspected sexual assault. But a detective closed the case, saying the child had failed to provide information that could lead to an investigation.

The inspector general's office began its probe after a May 2014 audit of rape reports found many cases were improperly classified.

All five detectives from the sexual assault unit have been transferred and could face termination and criminal charges, Harrison said.

Any supervisors who failed to properly manage the detectives will also face scrutiny, he said.

The department is operating under a federal consent decree dating to 2012 that aims at changing a pattern of police misconduct ranging from discriminatory searches to the use of excessive force.

The previous superintendent, Ronal Serpas, announced his retirement in August.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Sandra Maler)