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The City of New Orleans

Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu

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Landrieu, Harrison and Advocates Announce Reforms to Sexual Assault Response

August 11, 2015

Mayor Also Signs Executive Order to Accept Report & Recommendations;

Calls for Quarterly Reports on Progress

NEW ORLEANS— Today, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, and advocates announced systemic reforms underway that are necessary to thoroughly investigate sexual assault and to respect and protect sexual assault survivors.  

Among the reforms, the Sex Crimes Unit has moved to the New Orleans Family Justice Center so that survivors can meet with detectives and connect to support services at the same time.  New NOPD policies and procedures have been developed for sexual assault, using national best practices, and have been submitted to the Department of Justice for approval.  New training modules have been established for sexual assault, and detectives are required to receive 32 hours of specialized, in depth training.  More resources and better equipment have been dedicated to the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse units. 

Post Katrina, the Department of Justice found widespread underreporting of sexual assault and institutional bias.    In November of 2014, an Inspector General report identified serious lapses in the quality of some sexual assault investigations. 

Chief Harrison tasked Commander Paul Noel with reinvestigating each of those cases to ensure that justice was done.   The Public Integrity Bureau launched an investigation into the detectives sighted in the Inspector General report and their supervisors.    The Mayor established the Sexual Violence Response Advisory Committee, chaired by Professor Tania Tetlow of Tulane University, to help recommend and implement structures of accountability that would outlast current good intentions and that would ensure long-term best practices.

“Since taking office in 2010, I have remained committed to changing the entire culture of the New Orleans Police Department,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “Today, we come together, fully committed to protecting the women and children of this city from sexual violence and abuse.  While we still have work to do, we are taking definitive steps toward pulling up this problem from its root. We’re proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as we work together to bring justice to survivors.”  

The Committee focused on a variety of issues to increase NOPD’s effectiveness in successfully investigating sex crimes, especially the accountability and supervision of the work of detectives. The Committee worked to ensure that victims receive the respect and resources they need in order to come forward and provide needed evidence without further causing trauma. And to serve that purpose, the Committee focused recommendations to provide detectives the resources and equipment they need to do their job.

“The NOPD embraces the recommendations made in this report and we are fully committed to getting this right,” said Chief Michael Harrison. “Over the past nine months, we’ve worked quickly and diligently to build a system of accountability that will ensure the reforms we make today will last well beyond my time as Chief of Police.”

“The Advisory Committee investigated the systemic needs and problems of the Department and recommended dozens of specific solutions,” said Tania Tetlow, Chair, Sexual Violence Advisory Committee. “Superintendent Harrison and the Mayor responded immediately to approve, fund and begin implementation of each of these solutions.”  

The following is a summary of reforms already instituted and others in implementation phase.  To read the full Sexual Violence Response Advisory Committee 2015 Report, visit www.nola.gov or click here.  

 

Summary of Reforms Already Instituted by NOPD:

Many necessary reforms have already been implemented by NOPD in coordination with the Advisory Committee, including:

Staffing & Resources

  • The Superintendent has dedicated two new detectives and one supervisor to the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse units, and has committed to doubling the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse units as the Department grows.
  • Sex Crimes and Child Abuse detectives are no longer part of the rotation for special events duty, so that they can remain focused on their investigative duties.
  • Detectives have been authorized overtime to use when necessary to conduct investigations.
  • NOPD has provided new equipment to assist in the investigation of sex crimes, including vehicles, smart phones, digital cameras and laptops.

 

Policies, Training and Supervision

  • New policies and procedures, using national best practices, have been developed for the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse units in collaboration with members of the Committee.  These policies have been submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for approval. 
  • NOPD has strengthened supervision by requiring regular detailed case review, using an investigative checklist, as well as by conducting a qualitative review of taped interviews.
  • New training modules have been developed for sexual assault, and detectives are now required to receive 32 hours of specialized, in-depth training, including individualized training in interview skills.
  • All officers in the Department, and all new recruits, are currently receiving four hours of training on sexual assault response based on national best practices.

 

Better Processing Rape Kits

  • To more quickly process rape kits, the NOPD has hired a third DNA analyst at the State Crime Lab. 
  • To avoid any future backlogs, NOPD has tightened its policies on sexual assault kits, requiring that DNA request forms be submitted to the DNA officer within 24 hours and written reports be provided to explain any delays in submission.

 

Better Serving Survivors

  • The Sex Crimes Unit has moved to the New Orleans Family Justice Center, where victims who meet with detectives can immediately connect with counseling and other resources.

Summary of Reforms in Implementation Phase:

The following reforms have been embraced by the NOPD and are in various stages of implementation:

 

Staffing & Resources

  •  The Committee recommends a detective caseload for both Sex Crimes and Child Abuse of approximately 26 cases per year.   As the Department grows in the years ahead, the Superintendent has committed that staffing of the special victims unit to achieve this ratio will be a top priority. 
  •  Civilian investigators will be hired to assist with Taskforce, Sex Crimes and Child Abuse investigations.  These positions were recently approved by Civil Service.
  • A representative of advocates will participate in the selection process of detectives.
  • In order to attract and retain the best detectives in the Special Victims Unit, a 5% incentive pay increase for these detectives will be part of 2016-2017 budget proposals.  This proposal requires Civil Service approval. 

 

Policies, Training and Supervision

  • NOPD and the DA’s office have agreed to the use of Multi-Disciplinary Teams (“MDT”), which is currently required by state law in child abuse cases, to review cases of sex crimes against adults.  At the request of this Committee, a law was passed during this legislative session authorizing the use of MDTs (Rep. Badon, Act 368 of 2015 Regular Session).  The first MDT review of sexual assault cases will occur on August 14, 2015.  
  •  The Committee is developing a protocol for forensic testing of sexual assault suspects.
  •  The NOPD has initiated a department-wide upgrade of their Case Management System, which will include specific modifications for the Special Victims Unit.

 

Better Processing of Rape Kits

  • Based on the Committee’s recommendation, the NOPD will work with Civil Service to hire a forensic evidence coordinator of both DNA testing and the response to resulting “CODIS” (Combined DNA Index System) hits.
  •  To expedite the clearing of the rape kit back log, the current back log of 180 kits will be tested at a private lab. 

 

Better Serving Survivors

  • NOPD is currently hiring three social workers to respond with detectives to the scene of a sexual assault and to offer assistance and communication to victims thereafter.
  • The Committee has created mechanisms for feedback to NOPD from victims and the advocates who work with them. 
  • The NOPD will hold “Case Summary Meetings” with survivors when there remain no leads to follow and the case is being transferred to the Cold Case squad.  Previously, this case transfer occurred automatically at the one-year mark and without notifying the victim.

Today, the Mayor signed an Executive Order (15-02) to accept the committee’s report and recommendations and to seek quarterly reports from the Committee on ongoing progress. 

The following participated in developing the report recommendations:

  • Chair:  Professor Tania Tetlow, Tulane Law School
  • Emily Arata, Deputy Mayor of External Affairs, City of New Orleans
  • Kati Bambrick, Director of Domestic Violence Policy for the City of New Orleans and Co-Chair of Sexual Assault Response Team (“SART”)
  • Ginesse Barrett, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
  • Commander Doug Eckert, NOPD
  • Deon Haywood, Director of Women with a Vision
  • Mary Claire Landry, Director of Family Justice Center
  • Stacie Leblanc, Director of Children’s Advocacy Center and Audrey Hepburn Care Center
  • Graymond Martin, First Assistant District Attorney
  • Suzanne Mayeux, Citizen member and survivor
  • Commander Paul Noel, NOPD
  • Charlotte Parent, Director of Health Department, City of New Orleans
  • Amanda Tonkovich, Sexual Assault Victim Advocate at Family Justice Center and Co-Chair of SART

 

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Last updated: 5/18/2016 2:24:59 PM

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