The Justice Department on Thursday said it will investigate the NYPD’s scandal-plagued Special Victims Division due to rampant allegations that detectives are “retraumatizing” sex assault victims.
Federal prosecutors will examine the Special Victims Division’s policies and training in the probe of alleged “gender-biased policing.” The feds are also eyeing how investigators treat and communicate with victims of rape and sexual assault.
The Justice Department launched the probe due to evidence of a longstanding failure by the NYPD to conduct basic investigative steps, “instead shaming and abusing survivors and retraumatizing them during investigations,” according to a release.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the feds had “significant justification” to open the civil rights probe.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said sex-crime victims deserve the same “rigorous and unbiased investigations” the NYPD affords victims of other crimes.
Alarming allegations about the division had emerged “over the last several months,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, who credited the NYPD for already implementing some reforms.
Prosecutors from Brooklyn, Manhattan and Justice Department headquarters in Washington will handle the high-stakes probe. Mayor Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell pledged to cooperate with the investigation.
“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,” said mayoral spokesman Max Young.
Sewell said the Police Department’s efforts to overhaul Special Victims are well underway following input from victim-advocates. The federal probe was revealed only one month after the commissioner appointed a new commanding officer for Special Victims, Inspector Carlos Ortiz.
“Our goal is for SVD to be the national model,” Sewell said. “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.”