Police chief ‘deeply disturbed’ by allegations that five detectives failed to investigate properly more than 1,000 cases of sex crimes and child abuse
Superintendent Michael Harrison said the five detectives could face criminal charges and be fired. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Archive/Press Association Images
Associated Press in New Orleans
The Guardian on Thursday 13 November 2014 09.25 EST
In the latest blow to New Orleans’ troubled police department, a city inspector general’s report claims five detectives failed to do substantial investigation of more than 1,000 cases of sex crimes and child abuse — with one detective being cited for stating a belief that simple rape should not be considered a crime.
The report, released Wednesday, examined the detectives’ work between January 2011 and December 2013. It found the detectives filed follow-up reports for only 179 out of 1,290 sex crime cases. In particular, the report found that some cases of potentially abused children and rape victims went completely uninvestigated.
Police officials said the detectives have been transferred to patrol duty and are under further investigation. The police also said two supervisors who oversaw the detectives have been transferred.
Police superintendent Michael Harrison said he was “deeply disturbed” by the allegations. Harrison, who took over the force when former chief Ronal Serpas retired earlier this year, vowed Wednesday to make widespread changes in the department to rebuild community trust.
The US Justice Department previously investigated the scandal-plagued police force and in 2012 the city agreed to a host of changes in its policies. Among the federal probe’s major findings were that the police force was rife with corruption and had numerous instances of excessive use of deadly force, discrimination and problems with its sex crimes unit. A federal monitor is overseeing compliance.
The latest city report charged that a detective handling child abuse failed to investigate a case involving a three-year-old brought to an emergency room due to an alleged sexual assault, closing the case without any charges even though the child had a sexually transmitted disease. The same detective closed the book with minimal or no investigation, and again with no charges, on two cases involving children brought to the emergency room with fractured skulls, the report said.
Another detective, this one assigned to handle sex crimes, allegedly told several people that simple rape should not be considered a crime, the report charged. Simple rape happens when a person has sex with someone without their consent.
This same detective handled 11 simple rape cases and five of those cases saw no follow-up reports and one case had no initial report, inspectors found. The same detective said no DNA evidence existed for one alleged rapecase, but that was contradicted by Louisiana state police, the report said.
Two of the detectives are also accused of writing six reports — on the same day in 2013— to make it appear that they had done follow-up reports years before for the old cases, the report said. In fact, the report said, those documents were written only after inspectors asked for the missing reports.
“These revelations suggest an indifference to our citizens that shouldn’t be tolerated,” said Ed Quatrevaux, the city’s inspector general.
Harrison said the five detectives could face criminal charges and be fired, pending an internal investigation.
In its findings, the report said the detectives classified 65 percent of the cases they received as “miscellaneous,” for which no report at all was written.
Of the remaining 450 cases, the detectives followed up on only 179 cases and 105 of those were handed over to prosecutors, who in turn prosecuted 74 of those cases.
The report called on police to fully investigate the 271 cases that the detectives failed to properly check into. Officials said much has been done to correct the detectives’ poor work — including follow-up on neglected cases and ensuring that 15 children left in potential danger got the help they needed to ensure their safety.