By Naeisha Rose
City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Far Rockaway), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, and Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), the chair of the Committee on Women, held a joint hearing last week where they blasted the NYPD for failing to help victims of sexual violence, especially those abused by acquaintances.
“A recent report from the [Department of Investigations] saidthe Police Department has been knowingly neglecting victims of sexual assault since 2010 and undoubtedly before that,” Richards said April 9. “Stranger rapes have been prioritized over acquaintance rapes, but nearly 90 percent of sexual assaults in New York City are committed by an acquaintance.”
A DOI report released in March found there were only 67 detectives in the Adult Sex Crimes Division of the NYPD tasked with tackling 5,661 cases in 2017, according to Rosenthal.
To even come close to truly undertaking the amount of cases in the city, the report said the department would have to hire at least 73 additional officers, said Rosenthal.
“Investigators are not being properly trained, facilities are not suitable, and wait times are extensive,” said Richards. “It is no wonder that victims don’t report more often.”
To address the problems with the Special Victims Division in the NYPD four bills were proposed. One was for sensitivity training, another for a modern case management system, a third for evidence-based staffing and a final one for training and investigating sexual crime.
“We respectfully oppose the legislation being proposed,” said Oleg Chernyavsky, the NYPD’s legislative director, about the dramatic changes suggested, because they did not want “to dilute the [police] commissioner’s authority.”
Richards also criticized the existence of more “white badged,” or younger officers, in the squad vs. “gold badged” officers, but Chernyavsky was not having it, and said a memo about the qualifications of the officers wasn’t entirely accurate.
“To call these investigators very inexperienced is misleading,” Chernyavsky said. “The average experience of an investigator coming to SVD is 6.6 years, and of the applicants only 20 percent are accepted. The supervisors have 8.1 years.”
Richards hopes that the bills go forward, because they would include 10 weeks of specialized training for officers before they are allowed to question victims of sexual misconduct or violence.
City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) also weighed in on the report.
“With just 67 detectives in the NYPD’s Special Victims Division, it is clear that sexual assault is not a priority in New York City,” said Adams. “It is troubling that many sexual assault cases are not properly investigated due to a lack of staffing. Victims of sexual assault deserve better as all sexual assaults should be treated as high priority crimes. We need an immediate solution to correct these systemic problems by increasing the staffing levels within the sex crimes units.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose