Testimony for the City Council: Women’s Justice NOW Calls on NYPD to Prioritize Sexual Assault Victims
DATE: April 9, 2018
Submitted on behalf of Jane Manning
Director of Advocacy, NOW-NYC & Women’s Justice NOW
Testimony before the New York City Council on Behalf of Women’s Justice NOW and NOW-NYC
My name is Jane Manning, and I represent Women’s Justice NOW. We provide direct services to survivors of sexual assault, and we collaborate with our partner organization the National Organization for Women. I am also a former sex crimes prosecutor.
We want to thank the NYC Department of Investigation, which did New York City a profound service with its exhaustively researched (3/27) report. Based on my day-to-day experience working for survivors, the Department of Investigation report got it exactly right. The NYPD Special Victims Division is understaffed and underresourced, and too many of its investigators have little to no experience. Victims are paying the price, and so is public safety.
Why isn’t sexual assault being addressed with more adequate resources? The best answer to that question was suggested by a retired Special Victims detective who said to me, if you’ve never worked on these cases, you have no idea how labor intensive they are. He’s exactly right. The work involved in properly investigating a rape case is not comparable to a robbery case or a burglary case, it’s comparable to a homicide. And rape cases should be staffed accordingly. Yet, as the DOI report reveals, the caseloads in Special Victims are 20 times higher than the caseloads in homicide! We’re not talking about caseloads that are a little too high, we’re talking about caseloads that are exponentially too high.
Moreover, the investigators sent to Special Victims are often not experienced investigators. In our day-to-day work, we see the consequences of this. In one of my cases, the investigator failed to show a photo array to three key eyewitnesses who saw the suspect shortly before the victim was attacked and could probably have led investigators to him. In another case, crucial video footage was not secured. In another, the detective failed to spot classic signs of a drug-facilitated sexual assault, which is a growing scourge in our city. In all of those cases, the investigators were sent to Special Victims without adequate experience and training.
These problems are fixable. And the good news is, the makings of that solution are already there. The DOI report makes this critical point: that the sources interviewed by the DOI “spoke highly of the personal dedication and work ethic of Special Victims Division officials, detectives, and investigators,” and added that “Special Victims Division leadership was doing its utmost in the face of unrealistic demands.” This good news, which will be verified by any knowledgeable advocate in New York City, means that the potential for vast improvement is already there, right in the Division, if the Division gets the influx of support and resources it needs.
First, the NYPD must increase the number of detectives assigned to Special Victims by at least the numbers called for in the DOI report, which would more than double the number of detectives assigned to adult sex crime squads. Second, the NYPD must ensure that all detectives assigned to Special Victims are experienced detectives who are strongly motivated to investigate sexual assault. Third, the NYPD must enhance opportunities for grade promotion within Special Victims, in keeping with an elite bureau, so that the Division will be an attractive assignment drawing the best detectives. The DOI report suggests a ratio of 20% first grade detectives, 40% second grade detectives, and 40% third grade detectives. And fourth, the NYPD must increase the quantity and quality of training provided to Special Victims detectives, including training on best practices, forensic interviewing, countering rape myths, and dispelling implicit bias including biases based on gender, race, LGBTQ identity, and immigration status. Because the most marginalized groups are the least likely to report sexual assault and the most likely to have negative encounters when they do.
New Yorkers deserve an NYPD Special Victims Division that stands with survivors, keeps all New Yorkers safe, and wins the confidence of all our communities. Thank you to the New York City Council for holding this hearing today, to engage all of us in a citywide collaboration to build a Special Victims Division we can be proud of.
At the National Organization for Women- New York State, we strongly support Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz’s bill A.3091 which would eliminate the exceptions to the minimum marriage age and reserves marriage for those who have reached the age of majority. In the state of New Jersey, nearly 3,500 children, as young as 13, were married between 1995 and 2012, including more than 160 who were younger than 15.