February 11, 2013

Regarding the Feb. 5 Metro article “D.C. police locate allegedly missing sex-assault files”:

In January, Human Rights Watch reported that the Metropolitan Police Department failed to investigate at least 170 sexual assault complaints between 2008 and 2011; that it failed to follow up adequately on numerous other complaints; and that in several cases, police officers treated sexual assault victims callously.

Now Chief Cathy L. Lanier claims to have “located documentation” for most of the 170 missing cases, but that does not address the key question: Were the cases actually investigated or merely recorded in a database and closed without further action? Further, why did the D.C. police not produce these records sooner, as required by law and under a legal settlement with our organization?

Contrary to Chief Lanier’s claims, we supplied to the department a list of the missing cases, based on the MPD’s own records, more than seven months ago — ample time to locate any documents relating to these cases.

We hope that Chief Lanier will use our findings to improve the way police investigate sexual assaults and deal with victims.

Alison Parker, New York

The writer is director of Human Rights Watch’s U.S. Program.

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