WHEN CRIME numbers go up, it is generally cause for alarm, but the District’s 51 percent increase in the number of reported sexual abuse cases between 2011 and 2012 may be reassuring — a sign that D.C. police are taking more seriously complaints of sexual assault. Is further improvement needed, as argued in a new, highly critical report? That’s not clear, which is why Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier is prudent to ask the Justice Department to independently review the District’s handling of these cases. The D.C. Council should also take a look.
The report, by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, concludes that victims of sexual assault in the District are not getting the effective response they are due from the Metropolitan Police Department. The 197-page report alleges that 170 reported cases of sexual assault went uninvestigated between 2008 and 2011 and that women bringing the complaints often received callous, traumatizing treatment. Chief Lanier challenged many of the group’s conclusions, contending that it used flawed methodology and overlooked recent reforms. Not only has the police department changed personnel but also, as The Post’s Peter Hermann reported, Ms. Lanier has made a priority of investigating sexual assaults, particularly those involving acquaintances.