Regarding the June 27 Metro article “Law firm study calls Human Rights Watch report on police rape cases flawed”:
A report by the law firm Crowell & Moring submitted to the D.C. Council on Thursday finds that the Metropolitan Police Department has recently implemented a number of reforms recommended by Human Rights Watch to improve its handling of sexual assault complaints. The reforms, assuming they are fully implemented, will represent important advancements for victims of sexual assault in Washington.
The Crowell investigation, The Post reported, concluded that police have accounted for all but five of 170 reports that Human Rights Watch, in a January report, had alleged were missing. We are concerned that Crowell’s focus on finding documentation to match the reported assaults obscures the key issue: that in many of these cases — as much of the newfound documentation recently disclosed by MPD to Human Rights Watch attests — victims were treated poorly by MPD detectives or the cases were labeled as “office information,” meaning that they were closed after little to no investigation.
As Jody Goodman, counsel and co-leader of the Crowell & Moring team, said in an e-mail to Human Rights Watch, “We absolutely did not conclude that the police adequately investigated most or all cases” (emphasis in the original).
We believe that external oversight is essential to ensure that victims are treated fairly by the MPD and that investigations are pursued in full.
Alison Parker, Cleveland
The writer is director of Human Rights Watch’s U.S. Program.