By CAIN BURDEAU
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Following a report last month that police bungled more than 1,000 rape and child abuse investigations, protesters are gearing up to march Saturday and then rally at City Hall.
The protesters will demand authorities at each level of the criminal justice system do a better job of ensuring rapes, child abuse and sex crimes are thoroughly investigated.
The march is the first large-scale citizens' action stemming from the scandal to put pressure on New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and Mayor Mitch Landrieu to work with advocates and citizens in making sure that sex crimes and child abuse cases are not ignored.
Inspector general reports have revealed serious flaws in the NOPD's ability or willingness to ensure that rapists, child molesters and other sex criminals are punished. Last month an inspector general's report found that five detectives failed to do substantial investigation of more than 1,000 cases of sex crimes and child abuse between 2011 and 2013.
Landrieu has promised to revamp the sex crimes unit and reopen hundreds of cases. The five detectives have been placed on desk duty pending an internal police investigation.
The inspector general's disturbing report is roiling the city. The report described how one rape unit detective stated to several people a belief that simple rape should not be considered a crime. Another detective failed to investigate a case involving a 3-year-old taken to an emergency room due to an alleged sexual assault. The detective closed that case without any charges even though the child had a sexually transmitted disease.
"I don't see how as a citizen, when you read these reports, you can't march," said Laura Hope, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans and one of the organizers of the march.
The demonstration is set to begin at 10 a.m. in front of the 1st District police station in the French Quarter and end with a rally in front of City Hall. Victims of rape and abuse are expected to speak at the rally and tell their stories. The purpose of the march, besides demanding more from the criminal justice system, is to give voice to victims of rape.
"It's a taboo subject to talk about it still," said Dr. Erin Dupuis, a psychology professor at Loyola University and a march organizer.
New Orleans is hardly unique. In recent years police departments in other cities have been found to be unresponsive to rape victims. Nationally, the issue of sexual assaults has been thrust to the forefront following high-profile rape cases. The White House, meanwhile, issued a call in January for renewed action to target police bias against rape victims, clear backlogs in rape kits and increase the rate of arrests for offenders.
Dupuis said the New Orleans demonstrators hope the authorities take notice.
The marchers will present a list of complaints. Chief among them is a demand for an external probe take place into how police and prosecutors handled sex crime cases.