NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The New Orleans City Council heard from New Orleans Police Department officials and the Office of Inspector General Wednesday as the NOPD continues to work to correct problems investigating sex crimes.
A report released by the OIG in May 2014 focused on five Special Victims Section detectives within the NOPD for their alleged lack of reporting, follow-up and documentation of hundreds of cases of sex crimes in the city from 2011-2013.
"The report uncovered the absolute failure of five detectives to not only perform their jobs properly, but also a complete lack of oversight. There was a failure of character, a failure of leadership and a systemic failure in the method of investigation of sex abuse crimes," City Councilwoman Susan Guidry said.
Since the report, the NOPD has made significant changes to correct the problems highlighted, including reassigning the five detectives pending the outcome of the investigation.
Superintendent Michael Harrison also started a special task force to re-investigate every case touched by the five detectives during the time frame to ensure victims wouldn't fall through the cracks.
"Over the past six months we've worked aggressively and diligently to bring justice to the victims of these terrible crimes and to investigate the alleged misconduct of the five detectives and anyone else who may be involved. So we've made great progress, but our work is not over. This is a systemic problem that requires an extensive investigation and we will not rest until we get it right," Harrison said.
Harrison said the NOPD has given the SVS a wealth of resources to perform their jobs better, including moving the unit to a larger space to improve investigation and networking within the department.
So far the task force has isolated 360 cases they're reviewing from the top, and 47 of those cases have been closed. The OIG is working alongside the task force to ensure the review process is fair.
"If it's a complete, thorough, objective investigation, that means victims are not assumed to be lying or making it up. It means the identified subject or subjects are not assumed to have done anything wrong. It's wherever the facts take you that's objective, that's what's going to happen," said OIG First Assistant for Criminal Investigations Howard Schwartz.
Now the NOPD says it's committed to making the changes needed, including reworking the way they handle sexual assault kits and changing response codes for sex crimes to make sure each case is documented properly.
"We're moving as quickly and aggressively as possible to conduct a review of each one of these investigations," Harrison said. "We're committed to changing the culture within the NOPD to prevent this from ever happening again, within the Special Victims Section and beyond, and everywhere within in the New Orleans Police Department."