D.C. Police Says Human Rights Claim is Flawed

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - A new report makes a startling claim about the Metropolitan Police Department. According to the report from New York-based Human Rights Watch, more than 100 reported sexual assaults in D.C. weren't properly investigated.

Eleanor was 23-years-old when she says a man put a knife to her neck, stole her purse, stabbed her and tried to rape her in an alley as she walked home from U Street in May 2011.

She said D.C. police ultimately counted her case as a robbery and made no mention of the attempted rape.

"They sort of changed it, changed it just enough that it wouldn't even remotely be considered a sexual assault. It just seemed like some girl wouldn't give her purse,...she got stabbed and that's too bad for her," Eleanor continued.

In their report, Human Rights Watch says between 2008 and 2011, there were 170 cases in which sexual assault victims arrived at Washington Hospital, underwent forensic sex exams and reported the crime to police. But the organization says those cases weren't investigated by police.

"For those people to not have their cases taken seriously is really upsetting," said Human Rights Watch Senior Counsel Sarah Darehshori.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier declined an on-camera interview. But in a statement, she said comparing Washington Hospital Center visits to the number of police reports is a "flawed methodology...not backed by facts."

"The police are required to document every case in order to start an investigation, but they have no record of these cases that we could find in the databases or the records," Darehshori explained.

Lanier pointed to numbers she said tell her police are doing something right. Because more victims are reporting sexual abuse, she said between 2010 and 2011, the case load increased by 23 percent. It increased another 51 percent in 2012.

Lanier said she fears the Human Rights Watch report "will ultimately have a chilling effect on victims of sexual abuse and will discourage them from reporting crimes."

But Eleanor said the chief is missing the point.

"There is a fundamental flaw in the way they are treating these victims when they come in," Eleanor said.



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