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DOJ Opens Probe Into NYPD's Sex Crimes Unit

The Justice Department said Thursday it has opened a civil-rights investigation into the New York Police Department’s handling of sex crimes, the Wall Street Journal reports. The probe will examine whether the nation’s largest police department engages in “gender-biased policing” by not conducting basic investigations into sexual-assault allegations, as well as by shaming and abusing accusers, the department said. Officials said they opened the probe after receiving information alleging deficiencies in the police department’s Special Victims Division that dated back more than a decade. “Our review is intended to ensure that, going forward, survivors of sexual assault in New York City receive fair and just treatment in the criminal justice system, and as a result, those who engage in sexual violence are held accountable,” said Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. The U.S. Attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn are both involved in the investigation.

The NYPD said it welcomed the review and is committed to improving the quality of its investigations. “I believe any constructive review of our practices in the Special Victims Division will show that the NYPD has been evolving and improving in this area but we will be transparent and open to criticism as well as ideas in the process,” said Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell. The Biden administration has made a priority of overhauling law enforcement tactics, relying heavily on the Justice Department to carry it out. The agency has opened several so-called “pattern-or-practice” investigations like the one in New York, which can take years to conduct and aim to root out problems like routine civil-rights violations or patterns of unconstitutional policing within a police department. The Trump administration abandoned opening new pattern-or-practice investigations, thinking it unfair for the federal government to force costly changes on localities. Attorney General Merrick Garland has called them an important tool for spurring change within an agency.