City Council members grilled NYPD brass on Monday for “knowingly neglecting victims” with its understaffed and overtasked Special Victims Division.
The council is considering four new bills that would overhaul the SVD from its training to case management system — measures that were vehemently opposed by NYPD officials at an hours-long joint oversight hearing held by the council’s Committee on Women and Committee on Public Safety.
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“I take umbrage that you don’t think we take this seriously,” NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan snapped.
Councilman Donovan Richards, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, blasted the NYPD for “knowingly neglecting victims since 2010.”
Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said the department’s new campaign to improve sex crime reporting “won’t matter unless the NYPD finally makes investigating sexual assault a priority.”
The hearing comes on the heels of a blistering report by the city Department of Investigation that found years of rampant issues within the SVD — including that it was too understaffed to properly investigate sex crime cases.
The DOI said there were just 67 SVD detectives to handle 5,661 cases last year.
The report also found that new recruits were undertrained and that the SVD prioritized stranger rapes over rapes by acquaintances and domestic partners.
The council wants legislation that would require the NYPD to utilize an “evidence-based staffing model to determine staffing” in the SVD and adopt a new case management system to track cases and victims.
The proposed bills would also require SVD investigators to complete at least 10 weeks of specialized training before even coming into contact with victims, as well as more training for new recruits and all police officers on “gender-based street harassment and sexual assault.”
But in prepared testimony, NYPD lawyer Oleg Chernyavsky said he was “concerned” by the council’s proposals, saying some of them “dilute the police commissioner’s authority.”
Monahan defended the SVD — which oversees Special Victims Units that handle adult sex crime cases in each of the five boroughs — as staffed with experienced investigators who “are the best-trained sex crimes investigators in the country.”
He said SVD supervisors and investigators have an average of 8.1 and 6.6 years of experience, respectively, and that the division relies on a “survivor-centered model.”
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“Every case we receive is not a number, it is a person, a victim, a survivor,” Monahan said. “I want to assure every New Yorker that the NYPD takes rape and sexual assault seriously and the department investigates every report thoroughly.”
At one point during the heated hearing, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Larry Byrne accused Rosenthal of a “complete lack of understanding” of CompStat’s tracking of rape.
When Rosenthal fired back that she’d like to be educated, Byrne fumed, “You need a lot of education on this topic, obviously.”
The NYPD will issue a formal response to the DOI report within the next 90 days.
Victims of sexual assault and advocates also testified during the hearing.
One victim described how she was shamed by a Harlem detective when she reported an attempted rape in 2010 when she was 22 years old.
“From the beginning the detective’s reaction made me feel shameful, she treated this violent crime as though it was simply a consequence of a young woman living in a dangerous city,” the woman said.