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MPD Systemically Mishandled Sexual Assault Cases, Report Alleges

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MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier defended her department Thursday, criticizing the methodology of the study.
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MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier defended her department Thursday, criticizing the methodology of the study.

A 22-month investigation by the watchdog group Human Rights Watch finds that D.C. police mishandled a large number of sexual assault cases.

The report states that over a three year period, D.C. police failed to properly investigate at least 170 sexual assault complaints.

Human Rights Watch says of the 480 sexual assault victims who had forensic exams at Washington Hospital Center and reported their assaults to MPD, there were only 310 corresponding police reports.

"All cases need to be investigated, they don't all have to be prosecuted, but police are required to investigate them," says Sarah Darehshori, the study's author.

The report also claims that MPD detectives were insensitive to assault victims.

D.C. Police Police Chief Cathy Lanier disputed the findings of the report on The Kojo Nnamdi Show Thursday, calling the methodology used by Human Rights Watch flawed. She said the department has made great strides over the past few years to improve how sexual assault cases are handled.

"And that's my problem with those reports," said Lanier. "They paint a picture that there's a culture in the MPD that exists today that we disregard victims, we don't follow up on complaints and we don't document complaints, and that is totally false."

Human Rights Watch is calling for outside oversight of how MPD handles sexual assault cases, and a spokesperson for D.C. Council Member Tommy Wells says the council will hold an oversight hearing on the Human Rights Watch report.

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