A task force of law officers, public health officials and victim advocates vowed to scrutinize the way sexual assaults are investigated in Minnesota, with the goal of recommending reforms to the legislature. The Minneapolis Star Tribune is publishing a series that has documented pervasive breakdowns in rape investigations.
A task force of law officers, public health officials and victim advocates vowed to scrutinize the way sexual assaults are investigated in Minnesota, with the goal of recommending reforms to the legislature before it convenes in January, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said the group will have a broad mandate, from reworking sex crime statutes, to proposing more funding for officers and training, to issuing best practices for police investigations. “Let’s learn from what’s working and let’s … fix the things that aren’t working,” Swanson said. She announced the task force in July as the Star Tribune began publishing a series that has documented pervasive breakdowns in rape investigations across the state. A review of more than 1,200 sexual assault files found hundreds of cases in which police failed to take basic steps, such as collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses, and few cases resulted in convictions.
In addition to changes at the legislature, Swanson wants the task force to examine the way police departments pursue sex crime investigations, including how detectives are assigned, how evidence is preserved and whether background checks are routinely conducted. Victim sensitivity and compassion are critical, Swanson said, noting that people are more likely to cooperate with the criminal justice system if they feel they are being treated with dignity. She suggested that the group look into victims’ rights and ways to ensure that sex assault survivors are kept informed on their cases. She said the group could review model policies for law enforcement training. Minnesota’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board is developing a model policy for sex assault investigations and considering statewide officer training objectives.