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MN May Get Tougher Policy to Address Rape Investigations

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New policies and a special task force are being promised following a report by the Star-Tribune that found police never assigned an investigator in 25 percent of the sexual-assault cases reported over a two-year period. (pixabay)
New policies and a special task force are being promised following a report by the Star-Tribune that found police never assigned an investigator in 25 percent of the sexual-assault cases reported over a two-year period. (pixabay)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
July 30, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A policy designed to improve sex-assault investigations across Minnesota is now being promised by the chairman of the state's police licensing board following a newspaper report that documented extensive failings in police work on rape and other sexual assaults.

Chairman Tim Bledsoe said he will call a special meeting next month of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. The yearlong investigation by the Star-Tribune analyzed more than 1,000 sexual-assault cases statewide over a recent two-year period, and found that police never assigned an investigator in 25 percent of the cases and never interviewed witnesses in half of them.

Teri Walker McLaughlin, executive director at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said women who report sex crimes must be able to trust that the police will take them seriously.

"So it's not surprising, it is not acceptable in any manner, to continue to function this way,” McLaughlin said; “particularly since we've had an opportunity now to look at ourselves and look at our practices."

The Tribune's report earlier this month prompted Gov. Mark Dayton to send a letter to the POST Board, directing them to "immediately develop procedures and training requirements for peace officers investigating cases involving sex crimes."

The POST Board licenses more than 10,000 sworn peace officers across Minnesota and sets training and professional standards. McLaughlin said the newspaper's reporting suggests that victims of sexual violence need to be reassured that community resources are there to help them.

"I think we are on the cusp of a culture shift, and that's what it's going to take,” she said. “We can begin to look at what standards are in place for law enforcement investigating sex crimes."

Since the newspaper published its report on July 22, the Minnesota Attorney General also has said she will convene a task force to address the issue. The task force will include victim advocates, law-enforcement representatives and more.

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