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Justice Department opens investigation into NYPD sexual assault crimes unit

New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell in New York City , Jan. 6, 2022.The Justice Department said Thursday it is investigating the NYPD Special Victims Division to determine if it engages in a pattern of gender-biased policing. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/0e8881644883e1baade930b55a849f97/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell in New York City , Jan. 6, 2022.The Justice Department said Thursday it is investigating the NYPD Special Victims Division to determine if it engages in a pattern of gender-biased policing. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 30 (UPI) -- The Justice Department Thursday said that it has opened an investigation into whether the New York Police Department's Special Victims Division engages in "a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing."

"The investigation will include a comprehensive review of the policies, procedures and training for SVD investigations of sexual assault crimes, including how SVD interacts with survivors and witnesses, collects evidence and completes investigations; any steps NYPD has taken to address deficiencies in its handling of sexual assault crimes; how SVD allocates staffing and other resources; and the services and support offered to survivors of sexual assault," the Justice Department statement said.

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Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in the Justice Department statement that, "Over the last several months, we have learned concerning information from a variety of sources of historical issues about the way the Special Victims Division has conducted its investigations for many years."

He said the investigation 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 those who engage in sexual violence are held accountable.

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"We appreciate that the NYPD has already taken steps to address these concerns," Peace said.

The Justice Department said it will reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with the NYPD's Special Victims Unit.

"Survivors of sexual assault should expect effective, trauma-informed and victim-centered investigations by police departments," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke in the statement.

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"Based on information provided to the Justice Department, we find significant justification to investigate whether the NYPD's Special Victims Division engages in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing," Clarke said.

According to the Justice Department, New York Mayor Eric Adams, NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell and NYC Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix have all pledged their cooperation with the federal investigation.

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