Inspector: No Sign of Investigation in 1,111 New Orleans Sex Crime-Related Calls

Eliott C. McLaughlin and Javier de Diego, CNN, November 13, 2014

The report is full of harrowing details alleging that five New Orleans Police Department detectives in the special victims unit may have failed to investigate sex crimes over a three-year period.

But one case stands out.

According to the seven-page document released Wednesday by the city’s Office of Inspector General, a 2-year-old was brought to a hospital emergency room after an alleged sexual assault. Tests would show the toddler had a sexually transmitted disease, the report said.

The detective in the case, who worked in the child abuse unit, wrote in his report that the 2-year-old “did not disclose any information that would warrant a criminal investigation and closed the case,” the inspector general’s report said.

The detective–identified as Akron Davis by the New Orleans Police Department after the report was released–is one of five officers whose reports were examined in the investigation. Only nine detectives worked in the special victims unit during the period that was investigated.

Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said the five officers are not rookies. Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said the detectives were “seasoned” and later said in a statement that they had been with the department at least 16 years each.

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The NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau identified 1,290 sex crime-related calls assigned to the five detectives and determined that in only 179 instances–13.9%–did the detectives file “supplemental reports documenting any additional investigative efforts beyond the initial report; these 179 supplemental reports were the total written investigative product of the five detectives for sex crime-related calls for service for three years.”

Read the report in its entirety

When officers file an initial report, it’s intentionally short and vague so as not to identify the victim, Quatrevaux told CNN. The report mentions the assault and the location and notes that a supplemental report will follow, he said.

“But in 60 percent of the cases, there was no supplemental report,” he said. “There were a total of 1290 cases; 840, there’s not a word, even a single word. Nothing. Nothing. There’s nothing to note.”

Because of the void of information in those 840 cases, the inspector general’s report said, investigators “could not analyze 65% of the sex crime-related calls for service assigned to the five detectives.”

Of the remaining 450 calls that were designated as rape, simple rape or indecent behavior with a juvenile, documentation suggests the five detectives followed through in less than 40%, or 179, of the cases, the report said.

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The findings leave Quatrevaux wondering “how many potential sexual assault victims are out there without justice.” He further called on the Public Integrity Bureau to launch investigations into police misconduct.

He couldn’t speak to the motivation, he said, but his office’s findings point to an “organization whose culture has evolved to where this level of work is not that unacceptable.”

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The department has transferred the five detectives to “patrol-related duties” and has instituted policies to ensure cases are being thoroughly investigated, he said.

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In another alleged sex assault cited in the report, a juvenile went to an emergency room and spoke to a specialist who reported that the child gave “specific information” about sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by “a named individual who was living in the same house with the juvenile.” That person was a registered sex offender, according to the report.

Det. Davis also handled this case and wrote that the child disclosed no information about a sexual assault and closed the case “due to a lack of evidence,” the report said.

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Another portion of the report homes in on Det. Damita Williams of the sex crimes unit, who, according to the investigation, was given 11 simple rape cases over the three-year period.

Simple rape is defined as an assault in which the perpetrator rapes a victim that the perpetrator knows is incapable of resisting or understanding what’s happening because the victim is in a stupor, intoxicated or “through unsoundness of mind” is temporarily or permanently incapable of understanding the nature of the act.

Of those 11, five had no supplemental reports, one had no file at all and one was taken to prosecutors, the inspector general’s report said.

“(Damita Williams) told at least three different individuals that (she) did not believe that simple rape should be a crime,” it said.

A 20-year veteran, she had been with the NOPD the longest of the five detectives under investigation, Harrison said in a statement.

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Among the other allegations in the report:

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— Det. Davis was assigned two cases in which infants were taken to the emergency room with skull fractures. In one case, a nurse suspected “non-accidental trauma,” but Davis did not investigate. In the other case, a doctor found a previous skull fracture, and the infant’s mother gave conflicting accounts of what happened, but Davis determined there was “no cause for criminal action.”

— Davis was given 13 total cases, including the aforementioned, in which potential juvenile victims of sexual or physical abuse were still in the home where the abuse occurred. Eleven of those cases had no documents showing “any investigative effort beyond the initial report.”

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The inspector general told CNN he’d never seen anything like this, “not in terms of the volume, the wholesale nature of it.”

“There’s so many cases where the documentation suggests nothing was done,” Quatrevaux said. “We don’t know that for a fact, but we’re missing the documentation. That’s what we need to have because the documentation is the evidence of investigative effort, and if it’s not there, then obviously we’re going to think it doesn’t exist.”

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(Left to right) Akron Davis, Vernon Haynes, Merrell Merricks, Damita Williams, Derrick Williams

(Left to right) Akron Davis, Vernon Haynes, Merrell Merricks, Damita Williams, Derrick Williams

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