More and more NYPD police officers and detectives have come forward in response to some disturbing allegations: sexual assaults were downgraded to misdemeanors, to the point where one man committed six sexual assaults before he was finally captured. The victims’ complaints in the past cases had been classified as criminal trespassing, so the reports never reached a higher level, and were thus never declared a pattern.
The words of the rapist, Daryl Thomas, are shockingly brazen, when asked whether he was ever afraid that he’d be caught. He said to Detective Harold Hernandez, one of the NYPD members who has spoken out about this issue, “Nah. I looked around, I never saw any cops.” A Manhattan jury later convicted Thomas in five cases of first-degree attempted rape, robbery, burglary, and sexual assault charges.
Hernandez says that no one was ever disciplined in the misclassified assaults. And this seems to be part of a pattern – the NYPD may have a policy of refusing to take robbery complaints from victims, and attempted rapes have been downgraded to “forcible touching.” All of these are documented in an extensive web series by the Village Voice, and indicate a serious tendency on the part of the NYPD to neglect crimes for which they were not present, and to disbelieve women when they say they have been raped. Elements were eliminated in police reports that would have made it clear that sexual assault had taken place, so that officers and detectives did not have the information that they needed to catch the rapists – who, like Thomas, were free to repeat their terrible offenses.
Much of it seems to have been a numbers game – precinct commanders are held responsible for crime in their areas, so if crimes are downgraded, the stats look better. But I think it’s not a coincidence that many of the crimes that were changed are sexual assaults, simply because our culture is already used to disbelieving women who claim they have been raped. I hope that the investigation being conducted by the Voice can shed more light on this, but in the meantime, it’s disturbing to realize, once again, that the people who are supposed to be protecting us may be doing a pretty terrible job.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.