Police departments haven't always been helpful for victims of rape, domestic violence or child abuse, and that needs to change.
The New Orleans Police Department is trying to change its ways, and so far appears to be doing a decent job. An inspector general's report in 2014 found detectives were ignoring reports, misclassifying reports, downgrading rapes and weren't properly completing reports. Now, two years later, the NOPD has fixed the problems found in the report.
"The IG staff found that officers properly documented every rape reported over a three-month period in 2015, according to an audit released in April," wrote the Times-Picayune editorial board. "The Police Department also correctly followed federal classification guidelines in 99 percent of sexual assault cases between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, the IG said."
The detectives who were ignoring reports were also transferred out (will they ignore crime reports in other departments?) and the NOPD has revised more than 40 policies. Thanks to a $1 million federal grant, the NOPD was also able to send its backlog of 179 untested rape kits to a private lab. The NOPD is still understaffed, but is trying to improve where it can.
I don't see anything in the news reports that suggests the NOPD is making improvements by incorporating "victim-centered" investigations. The improvements made by the department so far seem to be the kind that other police departments across the country need to make as well.
Classifying reports is tricky, as multiple categories (such as false or unfounded) appear to mean similar things. But following federal guidelines on how to classify reports could help shed light on the actual situation facing the country when it comes to sex crimes.
But as NOPD improves its response to accusations of rape, domestic violence and child abuse, it needs to be careful not to make the kind of "improvements" that will lead to more false accusations. Trusting accusers is good, but not verifying their reports (whether by simply taking them at their word or ignoring exculpatory evidence) in an effort to appear more sympathetic is never a good idea.
The presumption of innocence and due process still exist. As police departments work to make necessary improvements in investigating accusations, they must never let political correctness shadow the truth.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.