NEW ORLEANS (WGNO/CNN) – Five New Orleans detectives are accused of botching more than a thousand sexual assault investigations over a three-year period, the New Orleans Office of Inspector General said. The NOPD has released their names saying detectives Akron Davis, Vernon Haynes, Merrill Merricks, Derrick Williams and Damita Williams have all been reassigned to patrol duty.
According to the seven-page document released Wednesday, an Inspector General investigation found five out of nine detectives in the Special Victims Section of the NOPD at fault for not properly filing reports or not following up when needed.
After reviewing all 1,290 calls from the five detectives in question, between January 2011 – February 2013, investigators found 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.”
When officers file an initial report, it’s intentionally short and vague so as not to identify the victim, Inspector General Ed 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.
View the full report HERE.
OIG highlighted some examples found by investigators.
1. One of the worst cases centered around a 2-year-old who 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 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.
2. 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.
Detective A wrote that the child disclosed no information about a sexual assault and closed the case “due to a lack of evidence,” the report said.
3. In another similar case more than two years ago, Detective E was assigned two cases in which the victims underwent sexual assault exams yielding documentation of physical injuries and other potential physical evidence.
The Louisiana State Police DNA Laboratory contacted the NOPD to say one of the specimens matched DNA from another crime scene, but the NOPD still has yet to submit “a reference sample to confirm the match,” the report said.
Phone records, rape kits & back-dated reports
In the other case, the DNA lab told NOPD it had submitted an incorrect kit, but “the NOPD has not responded,” according to the report.
A review of the DNA Laboratory’s records shows that as of October 13, 2014, the NOPD has failed to respond to 53 state lab requests for “reference samples” to confirm that DNA obtained in an investigation matches DNA in an FBI database, the report said. The requests date back to July 2010.
Another portion of the report homes in on Detective D, 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.
“Detective D told at least three different individuals that Detective D did not believe that simple rape should be a crime,” it said.
Phone records, rape kits & back-dated reports
Among the other allegations in the report:
— A victim told Detective B she was sexually assaulted and robbed of her iPhone, but there is no documentation indicating police tracked the phone;
— Detective A 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 Detective A 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, and Detective A determined there was “no cause for criminal action.”
— Detective A 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.”
— Detective B was given three cases in which the state laboratory identified DNA evidence, but there are no documents indicating a follow-up investigation.
— In 2013, the inspector general requested supplemental reports missing from case files belonging to Detective C — three from 2011 and one from 2010 — but after the reports were submitted, investigators learned all four reports “were created on the same day in 2013, shortly after NOPD received the OIG request for the missing reports.” Investigators determined the same thing happened with a 2010 and 2011 reporting missing from Detective E’s files;
That last example was “perhaps the most egregious,” Quatrevaux said.
“The auditors point out that they didn’t have certain case files and asked the NOPD to send it to them,” he said. “We got the cases a few days later, but when we checked with the (NOPD information technology) department we found that those records were post-dated two and three years. … They were created when we made the request.”
The initial probe came after an OIG audit revealed in May that the NOPD misclassified 46 percent of forcible rape cases over the three year period. The report cited a litany of violations of NOPD practices and policies, including mis-classifying crimes, failure to investigate, incomplete incident reports, failure to remit items to Central Evidence and Property, failure to maintain documents and backdating supplemental reports.
The NOPD’s special victim’s section is composed of the sex crimes, child abuse and domestic violence unit and “has the responsibility to handle the investigation of all rapes and attempted rapes, sexual batteries, and carnal knowledge cases (except in child abuse cases),” the department’s website says.