New Orleans detectives faulted for ignoring sex crimes

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NOPD Accused of Mishandling Sex Abuse Cases for Years

(Reuters) - Hundreds of sex crime complaints to the New Orleans Police Department over a three-year period went virtually uninvestigated, city watchdog and police officials said on Wednesday.

Roughly 1,300 sexual assault calls were assigned to five detectives between 2011 and 2013, and in 65 percent of those cases officers filed no follow-up reports, the office of the city's inspector-general said in a report.

"These revelations suggest an indifference to our citizens that won't be tolerated, and they offend all of the good police officers who work diligently to enforce the law," Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux told a news conference.

The detectives only followed through on 179 of the remaining 450 cases with supplemental reports, according to the office, which added that the lack of information suggested there was no real supervision of their work within the department.

In one instance, a toddler brought to a hospital emergency room after an alleged sexual assault was found to have a sexually transmitted disease. But a detective closed the case, saying the child had failed to provide information that could lead to an investigation.

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New Orleans detectives faulted for ignoring sex crimes
FILE - In a Thursday, May 16, 2013 file photo, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas, right, speak at a news conference in New Orleans as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu listens. Serpas said Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, that he is leaving the job after four years on the job and 25 in New Orleans. Landrieu says the interim chief will be Commander Michael Harrison, commander of the 7th District. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
FILE - In this Monday, May 13, 2013, file photo, New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas announces the issuance of an arrest warrant in connection with a shooting, during a news conference in front of police headquarters, in New Orleans. On Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, Serpas said he is leaving after four years on the job. Serpas has come under fire from officers upset by changes to rules for off-duty work and to disciplinary policies that sent scores of officers out of the department. (AP Photo/Bill Haber, File)
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu bows his head during a ceremony at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial, on the ninth anniversary of the storm, in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas speaks at a news conference, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, about the drive-by shooting that killed two people and wounded five on Sunday in the city’s Lower 9th Ward. He said investigators believe the motive was drugs and the target was a 33-year-old man who was killed. (AP Photo/Janet McConnaughey)

The office began its probe after a May 2014 audit of rape reports found many cases were improperly classified. New Orleans police cooperated in the investigation.

"As your chief of police I am deeply disturbed by these allegations," Superintendent Michael Harrison told the news conference. "As a police department, we will not tolerate it."

All five detectives, who were not identified, were transferred to patrol assignments from the sexual assault unit, Harrison said. He added that the investigation, which continues, could lead to criminal charges against the policemen.

The department is operating under a federal consent decree dating to 2012 that aims at changing a pattern of police misconduct ranging from discriminatory searches to the use of excessive force.

The previous superintendent, Ronal Serpas, announced his retirement in August.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco)

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