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MPD rejects claims it mishandled sexual assault cases

Tuesday - 2/5/2013, 5:56pm  ET

Alicia Lozano, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The Metropolitan Police Department is pushing back against allegations that it mishandled almost 200 sexual assault cases.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham says the department has located 117 of the 170 case reports Human Rights Watch alleged in a recent report were never taken.

"This is just the beginning," he says. "Of course, we're going to continue looking in the database."

But not all the reports will necessarily be found.

"In some of these cases, a report might not have been taken and there may be a very good explanation for that," Newsham says, adding that Human Rights Watch took comments "out of context" or added "misleading information" in its 196-page indictment.

Sara Darehshori, lead author of the report, says she is concerned these cases are being accounted for after her report surfaced.

"We provided them with six months to respond ... and given them ample opportunity to supply extra information," she says. "We are surprised by this new information and would hope there would be some engagement" between MPD and her organization.

Darehshori recently met with both the D.C. Council and Department of Justice, which is deciding whether it will investigate her organization's findings. D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells has already said he hopes to hold a hearing on the report some time this year.

Since the findings surfaced, MPD has implemented 22 of the 23 recommendations made by Human Rights Watch, Newsham says. This includes creating a website for victims of sexual assaults to step forward anonymously and speak up if they felt mistreated by police.

Only one person has submitted a complaint so far, Newsham says.

Tune in Thursday at 10 a.m. to hear Police Chief Cathy Lanier speak about her department's handling of sexual assault cases during WTOP's Ask the Chief.

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