City Desk

MPD Won’t Release Sexual Assault Report

Earlier this year, there were some questions regarding the Metropolitan Police Department's 2010 crime stats. While MPD said the District had experienced an 11 percent spike in sexual assaults for the year, others said the percentage was closer to 50.

A December MPD crime report obtained by City Desk showed a 46 percent increase. "Sex Assault statistics only include preliminary first and second degree offenses," the document read. "For more detailed information please see the Sexual Assault Report." So City Desk subsequently asked for the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.

MPD denied that request today, citing the need to protect confidential information:

"Your request is denied because the Sexual Assault report is an internal document created for law enforcement investigative purposes. According to the Intelligence Unit at the MPD, the Sexual Assault daily report reveals investigative techniques not generally known to the public, specifically information on the type of sexual assaults, location, factual basis, witness/victim information and other information.  D.C. Code 2-534(a)(3E).  Redaction of the privileged information would render the document incomprehensible."

Which means more detailed information won't immediately be forthcoming. Why the department didn't send over the redacted version, and leave it to City Desk to decide whether the document was "rendered incomprehensible," wasn't exactly clear.

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  • Truth Hurts

    Stonewalling FOIA requests happened only under Fenty/Nickles. No way this can still be happening in one (transparent) city. You got it all wrong dude.

  • DigginDeep

    Here's an idea: Do some real investigative reporting and stop whining and waiting for some bureaucrat, who simply needs to pimp the press as a mouthpiece for the gov't, to recite a story to you.

    The USAO publishes results of cases that will give you more accurate and firm results on how incidents were documented.
    http://tinyurl.com/4waqyt2
    http://tinyurl.com/47uoatw

    Simply because some drunk college babe claims they got seriously sexually assaulted doesn't make it so. The only way to determine what are actually confirmed as sexual assaults is to wait until they have been tried in court. MPD doesn't track that, USAO does. Bark up the right tree. It takes a little more work, but you can still probably do it from your laptop sipping a latte in a nice warm Starbucks while it's snowing outside. Back in the day, a reporter got paid to roll of their sleeves and dig through dusty boxes with a flashlight all night to write a story.

    MPD: "... These totals may differ ... for a variety of reasons, including late reporting, reclassification of some offenses, and discovery that some offenses were unfounded."

    USDOJ: "Reasons for not reporting assault vary among individuals, but one study identified the following as common: [4]
    * Self-blame or guilt.
    * Shame, embarrassment, or desire to keep the assault a private matter.
    * Humiliation or fear of the perpetrator or other individual's perceptions.
    * Fear of not being believed or of being accused of playing a role in the crime.
    * Lack of trust in the criminal justice system."

    Easy to understand why MPD doesn't want to confuse their reports with actual verified convictions: Girl might find out that her dog was cheating on her, and file a report that he beat her up bad during sex to get him in trouble, but later on when he creeps back for a lil' mo' lovin' she drops the charges completely.

  • Person in DC

    You are an idiot. You didn't get the FOIA request because it includes a bunch of sensitive information about SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS. Stop being stupid and do your job. Asshat.

  • Mike Madden

    Person in DC:

    How is filing FOIA requests for information that shows whether or not the police are reporting the number of sexual assaults correctly NOT doing his job? MPD could have released the information without any details about the victims; even just a count of the complaints of sexual assaults would have been better than what they did here, which is refuse to provide any information at all.

  • Person in DC

    MPD processed the request. They determined that they could not release it due to the sensitive nature of the information. They also have a vested interest in not releasing their investigative procedures, considering that's how they intend to catch future criminals. So a reporter is denied the request, and then when he is denied decides that he knows better than MPD's lawyers as to when FOIA requests should be granted. Maybe instead of complaining about MPD trying to protect its citizens he should be investigating local sexual assault cases to see how effective MPD has been. This would be far less offensive if it wasn't part of a pattern here at CP condemning MPD for perceived wrongs which CP has not adequately researched.

  • Mike Madden

    They also decided the information would be of no use to us if they redacted the details they couldn't release, instead of just releasing a heavily redacted document. Which means MPD decided for us what information we did or didn't need, not the other way around.

  • Person in DC

    Just as the law allows them to.

  • Mike Madden

    Just because it's legally allowable doesn't mean it's automatically the right choice. Why not let us decide if the redacted information is useful or not?

  • Person in DC

    There could be any number of reasons for that. I'm rather surprised how entitled you feel to the information. FOIA exists because we as a society generally believe government transparency is preferable, but there is no absolute right to it. All this article does is whine about how MPD did not give you a free story for some page views and ad revenue because everyone loves a story on violent crime. MPD made a decision it was entitled to make and it doesn't seem unreasonable at all that a report with sensitive sexual assault information be withheld. Your whining doesn't change that, and it makes look like your priority is attacking MPD rather than reporting on violent crimes.

  • Mike Madden

    Who said we wanted a "free story"? We wanted the information specifically because the other document—which we obtained through a source, not through FOIA—says to look at the sexual assault report for more information. Which we sought because there's been a discrepancy between the numbers MPD reports and numbers others count. If you think we get more page views and ad revenues from stories about government statistics than we would for other stories, you're mistaken.

    MPD is entirely right to redact sensitive information about victims of sexual assaults. We never said they weren't, just that they probably could have released the redacted document and let us decide, "Gee, this is totally useless," rather than deciding that for us.

    And yes, I do think we—or any citizens—should feel entitled to information about our the government works. Just because MPD says it doesn't think the information should be public doesn't mean the public shouldn't have the info.

  • Person in DC

    So do you feel entitled to MPD operating procedure's as well? It says clearly in their response to you that the combination of personal information and "investigative techniques not generally known to the public" require them to keep the report confidential. Getting a FOIA request denied is not a story. Period. If you were really that surprised/upset about this you could appeal it, but you're not. That's why you just post a story about it.

  • Mike Madden

    It says the techniques are the personal details, actually:

    "According to the Intelligence Unit at the MPD, the Sexual Assault daily report reveals investigative techniques not generally known to the public, specifically information on the type of sexual assaults, location, factual basis, witness/victim information and other information."

    All we're really seeking is the number of sexual assaults, so again, there's no reason MPD couldn't have given us that. Even a spreadsheet with everything redacted except a count would be better than nothing. And we may file an appeal, anyway.

    But yes, generally, I think the public should be entitled to operating procedures or any other information about any government agency unless the agency can show why that would be harmful to other public interests.

  • Person in DC

    Those details can be descriptive of MPD investigative procedures, which need to be kept confidential in order to prevent criminals from anticipating what MPD will do. If you just wanted a number why not just ask for that rather than the report? Why not go to a media liaison? You've failed to show why this request getting denied is significant enough to post, beyond the obvious reason that is inherent in your past reports on MPD, which is that they annoy you.

  • Officer Cicero

    "All we're really seeking is the number of sexual assaults, so again, there's no reason MPD couldn't have given us that."

    Rend Smith/Mike Madden:

    How about you try a few other ways, like asking for the total number of PD-251s with a classification of 'Sex Abuse' and their associated CCN numbers? Like it or not, PD-251s are public record. The totals should be able to be culled from the RMS system backend. It's not as sexy as getting a LE-sensitive report and involves going downtown and shelling out some cash, but there's no reason to deny you that information.

    Either that, or you can request through the OUC lists of whenever CCN numbers for some kind of 'Sex Abuse' were drawn in reference to an assignment. Those numbers won't always jive with the RMS due to reclassification, but that should provide you a gross total of Sexual Abuse reports reported to MPD due to the fact that (as far as I know) the only way to get CCNs generated legitimately is through the OUC, either by dispatch or through dialing up 911 and getting a slip generated.

    While you're on it, why don't you see what USPP and the other federal agencies have on Sexual Assault statistics. USPP does investigate Sex Abuse cases that occur in their jurisdiction.

  • Mike Madden

    Helpful suggestions -- thanks.

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