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Minneapolis police to hire full-time victim advocate to work with sex crimes investigators

August 23, 2018

Minneapolis police said this week that they will hire an advocate for rape victims to work full-time alongside investigators.

The as-yet-unnamed advocate from the Sexual Violence Center, a local nonprofit focused on combating sexual violence and abuse, will be embedded with the departments Sex Crimes Unit, which investigates accusations of abuse and assault. The advocate will accompany sex assault victims as they bring their cases to police, as the department already does with victims of domestic abuse.

The new Sex Crimes Unit advocate will work directly with victims, offering them support and updates throughout the investigative process, as well as expediting their access to valuable social service resources, spokesman Scott Seroka said in an e-mailed statement. This position increases the departments commitment toward providing professional service by ensuring more robust and comprehensive services are available to the victims of sex crimes.

Victim advocates have come to play an important role in helping rape survivors get proper medical treatment, recover from an assault and navigate the law enforcement system. The move comes after a monthslong Star Tribune investigation documented pervasive failings in how Minnesota law enforcement agencies, including Minneapolis, investigate sexual assault.

In its reporting, the Star Tribune examined more than 1,000 sexual assault reports in the Twin Cities and around Minnesota since 2015 and found hundreds of rape cases in which police departments failed to interview witnesses, collect evidence or even assign detectives. The revelations were followed by public reprimands and calls for sweeping improvements and accountability.

The change represents a first step toward changing the culture around sexual violence, said Teri Walker McLaughlin, executive director at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA)

Its more than a Band-Aid, but this isnt a singular layer type of problem, she said. This is multilayered, multifaceted, and were going to have to go far deeper and still ensure that law enforcement is properly trained, policies and protocols are designed and victim-centered, and that there is a mechanism thats in place that allows review.

The move also fulfills a commitment made by Mayor Jacob Frey to hire an advocate in the wake of the monthslong investigation.

In an interview last month, Frey told the Star Tribune that he would also work with Arradondo to improve training for sex crimes investigators, as well as allocate money for a new crime lab and equipment to investigate sexual assault cases.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman also pledged changes.

Freeman, who is facing re-election this fall, vowed to redouble his offices efforts in prosecuting sexual assault cases, including more scrutiny of cases that police close without assigning an investigator and cases never referred to prosecutors.

Libor Jany 612-673-4064 Twitter:@StribJany

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