In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, representatives from PERL met with Mayor Jim Strickland Friday to share a number of concerns about how the Memphis Police Department handles rape cases. After the meeting, PERL members and supporters held a press conference to share share our concerns and demands with the public.
We urge the mayor to take the following steps:
Data and analytics on sex crimes
Mayor Strickland says he is fully committed to data-driven programs like Blue CRUSH to fight crime and predict patterns. Data analysis is especially important in rape cases. By fully and properly investigating these crimes as they occur, MPD can prevent future rapes from happening. As such, MPD must keep a database of sex crimes to enable investigators to connect and solve cases as they occur.
Public notification of sex crimes
In the past few months, multiple reports of unidentified serial rapists have raised questions about how MPD investigates sex crimes and notifies the public about at-large predators. Unlike other types of violent crime like robberies and homicides, MPD does not provide statistical and geographical data for sex crimes. As a matter of transparency and public safety, MPD should release this data to the public.
Allocation of new police officers
We support the addition of police service technicians (PSTs), which will free up trained police officers to patrol and investigate crime. But we are concerned about where MPD will put these newly freed officers. To ensure appropriate sex crimes investigations, MPD should add investigators to the Sex Crimes Unit. Further, MPD should ensure that these investigators work only on adult rape cases and not on misdemeanors.
New police director
As Mayor Strickland searches for the next police director, we call on him to seek a candidate who has a track record of improving the response to sexual violence and improving transparency in his or her own department.
We share with Mayor Strickland the belief that any discussion about moving Memphis forward must include a discussion about crime. As always, we call on law enforcement to treat sexual violence like a crime.
People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws is a program of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center to monitor law enforcement responses to sexual violence. Our goal is to end the law enforcement and political practices that effectively decriminalize sexual violence. To this end, we connect victims with information about their rights and equip individuals with tools to advocate for themselves and others and advocate for fair criminal justice policies. We urge you to learn more about America’s hidden rape crisis, where it has been exposed, and why it matters. We invite you to take action and support our efforts to make sure law enforcement takes rape seriously.