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NYPD Announces Updates to Strengthen the Special Victims Division

November 16, 2018

The NYPD announced today the latest updates on changes to the NYPD's Special Victims Division (SVD) to uphold and strengthen the NYPD's commitment to survivors of sexual assault. In April of this year, the NYPD launched a top-to-bottom review under the new Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea's leadership to identify areas within the SVD that could be improved through a survivor-focused philosophy, starting from the very first interaction and throughout the entire investigative process.

As part of Chief Shea's review of the Detective Bureau, he has appointed four Assistant Chiefs to oversee various units within the division. This includes Assistant Chief James Essig, Assistant Chief Christopher McCormack, Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox and Assistant Chief William Aubrey. During the last seven months, NYPD leadership has met with advocates, elected officials and other stakeholders to solicit feedback, which has been an important part of the bureau-wide review. The key areas of changes announced today—which have had rolling implementation over the last seven months—include leadership, staffing, policy, training and facilities.

"Our team continues to come into sharp focus as we shape the NYPD for the future," said Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill. "The significant policy enhancements, facility improvements, and restructuring within our Special Victims Division amplify our ability to respond effectively to survivors of all crimes, while continuing to conduct full and thorough investigations. Our mission remains clear: to build on the past 27 months and move ahead with all the people we serve, in every neighborhood of New York City. That is our way forward — together."

"Over the last seven months we have performed a top-to-bottom review of the Detective Bureau, and made incredible progress in the Special Victims Division. Through this new structure, policy changes and facility improvements, we will continue to take critical steps forward," said Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea. "We are deeply committed to doing everything and anything necessary to ensure survivors feel the safety and support needed to come forward, bravely share their experiences, and help the NYPD bring to justice those who have committed these horrific crimes."

"I'm extremely grateful for this amazing opportunity to serve the Department and the great citizens of New York City in this significant leadership role," said Deputy Chief Judith Harrison. "I look forward to working in partnership with the Victims' Advocacy Groups and the District Attorneys as we together serve the citizens of New York City and continue the progress that's already been made. I will cultivate an environment where survivors of sexual assault know that we are committed to providing survivors with the justice they deserve."

SVD Leadership Reorganization

Restructure significantly increases supervision and builds capacity in unit.
  • Restructured the Detective Bureau to have SVD report to Assistant Chief Essig.
  • Appointed Deputy Chief Judith Harrison to lead SVD as the new Commanding Officer.
    • Deputy Chief Judith Harrison joined the New York City Police Department in April 1997. For the past 21 years, she has worked in various assignments while ascending the supervisory ranks including serving as the Commanding Officer in both the 112 Precinct and the 109 Precinct, culminating with her promotion to Deputy Chief last July where she joined the Detective Bureau. Chief Harrison has had patrol experience in every rank she’s held on this job and responded to numerous calls for assistance which involved sex crimes and assaults against vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly. As a precinct executive (2013-2018), she was intimately involved with every crime that was reported to the precinct from commencement to conclusion, including sex crimes. Queens Special Victims turns out of the same building that Patrol Borough Queens North and the 112 Precinct turns out of where Chief Harrison was a Lieutenant in Patrol Borough Queens North from 2007 to 2013, and Commanding Officer of the 112 Precinct from 2014-2016. She worked closely with all investigative units in that location, including Queens Special Victims.
  • Added a second XO Executive Officer to split the Adult and Child Squad responsibilities to further strengthen each unit and specialty. Deputy Inspector Paul Saraceno oversees the Adult Squad and Deputy Inspector Caroline Roe oversees the Child Abuse Squad.
  • Moved the Hate Crime Task Force to SID to better organize and focus both missions. Deputy Inspector Mark Molinari continues to serve as Commanding Officer of HCTF.

Enhance SVD Staffing

Increasing the number of detectives solving cases.
  • Over the last seven months the NYPD has added 34 newly transferred investigators. Additionally, through a combination of civilianization and elimination of redundant functions, the NYPD has created 12 more active investigators and added a new analyst to help automate reports. This has increased staffing in the Adult Squad by 44 investigators from 74 to 118.
  • The average caseload per detective is now 63.7, down from 76.5 at the end of 2017. Even if there was a 10% increase in cases in 2019, we project that this caseload ratio will decline even further in the New Year.
  • Total overall staffing in SVD is now 281. This includes 230 police officers and detectives, as well as 51 other personnel including civilians, supervisors and executives.

Enhance SVD Training

Ensuring every detective in SVD has state of the art training to support survivors of sexual assault as they thoroughly investigate every case.
  • Over the past seven months, the NYPD accelerated training for all investigators in SVD. As a result, every detective in SVD has now received full Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) training. FETI training is a science-based methodology and is considered the state of the art training.

Improved SVD Facilities

Over the last seven months improvements to SVD facilities have been made including facility upgrades, painting and new furniture.
  • Immediate repairs conducted in facilities in all five boroughs to make environments more welcoming.
  • Visited Philadelphia to learn from other law enforcement and developing better SVD facilities with the goal of having advocates on site as well as prosecutors.
  • Work underway to identify new adult facilities in all five boroughs:
    • Locations identified and under construction in Manhattan and Staten Island with completion expected in Spring 2019.
    • Identifying locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.
    • Crime Victim Advocates will be available onsite for all survivors.

Policy

Changed policy to ensure a comprehensive and uniform approach to all felony sex crimes.
  • As of July 2, 2018, the NYPD has changed its Summary Arrest Enhancement Policy and now enhances all felony sex crimes. This means that SVD will see every felony sex crime case, regardless of whether it was initiated by Patrol.
  • We anticipate there will be an additional 200-250 case enhancements per year and these survivors will now benefit from a more comprehensive investigatory process.