Minneapolis unveils victim-focused sexual assault policing strategy

Minneapolis Police are taking a new approach to handling reports of sexual assault, promising to be more victim-focused.

It’s an attempt to get more people to report crimes committed against them.

Every three months, between 8 and 900 victims call the Sexual Violence Center to report or follow up an assault.

In many cases, police have not investigated thoroughly enough. In Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey says that will change.

“This new policy is not a cure-all, but it is an essential step,” Frey said.

The city now has a new sexual assault response and investigation policy that centers on the victims.

First, Minneapolis Police will now accept any report of sexual assault regardless of when or where it happened.

Second, investigators will remain in contact with victims regarding the progress of the investigation.

Third, individuals reporting an assault will not be cited for underage drinking or prostitution.

“The number one things I want victims to know is that their individual case matters to us,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.

Many victims felt ignored by or not taken seriously by Minneapolis Police in the past, including sexual assault victim Abby Honold.

“I felt very angry after that experience and I mostly didn’t feel angry for me, I felt angry for all of the other victims of my rapist who did not feel comfortable reporting because of the kind of experience that I had had when I did,” Honold said.

Advocates say Minneapolis Police are already responding. When a victim now goes to a hospital, one forensic nurse says officers are better at arriving to meet the victim.

“Even over the last month here in Minneapolis I’ve noticed a change,” said Kim Farley, a forensic nurse examiner. “I had Minneapolis come out to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids to take a report and even how the officer took the report was better.”

Police leadership says how they treat these calls and cases is dramatically shifting.

“That we are going to be respectful to them. We are going to meet them where they are at that time and that report,” said Arradondo. “But we are going to in our own public safety fashion we are going to be their best advocate for them.”

The Chief and the Mayor say the department gets about 700 sexual assault cases a year with only eight officers to investigate them.

The Mayor says he budgeted last year to increase the staff with four civilian investigators, but was turned down by the City Council.