Police Decision Making in Sexual Assault Cases: An Analysis of Crimes Reported to the Los Angeles Police Department, 2006-2008

Project: Research project

Description

The past several decades have witnessed significant changes in rape law, both in the United States and elsewhere (Berger, Searles & Neuman, 1988; Jordan, 2004; Marsh, Geist & Kaplan, 1982; Spohn & Homey, 1992). Although the scope of the reforms varied, many jurisdictions replaced the crime of rape with a series of gender-neutral offenses graded by seriousness and with commensurate penalties, loosened or eliminated the resistance and corroboration requirements, repealed marital rape exemptions, and enacted shield laws that restricted the use of evidence of the victim's prior sexual conduct. There also have been important modifications to sexual assault case processing policies and practices. Jurisdictions throughout the United States developed coordinated multidisciplinary approaches to sexual assault (e.g., sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), sexual assault response teams (SART), and other types of partnerships among criminal justice agencies and service providers), as well as specialized units for the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases. These legal and policy changes were designed to improve the treatment of sexual assault victims and thus to prompt more victims to report the crime to the police. They also were designed to improve the response of the criminal justice system to the crime of sexual assault by reducing case attrition and increasing the likelihood of successful prosecution. Recent statistics suggest that these reforms have not produced the predicted instrumental effects. In 2006, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced an estimated 272350 rape and sexual assault victimizations; however, only 41.4 percent of these victimizations were reported to the police (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007)-' Of forcible rapes reported to the police in 2006, only 39,5 percent were cleared by arrest or by exceptional means (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2006). There also is evidence that prosecution of rape cases remains problematic. In 2004, the conviction rate for felony defendants charged with rape in the 75 largest counties in the United States was 62 percent; 54 percent of the defendants were convicted of felonies and 8 percent were convicted of misdemeanors (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008). The legal and policy changes implemented over the past three decades notwithstanding, sexual assault continues to be a crime characterized by low reporting rates and high rates of case attrition. The purpose of the proposed study is to document the extent of case attrition in sexual assault cases and to identify the factors that increase the likelihood of case attrition. We will use quantitative data 011 sexual assaults reported to the Los Angeles Police Department frol11 January of 2006 to December of 2008 and qualitative data from interviews with police oft1cers who handled sexual assault cases during this time period to pursue four interrelated objectives: I) to document the extent of case attrition and to identify the stages of the criminal justice process where attrition is most likely to occur; 2) to identify the case complexities and evidentiary factors that affect the likelihood of attrition in sexual assault cases; 3) to identify the predictors of case outcomes ill sexual assault cases; and 4) to provide a comprehensive analysis of the factors that lead police to unfound the charges in sexual assault cases.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/1/1012/31/11

Funding

  • DOJ-OJP: National Institute of Justice (NIJ): $232,857.00

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assault
police
offense
decision making
rape
justice
prosecution
statistics
victimization
jurisdiction
misdemeanor
reform
Law
exemption
examiner
Jordan
service provider
evidence
penalty
nurse