Understaffing, Undertraining, Underfunding

How the NYPD is Fundamentally Failing Survivors of Sexual Assault.


Audrey Hill

Nayu Shimo ’20 believes that underfunding within the NYPD is contributing to its failure to protect survivors of assault.

Every 73 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted. Of all the solemn sexual assault statistics that populate the echelons of public consciousness, that one truly conveys the visceral urgency of the national moment we occupy and have occupied for generations. It illustrates the magnitude of the problem we as a society face, and evokes panic as we consider our complete and utter inability to combat it. Time charges on, leaving a trail of new stories, new traumas in the icy wake of its passage. Sexual violence seems like an impossible problem to tackle, an epidemic on a massive scale. 

While the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought desperately needed dialogues about sexual assault into the forefront of public thought, the spotlight has mainly been on celebrities and those in power. We need to center our discussion more around the communities and individuals who have been impacted, and the institutions that have failed them.

A 2018 internal review conducted by the New York City Department of Investigation confirms the dysfunction within the New York Police Department. It details chronic understaffing, undertraining, and underfunding of the Special Victims Division, concluding that the “SVD has been consistently under- resourced, presenting institutional barriers to the reporting …[and]…investigation of sex crimes.” Data gathered in the report show annual caseloads per investigator reaching into the hundreds in some areas of the city. 

Lack of resources allocated for the Special Victims Division translates into very real consequences for survivors. In a 2019 Op-Ed, Sonia Ossorio, the President of the National Organization for Women (“NOW”) wrote “In Manhattan, a shocking 40% of all rape investigations were closed citing uncooperative victims and unfounded allegations. A high rate of rape victims not cooperating with police is a red flag pointing to ineffective investigations and likely mistreatment of victims.”

Our system is deeply and fundamentally broken. It is broken because it was built to be broken, built to serve some and disregard others. It is up to us, the next generation, to begin to address that brokenness. It is up to us to start conversations within our schools and communities about consent and healthy relationships, and invest in a future free of the toxicity and stigma of today’s culture. But until then, one thing is clear: the NYPD must do better.

Our system is deeply and fundamentally broken.