Austin Police Improperly Cleared 30 Rape Cases In Three Months Of 2017, Audit Finds
State auditors have found that the Austin Police Department inaccurately classified more than two dozen rape cases from three months in 2017, according to Police Chief Brian Manley.
The results are preliminary. At a news conference Monday, Manley said a full report from the Texas Department of Public Safety would be released later this month.
“We can’t put a lot of context around the numbers that we have right now,” he said.
In November, journalists with ProPublica, Newsy and the Center for Investigative Reporting reported that police departments across the country were frequently using a federal classification to clear sexual assault cases despite experts saying the method should be used sparingly.
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Reporters found that 2 out of 3 cleared rape cases in Austin in 2016 were “exceptionally cleared” – meaning the department identified the alleged offender but couldn’t arrest this person for a number of reasons, including because the prosecutor wouldn't bring a case or the survivor was uncooperative.
After publication of the story, the APD asked the state to look at how it clears sexual assault cases.
Auditors considered rape cases from January, November and December 2017. They found that roughly one-third of cases, or 30 of 95 total incidents, failed to meet the federal guidelines for exceptionally clearing a case.
DPS auditors found additional issues with the three-month batch of cases. According to Manley, the state found that 15 cases were improperly defined as rape, leading APD to over-report these assaults.
“We want to make sure that we are reporting accurate data,” Manley said Monday. “So, it’s important that we take these steps to shore up these areas where maybe we’re doing something inaccurately so that we can have confidence in the information we’re putting forward.”
Manley said he’s already asked the state to begin retraining detectives on how to accurately classify these cases.
“We’re not going to wait for that final report before making some changes and before making some improvements,” he said.
Clarification: The story has been edited to clarify that 2 out of 3 rape cases that were "exceptionally cleared" in 2016 were of the total cleared cases that year.