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DOD: Military Sexual Assault Investigations Are Inefficient

A review of 501 military sexual assault cases showed that more than one in 10 had significant errors.

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A review of military sexual assault cases revealed that nearly three-quarters were not properly investigated, and 11 percent had "significant" errors, with officials sometimes failing to collect key evidence or properly interview subjects, according to a report released Monday by the Department of Defense.

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The department's inspector general reviewed 501 closed sexual assault cases from 2010 to determine whether they were adequately investigated. Although the report found that the majority, 89 percent, of the cases met the department's standards, there were 56 cases with significant deficiencies – such as failing to collect key evidence, conducting incomplete interviews or not completing thorough crime scene investigations – that were returned to military officials for further investigation.

Randolph Stone, the department's deputy inspector general for policy and oversight, wrote in the report that military investigators could also benefit from "increased emphasis on thoroughness" by improving training and policies for Military Criminal Investigative Organizations, or MCIOs, which handle the majority of military sexual assault cases.

The military has recently come under close scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault cases. A survey of active-duty soldiers released by the Pentagon in May revealed that cases of unwanted sexual contact rose 37 percent in 2012, with 26,000 troops saying they had been victimized.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is pushing legislation that would remove the military's chain of command from sexual assault prosecution, saying that it is important for the cases to be considered by legal professionals and not a supervisor. Two conservative senators – Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Tex. – announced their support for the bill on Tuesday.

The offenses detailed in the cases happened both on and off military locations, in places such as bars or nightclubs, barracks, hotels and personal residences, and involved varying acts such as rape, aggravated sexual assault, forcible sodomy and attempted rape, the report says.

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In a total of 418 of the 501 cases reviewed, the report found deficiencies stemming from interview procedures, the collection of evidence, crime scene documentation, the identification and handling of subjects, investigative coordination and overall administrative deficiencies.

But of those 418 cases, the inspector general deemed 362 met the department's standards because they had one or more "minor" deficiencies that did not "adversely affect" the investigation.

The inspector general returned 56 cases that had significant deficiencies, 31 of which were reopened by the MCIOs. The MCIOs determined that the remaining 25 cases could not be reopened because too much time had passed, or "based on their judgment that additional efforts would be futile."

The report listed a number of recommendations, including policy changes regarding proper documentation of evidence and timely reporting, as well as collecting clothing worn by subjects and victims after an assault.

Susan Raser, executive assistant director for criminal investigations at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said in a written response that the inspector general evaluated the Navy's investigations based on standards that did not exist in 2010.

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The Navy Criminal Investigative Services, she writes, "strives for operational excellence with an emphasis on thorough and timely investigations." Although Raser said in the response that some of the recommendations would be used to "enhance" Navy sexual assault investigations, it could not "concur with the report as written."

Maj. Gen. David Quantock, the commander of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, said in his written response that it would have been beneficial to receive a detailed account of the evidence that supported the report's findings, including deficiencies found in some investigations that were deemed adequate in the end.