BALTIMORE — Baltimore County’s Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force released its final report reviewing Baltimore County’s current policies, outlining national best practices and issuing recommendations to improve Baltimore County’s system for investigating sexual assaults.
Formed in February by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, the Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force was charged with reviewing practices and procedures related to sexual assault investigations and prosecution of allegations of sexual assault in Baltimore County, and making recommendations to improve those practices and procedures.
The task force was formed after 5 women filed a lawusit last year alleging that Baltimore County mishandled their sexual assault or rape investigations.
Defendants in the case included the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, Baltimore County State's attorney Scott Shellenberger and the Baltimore County Police Department.
A judge dismissed the suit last month stating the plaintiffs "fail directly to address some of the central issues in this case." The judge gave them 21 days to file a more focused complaint but last week granted a motion extending that deadline until December 3.
The task force started meeting in February and today released its recommendations.
“People deserve to know that when they are the victims of sexual assault our law enforcement agencies will use every resource at our disposal to bring justice,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.
“These recommendations will not sit on a shelf. I charged our taskforce with developing actionable recommendations that we can put into place quickly, and I’m grateful to the task force members for their diligent work in carrying out that charge.”
The Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force’ report offers 23 recommendations for changes to policy and practices, including:
- Implementing a comprehensive sexual assault investigations policy to govern all sexual assault cases
- Developing and implementing a uniform and centralized records system for its sexual assault cases.
- Continuing efforts to expand support for rape kit testing
- Continuing to move towards a trauma-informed, victim-centered and offender-focused model of investigations.
- Working with victim advocacy organizations and other non-profits, including TurnAround, Inc., to create a standardized protocol process for engaging with victims.
- Establishing standard procedures for handling incidents of sexual assault on college campuses or involving victims associated with these institutions.
- Increasing staffing of the County’s Special Victims Unit to better manage the caseload and best serve victims.
- Performing an audit of 911 calls for service for incidents of sexual assault annually
- Reviewing all national best practice information provided by the Task Force and institute policies consistent with these best practices.
- Baltimore County will use the results of the study to guide efforts to improve Baltimore County’s sexual assault investigations.
The Task Force included
- Sheryl Goldstein, Task Force Chair
- David Thomas, Program Manager, International Association of Chiefs of Police
- Rosalyn Branson, CEO of TurnAround, Inc.
- Laura Clary, Program Manager, GBMC SAFE Program
- John Cox, Deputy State's Attorney, Baltimore County State's Attorney’s Office
- Lt. Brian Edwards, Commander of the Baltimore County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit
- Nadia BenAissa, student at UMBC, co-chair of the Retriever Courage Student Advisory Committee and president of UMBC’s We Believe You survivor activist and advocacy group