MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis Police Department is enacting several changes in how it handles sexual assault investigations, including requiring officers to prioritize the well-being of victims and taking steps to make it easier for victims to come forward.
Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday announced a new policy that will ensure officers receive training in trauma-informed interviewing, which acknowledges the lasting effects that trauma and violence can have on a victim's behavior and memory.
"We have the ability and the obligation to do a better job when survivors come forward," Frey said. "Honoring their bravery requires that we make every effort to ensure investigations are handled with compassion and ... guided by the goal of delivering justice."
The policy, which takes effect Sunday, also requires investigators to tell victims they can have an advocate with them during an interview. It seeks to improve the way investigators gather and test evidence, interview witnesses and question suspects. The new policy also calls for officers to maintain regular contact with victims during an investigation.
The policy changes also aim to protect sexual assault victims from facing certain charges, including underage drinking and prostitution.
The overhaul mirrors protocols adopted in January by the state's top police regulatory body, the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. It follows a 2018 investigation by the Star Tribune that uncovered widespread failures in the handling of sex crimes by police department's around the state.
The Minneapolis Police Department earlier this year hired a full-time victim advocate, expanded training for its sex crimes investigators and started working with a special prosecutor.
"This is a paradigm shift in how we've done these cases in the past," said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
Both Frey and Arradondo called for more investigators in the department. Minneapolis police receive roughly 700 sexual assault reports each year, but there are only eight investigators to process them, Frey said.
Frey's 2019 budget proposal included money for four additional investigators. The measure didn't pass the City Council.