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June 27, 2010

Bealefeld confronts charges on unreported rapes

Baltimore Police Commissoner Frederick H. Bealefeld today made his first public comments on Justin Fenton's Baltimore Sun story that concludes city police detectives "unfound" more rape reports than another big police department in the country.

According to The Sun's Julie Bykowicz, here is what the commissioner had to say:

"It certainly draws attention to a situation we've been focused on ... " He said the police have been working with women's groups since Jane Doe legislation passed to "bring structure" to the way rapes are investigated. "It's a good opportunity to evaluate our practices."
He said he would "evaluate the leadership and officers assigned to the unit" and added, "We are going to try to do our job better," referring to how rapes are categorized and resolved.
He also said the story points to a public relations need to build "confidence that reports are taken seriously." If that is not happening, he said, "we need to shake ourselves hard."

Earlier, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued this statement on The Sun investigation:

“I am deeply troubled to learn about the high number of unfounded rape complaints and the decline in reported rapes over the past decade. The data shows the critical need to immediately address the issue with a comprehensive review of investigative practices and response. Sadly, rape is one of the most underreported crimes because women are often ashamed and afraid to confront their attackers. We need to do everything in our power to ensure victims of sexual assault feel safe reporting incidents to police. No victim should ever suffer in silence. The Police Department must examine their current practices and work with leading sexual assault experts to develop and implement new best practices that encourage victims to come forward.  Accordingly, I have tasked the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to take a leadership role with the Sexual Assault Review Team (SART) to oversee the development and implementation of improved Police Department practices.  Commissioner Bealefeld has assured me that the Department is conducting a full audit of unfounded complaints and an internal review of training and investigative practices.”

Posted by Peter Hermann at 3:01 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Breaking news, City Hall, Confronting crime, Top brass


While rape is a horrific crime that no one should have to feel ashamed to report, it is also a convenient way for women to "get back" at men they are upset with. To make rape a serious and severely punishable crime is important. It is equally important to make reporting rapes that never occured as serious an offense. An officer I know well in the DC area told me that 90% of the rape cases he is called to never happened after he spent time discussing details with the "victim". While a woman is trying to hide where she was the previous night, an innocent man is criminally charged, possibly convicted, and women who need police and medical assistance for an actual crime are viewed with a jaundiced eye.

How would an officer know that 90% of the rape cases he is called to never happened? Simply having a discussion with an alleged rape victim is not the equivalent of running a full investigation--it's only one part of an investigation. False reporting is reprehensible (and is a crime, BTW), but trotting out frankly BS estimates of "90% of the rape cases he is called to never happened" indicates to me that your friend doesn't take crime investigation seriously. Which leads many victims of rape or assault to have significant qualms about reporting their crime. It's one of the only crimes left in the U.S. where the entire burden of proof is placed on the victim.

The ultimate reason that I think that police officers and departments who complain about false rape reporting is nothing but a load of BS: how many of these supposed false reporters are actually charged with crimes? Virtually none. Which again indicates that doing legit police work and protecting the populace is the last priority of these cops. Unsympathetic and derelict of duty to those who are true victims, yet not worrying about prosecuting those who abuse the system.

So, Jim, do you think Baltimore has 500% more women who fabricate rape claims than the rest of the country?

Actually, Jim, that's a common myth. I wouldn't call anything about reporting a rape to the police 'convenient'. Do you understand the sort of emotional trauma and medical scrutiny that is involved with making a rape report? As a rape crisis counselor, I can site my own statistics. Only 20-30% of rapes and assaults are even reported! The percentage of false reports hovers somewhere around 3%.

Can someone please tell me the last time someone in this state was named publicly in the newspapers and on the tv for making a rape report?

I'd really like to know, because I don't remember the last time it happened. But I do know if you accuse someone of this crime they get their "fifteen minutes of fame" so to speak.

So once again, snappygolucky and you others...what public shaming are we talking about here?

CatsMcGee has hit the nail right on the head (though snappygolucky and Laura make excellent points as well), and is the whole reason for these articles.

Baltimore's "unfounded rape" statistics are completely out of line with the rest of the country and by a wide margin. People like Jim and the Baltimore police can say whatever they want about the number of fabricated rape reports (even though the 90% statistic alluded to is clearly pure BS), but that still doesn't explain why Baltimore's "unfounded rape" reports are so much higher then any place else in the country. Apparently the Baltimore police would have us believe that we're just unlucky enough to live in area where we have a particularly large number of women (mostly I assume) who enjoy yelling rape every 5 seconds for no apparent reason.

All Baltimore needs to do is to rename the person who takes the original report a "detective". People seem to be reacting to the notion that a detective isn't called.

Then I think they just need to change the nomenclature and stop calling them "unfounded". Perhaps they can just call the ones with real evidence, "prosecutor ready."

report on unrep. rape cases

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.

Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.

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