NOPD lacks urgency; sexual assault victim speaks out


Arianna D'Antonio

A police cruiser is parked in front of NOPD’s first district police station. It is still up in the air who will become the permanent superintendent.

Macie Batson, Senior Staff Writer

It was October of 2019. A former Loyola student was out with her friends at a Halloween party when someone approached her and offered her a drink.

She accepted it and woke up on the party’s filthy bathroom floor two hours later to the sound of her friends pounding on the door and finally barging in.

She’d been raped and needed to act fast. She removed her underwear and placed them in a bag as evidence. She climbed into a friend’s car and drove to the hospital, ready to talk to the New Orleans Police Department about everything she didn’t even remember.

It’s been three years, and she hasn’t heard from law enforcement since.

“They say that murder takes your life, but rape takes your soul and leaves you alive,” the former Loyola student and sexual assault victim said.

The New Orleans Police Department has attempted to fight its dwindling number of officers by acquiring additional allocations, employing civilians, and ultimately downgrading some rape cases to non-emergencies. Citizens enraged by the change in police were further outraged earlier this year when a New Orleans 2nd City Court constable in New Orleans ignored someone who reported a rape to him.

This year, nearly 100 calls to report rape have been quickly downgraded, according to The Times-Picayune. Survivors are left waiting for police for hours, and they often leave before the police arrive.

“Gone on arrival”

Long wait times, along with NOPD reports filed as “gone on arrival,” have worried local politicians. Councilwoman Helena Moreno told WWL-TV she was concerned about the chance that these crimes may never be investigated, as well as worried about the emotional toll the delay has on rape victims.

Additionally, the NOPD said that 73,000 DNA samples, many of which are rape kits, sit backlogged in the Louisiana State Police crime lab. Because of these setbacks, many survivors who report sexual assault are left with uninvestigated and unsolved crimes.

The former Loyola student said she is outraged by the NOPD’s decision to downgrade rape and that she believes it demonstrates that the department does not care about survivors.
“It shows a lack of respect for the thousands of people whose rape test kits have been backlogged,” she said. “It shows that the people who are sworn to serve and protect, aren’t going to protect you in possibly the scariest and most vulnerable moment of your life.”
The Loyola alumnus said her rape kit is yet to be tested, though she said that the NOPD was first very responsive, taking in her evidence as well as all of the details of her case.
“I understand that with over 300,000 people living in the metro area alone, and not remotely enough police to handle that amount of people in the first place, that it could take some time.” she said.
However, she claimed that two weeks after her incident, she called and found out that her rape kit had not been tested yet. She added that every few weeks she would call to get an update, but after two months, the NOPD stopped answering her calls. She felt that her case had been pushed to the back burner.
“My sexual assault was never solved, and my rapist is still out and about, probably living life as if nothing had ever happened,” she said.
“Green light to all predators”
As a result of her interactions with the NOPD, the former Loyola student said she feels unsafe in New Orleans and is unsure who to turn to in an emergency.
“The NOPD should have never announced that they were not going to move forward with rape investigations anymore,” she said. “That gave a green light to all predators that they can do whatever they want to, and there will be little repercussions, and nobody to answer to for their crimes.”
Last July, a deputy constable for the New Orleans city court resigned after being accused of failing to intervene when a witness informed him a woman was being raped, according to a statement from the constable for 2nd City Court, Edwin Shorty.

According to later investigation, the deputy was on a private security detail in the French Quarter when he was approached. After staying in his vehicle for several minutes, the deputy then walked away from the area. The deputy provided no explanation for his conduct, according to Shorty.
“The deputy story infuriated me, but it was not surprising due to the inaction of the NOPD in my case,” the former Loyola student said. “I could not imagine being the witness, having seen such a horrific act take place and going to the person who is supposed to serve and protect, and being ignored.”
“Egregious failure”
Rae Taylor, chair of Loyola’s Criminology and Justice Department, said she feels that the deputy’s actions that night violated the police officer standard of conduct.

“The officer who failed to respond committed egregious failure to protect, which is central to his work in law enforcement, regardless of whether he was in an off duty enforcement role on that night,” Taylor said.

Taylor is a member of Crime Survivors Nola, a group that reports on crime statistics, police issues and shares resources for survivors in New Orleans.

On their Instagram, Crime Survivors posted a report by the Sexual Violence Response Advisory Committee that stated the NOPD sex crimes unit cleared only 5% of sexual assault cases in 2021.

“Imagine what it’s like to survive sexual violence, call police to report it (often placing your own safety at risk), talk about it with strangers, endure a forensic exam… and then realize there’s a 90% chance your case will never be solved,” the Crime Survivors Instagram post said.

Taylor added that reducing crime and successfully meeting the needs of crime survivors requires a systems approach, where each system performs with integrity.

“With so many problems within the police department, so much conflict within and across the various agencies and with individuals elected to office, we see that the effect of this is skyrocketing crime and abysmal responses to crime and crime survivors,” Taylor said.

The New Orleans Police Department was contacted through email in late September on the subject. They had not responded to requests for comment as of Oct. 19, 2022.