Seattle Mayor Harrell launches sexual assault investigation panel to assist police

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell on Thursday announced the formation of an advisory panel to help manage sexual assault investigations.

Specifically, the panel aims to identify and address "systemic issues in the Seattle Police Department’s response to sexual assault crimes." The advisory panel will provide recommendations to improve SPD’s investigations into sex crimes.

"Every member of our Seattle community deserves to feel safe, and our response to sexually motivated crimes must reflect this commitment to justice," said Harrell. "This summer, in partnership with [Police] Chief [Adrian] Diaz, we issued an Executive Order to support victims of these heinous crimes and improve investigations. This expert panel is a vital next step in our comprehensive review of our response to sexually motivated crimes, as is investing the resources needed to address SPD’s unprecedented staffing shortages."

According to the city, the panel includes six local experts on sex crimes:

  • Megan Allen, Legal Advocacy Manager, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center
  • Michael Cervantes, Policy Manager, Seattle Indian Health Board
  • George Gonzalez, Assistant Director, Harborview Abuse and Trauma Center
  • Jackie Helfgott, PhD, Professor of Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Forensics; Director of the Crime & Justice Research Center, Seattle University
  • Sara Mooney, Pro Bono Counsel, Sexual Violence Law Center
  • Jennifer Wallace, Program Director – Sexual Assault, Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission

The city also said this panel is part of broader efforts to ramp up sex crimes investigations—along with restoring SPD’s Sexual Assault Unit to eight detectives, reviewing past cases with the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, and a review of issues in the criminal legal system.

 "The Seattle Police Department is 100% committed to providing all sexual assault victims the justice they deserve," said Diaz. "SPD fully supports Mayor Harrell’s Advisory Task Force on Sexual Assault and System Reform and is committed to ensuring every sex crime report is screened by an SPD Supervisor for assignment to a follow-up Detective and/or referral to Victim Support. While our crisis-level staffing numbers continue to present significant challenges, SPD has already assigned additional detectives to the SAU, is doing additional case reviews, and is working to add even more resources. Sexual assaults are particularly traumatic, and the victims deserve SPD’s full investigative support and compassion."

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You can learn more about the panelists here.