Hundreds of sex crime complaints to the New Orleans Police Department over a three-year period went virtually uninvestigated, city watchdog and police officials said on Wednesday.
Roughly 1,300 sexual assault calls were assigned to five detectives between 2011 and 2013, and in 65 percent of those cases officers filed no follow-up reports, the office of the city's inspector-general said in a report.
"These revelations suggest an indifference to our citizens that won't be tolerated, and they offend all of the good police officers who work diligently to enforce the law," Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux told a news conference.
The detectives only followed through on 179 of the remaining 450 cases with supplemental reports, according to the office, which added that the lack of information suggested there was no real supervision of their work within the department.
In one instance, a toddler brought to a hospital emergency room after an alleged sexual assault was found to have a sexually transmitted disease. But a detective closed the case, saying the child had failed to provide information that could lead to an investigation.
The office began its probe after a May 2014 audit of rape reports found many cases were improperly classified. New Orleans police cooperated in the investigation.
"As your chief of police I am deeply disturbed by these allegations," Superintendent Michael Harrison told the news conference. "As a police department, we will not tolerate it."
All five detectives, who were not identified, were transferred to patrol assignments from the sexual assault unit, Harrison said. He added that the investigation, which continues, could lead to criminal charges against the policemen.
The department is operating under a federal consent decree dating to 2012 that aims at changing a pattern of police misconduct ranging from discriminatory searches to the use of excessive force.
The previous superintendent, Ronal Serpas, announced his retirement in August.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco)