The Justice Department opened an investigation into the New York City Police Department's Special Victims Division.
The federal probe will examine long-standing allegations that the NYPD has mishandled sex crimes and shamed survivors.
The investigation will probe whether the SVD "engages in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing."
The Justice Department on Thursday launched an investigation into the New York City Police Department's Special Victims Division (SVD) over long-standing allegations that the department has mishandled sexual assault cases and shamed survivors.
The investigation will probe whether the NYPD's sex crimes unit "engages in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing," the agency announced.
The Justice Department said that it has received information "alleging deficiencies" that have "persisted" for over a decade within the NYPD, which has the largest police force in the country — adding that the division's alleged systemic flaws are "depriving survivors and the public of the prompt, thorough, and effective investigations needed to protect public safety."
"These deficiencies allegedly include failing to conduct basic investigative steps and instead shaming and abusing survivors and re-traumatizing them during investigations," the DOJ said in announcing the probe.
According to the DOJ, the probe will include a review of the "policies, procedures, and training for SVD investigations of sexual assault crimes, including how SVD interacts with survivors and witnesses, collects evidence, and completes investigations."
The investigation will also examine any steps the NYPD "has taken to address deficiencies in its handling of sexual assault crimes" and the services offered to sex assault survivors, per the DOJ.
The DOJ said that prior to the announcement it notified New York City Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, "who have pledged to cooperate with the investigation."
The NYPD told Insider in a statement that it "welcomes the review" by the DOJ.
"As an agency, we have committed to improving the quality of our investigations and the care provided by the Special Victims Division when working with some of the most vulnerable survivors of crime," the department said.
In its statement to Insider, the NYPD said it has already taken some steps to streamline the division, noting that Sewell previously appointed a new commanding officer of SVD using input from survivors' advocates.
The department has also been consulting counselors and sexual assault survivors, it said.
"The SVD has also been bolstered by increased numbers of investigators, specialized training, and the creation of new facilities designed with enhancing the comfort of survivors in mind," the NYPD said.
Sewell said in a statement the department's "goal is for SVD to be the national model."
"I believe any constructive review of our practices in the Special Victims Division will show that the NYPD has been evolving and improving in this area but we will be transparent and open to criticism as well as ideas in the process," said the city's top cop.
Meanwhile, Kristen Clarke, the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement: "Survivors of sexual assault should expect effective, trauma-informed and victim-centered investigations by police departments."
"Based on information provided to the Justice Department, we find significant justification to investigate whether the NYPD's Special Victims Division engages in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing," Clarke said.
Breon Peace, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said, "Over the last several months, we have learned concerning information from a variety of sources of historical issues about the way the Special Victims Division has conducted its investigations for many years."
"Our review is intended to ensure that, going forward, survivors of sexual assault in New York City receive fair and just treatment in the criminal justice system, and as a result, those who engage in sexual violence are held accountable," he added.
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