Focus on New Laws: Sexual Assault Investigation Policy Requirement

June 24, 2019

Law enforcement agencies must adopt a sexual assault investigation policy by Oct. 1.

A new law enacted as part of the omnibus public safety package, First Special Session Chapter 5, requires the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of every state and local law enforcement agency to establish and enforce a written policy addressing how the agency will respond to and investigate reports of sexual assault.

The provision, contained in Article 4, Section 20 of the chapter, says the policy must substantially incorporate the framework of a model policy released by the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board in January of this year. The requirement is a new section of law, Minnesota Statutes, section 626.8442.

Although the law became effective on May 31, CLEOs have until Oct. 1 to comply. By Oct. 1, each CLEO must certify to the POST Board that the policy is in place and being enforced. The CLEO is required to forward a copy of the policy to the POST Board.

Policy requirement prompted by news articles

The model policy was developed over several months by the POST Board’s Standards Committee in the wake of a series of articles about botched rape and sexual assault investigations published in the Star Tribune. The series identified inconsistencies between agencies’ interactions with victims and their investigation practices.

The nine articles illustrated patterns of inappropriate responses by investigators to victims of rape and sexual assault, as well as inadequate efforts by some agencies to solve and prosecute rape and sexual assault cases.

Goals of policy

The model policy is aimed at providing law enforcement employees with guidelines for responding to reports of sexual assault. It identifies the following goals:

  1. To afford maximum protection and support to victims of sexual assault or abuse through a coordinated program of law enforcement and available victim services with an emphasis on a victim-centered approach.
  2. To reaffirm peace officers’ authority and responsibility to conducting thorough preliminary and follow-up investigations, and to make arrest decisions in accordance with established probable cause standards.
  3. To increase the opportunity for prosecution and victim services.

The policy was not initially mandatory; however, the POST Board actively supported legislation making it a required policy for all law enforcement agencies in the state. The POST Board has passed 17 other model policies ranging from “Use of Force” to “Professional Conduct of Officers” that have been codified into Minnesota rules or statutes.

Model policy available

The model policy is available in Word and PDF formats on the POST Board’s website.

—Access the model policy (See No. 18 near the bottom of the page.)

For more information

If you have questions about complying with the new law, contact POST Board Executive Director Nate Gove at (651) 201-7788 or Nathan.Gove@state.mn.us.