U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Police Decision Making In Sexual Assault Cases: An Analysis of Crimes Reported to the Los Angeles Police Department, 2006-2008

Award Information

Award #
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2009, $204,492)

The traumatic physical and emotional consequences of sexual assault may be further exacerbated by the victim's subsequent experiences in the criminal justice system: questioning by officials in the aftermath of the sexual assault, failure to keep the victim apprised of the status of the case, and realization that an arrest will not be made or charges filed or that a conviction will not result. Understanding and evaluating the response of the criminal justice system to sexual violence is critically important, as is identifying system-generated barriers to reporting.

The purpose of this study is to document the extent of case attrition in sexual assault cases and to identify the factors that increase the likelihood of case attrition at the law enforcement level. Researchers will use quantitative data from a stratified random sample of sexual assaults reported to the Los Angeles Police Department (LADP) from January of 2006 to December of 2008 and will collect qualitative data from police officers who have handled sexual assault cases during this time period to pursue four interrelated objectives: 1) to document the extent of case attrition and to identify the stages of the criminal justice process where attrition is most likely to occur; 2) to identify the case complexities and evidentiary factors that affect the likelihood of attrition in sexual assault cases; 3) to identify the predictors of case outcomes in sexual assault cases; and 4) to provide a comprehensive analysis of the factors that lead police to unfound the charges in sexual assault cases.

The project is a collaborative effort involving the LAPD, Arizona State University, and the University of California at Los Angeles. Researchers will obtain quantitative data from a subset of felony sexual offenses reported to the LAPD from January of 2006 through December of 2008 (total reports during this period = 3,500). The project also will entail the collection of qualitative data designed to identify informal decision rules that guide case processing decisions in a particular jurisdiction. Researchers will interview 100 police officers who investigated reports of sexual assault during the study period including those officers who made decisions to unfound cases that were reported to the LAPD in 2008.

The project will result in a report on best practices in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases, will inform criminal justice policy and practice and improve the response of the criminal justice system to crimes of sexual violence.


Date Created: September 22, 2009