Field Notes

Audit of Sex Crimes Unit shows progress but "tragic outcomes" still occur

It was January 5, 2010 and SD was working in the Emergency Department at Legacy Emanuel when she went into an office supply closet. She was followed by Jeffrey McAllister, a nurse at the hospital.

Inside in the closet, according to police and a complaint she has filed against the hospital, McAllister sexually assaulted her.

If that had been it, it would have been enough to consider the story troubling.

As it turns out there’s more.

First, there’s the accusation that the hospital had known about problems with McAllister dating back at least four years before SD was attacked and had done nothing about it.

In the words of court papers filed by lawyers for SD “In addition to being aware of Jeffrey McAllister’s history of sexual assaults toward females, defendants Legacy and Emanuel were further aware that Jeffrey McAllister was sexually aggressive with females, made inappropriate sexual comments toward females, had invaded the personal space of females, and made inappropriate gestures to females, all while on duty.”

In others words, maybe something should have been done earlier – or at least women working for the hospital should have been warned.

Second, there’s the alleged response of her supervisors, she alleges that when she finally got up the courage to tell her supervisor what happened, she was “shunned and ignored.

Third, she charges that, no longer feeling safe at Emanuel, she started looking for work elsewhere, only to find her efforts thwarted by her employer.

And if that had been it, it would have been enough to consider the story troubling.

Again, as it turns out, there’s more.

On Tuesday, the Auditor’s Office for the city released a somewhat scathing report about the Police Bureau’s Sex Crimes Unit.

While it did highlight some positive steps that the Bureau has taken since a similar audit in 2007, there were still some troubling facts including that each detective has seen their caseload increase, that the Unit’s clearance rate has been declining and while more efforts are being made to reach out to victims, more could be done.

Unfortunately, the most notable thing in the report might be what it refers to as “one case which gained media attention.” It “involved a victim who claimed she waited months for the police to contact her about her case.

“Meanwhile, the perpetrator went on to assault other victims.”

This was the case of Jeffrey McAllister, the emergency room from Legacy Emanuel who now sits in jail on Multnomah County, held without bail, charged with 11 counts of rape, sodomy and sex abuse.

In what may be one of the more politic assessments ever written, the auditor wrote: “our review of this case showed that Bureau procedures could be improved in at least two critical junctures.”

Could be improved. That’s one way to put it.

The short of it was that an employee of Legacy – not SD – called police to report she had been sexually assaulted by McAllister. She was “reluctant” to participate in the investigation but never outright declined.

An investigator mailed victim resources to her and left her a message. When the investigator didn’t hear back, instead of trying again, the investigator closed the case.

About a month later, the victim called the district attorney’s office to see what was happening. That office then reached out to the investigator who again called, left a message and tried paging the victim. When the victim didn’t call back – apparently within the investigator’s time frame – the investigator again closed the case.

It was only when a detective investigating other alleged attacks by McAllister that someone actually made contact with the victim.

The report sums up the mistakes made in this investigation by stating that while the Sex Crime Unit has made “improvements,” the fact is “some cases may still have tragic outcomes.”

Again – the “tragic outcomes” in this case are the women who were allegedly attacked by McAllister while one victim’s attempts to get help went unheeded.

The Department of Justice said in a report last year that around the country the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults around the country grew by about eight percent between 2003 and 2012.

The same report concluded that in 2012 only 28 percent of attacks were actually reported. That’s down from 56 percent of the attacks in 2003.

Numerous studies have shown that a major reason rapes and sexual attacks are not reported is because of the same the victim feels.

In her complaint, SD said the attack and its aftermath left her feeling “fear and humiliation, a sense of helplessness, loss of control and personal violation.

Mayor Hales responded to the audit by saying he fully supports the audit recommendation and is “happy that the Police Bureau has already begun enacting some of these recommended changes”

Chief Reese said “We will now move forward and implement the new recommendations identified in the current audit.”

While every step forward is a positive one, there is a sense of too little too late for some victims.