Police Fail to Check Suspect Backgrounds in MN Rapes

Public records reviewed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune from 2015 and 2016 show dozens of rape cases in which police failed to investigate suspects even though they had been accused of, charged with or convicted of sexual assault in previous incidents — sometimes more than once. In 2015, a young woman walked into a Duluth police station with her mother and said a friend’s boyfriend had raped her on a couch after a party three months earlier. Court documents show the suspect had pleaded guilty four years earlier in Wisconsin to fourth-degree sexual contact without consent. Duluth police said they closed the case for lack of evidence and because the victim declined to proceed. The case file doesn’t say she wanted to drop out or indicate that an investigator ever tried to question the suspect.

In 2016, a Brooklyn Center, Mn., woman told police she had been raped at a Motel 6 by a man she met on a dating site. The man said he was innocent. Court records show that he had been convicted of criminal sexual assault in 2001 and charged in 2004, though those charges were later dismissed. There is no sign in the file that police examined that record. The FBI makes it easy for an officer to conduct quick criminal background checks through the National Crime Information Center database. So does the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, whose criminal history database includes predatory offender status. Of more than 1,000 sexual assault cases reviewed by the Star Tribune, police documented conducting a background check just 10 percent of the time. Justin Boardman, a former police sex crimes investigator in Utah and a nationally known consultant, said that failing to check a suspect’s background is like doing “half an investigation.”