Updated at 4:07 p.m.
D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) announced today that Crowell & Moring will be serving as pro bono counsel to review a recent report accusing the Metropolitan Police Department of mishandling sexual assault cases.
Wells, according to a statement released by his office, met with Crowell attorneys this morning. According to a Crowell spokeswoman, firm partner Keith Harrison, who leads the trial practice team, and counsel Jody Goodman, a member of the white collar and regulatory enforcement group, will lead the review. Both are former prosecutors.
The judiciary committee's review was prompted by a report released in late January by Human Rights Watch. The group concluded that local police were giving sexual assault cases short shrift – not filing incident reports or misclassifying assaults as lesser crimes, for instance – and mistreating victims. Wells had said at the time that he was weighing whether to bring in pro bono counsel to aid the committee's investigation.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier contested the findings, saying in a statement after the report came out that it "makes sweeping allegations that are not backed by facts and undermine the credibility" of Human Rights Watch. Lanier criticized the group's method of analyzing cases and warned that the report might chill victims from contacting police in the future.
Although the Crowell attorneys weren't identified, the announcement from Wells' office said that the team would include lawyers with experience handling sex crimes and prosecution.
"The report makes serious claims about MPD’s handling of sexual assault cases and with the help of the firm, the committee will conduct a thorough and thoughtful analysis of those allegations, MPD’s response, and any recommendations made to the committee,” Well said in a statement.
Wells has said that he plans to hold a hearing on the report's allegations, but a hearing date hasn’t been set. The police department is expected to come before Wells' committee for a performance oversight hearing on February 27.
A spokesman for Wells, Charles Allen, said that they expect a preliminary analysis to be finished within about three weeks and are hoping to have a full review completed in four to six weeks.