Navy steps up sexual assault investigations
Stars and Stripes July 19, 2013
SAN DIEGO – The Department of the Navy is implementing a slate of new initiatives – including restricting alcohol sales on base, deploying civilian counselors on large ships and hiring new investigators – in a wide-ranging effort to stop sexual assault in the Navy and Marine Corps.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert spoke Friday to reporters at the Pentagon about some of the changes, including a new rule that alcohol sales on Navy bases will be limited to dedicated package store facilities or the main exchange.
Greenert also said that at locations other than package stores, alcohol products can take up no more than 10 percent of the retail floor space.
Additionally, Navy exchanges must now stock single-use alcohol detection devices, which sailors are encouraged to use to better understand consumption.
Greenert said the service had evaluated the atmosphere of the Navy-owned mini-marts on bases and found alcohol had too large a footprint. “The sale of alcohol was very extensive,” he said.
Not only did it dominate the shelves with prominent placement in the front of the stores, but it was also sold late into the night and starting early in the morning — out of norms for the mainstream, Greenert said.
“What message are we sending when we do that?” he said.
Alcohol on bases must be sold only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., under the new rules.
“It’s really encouraging responsible use of alcohol and not pushing it out on our folks so hard,” Greenert said.
More than half of the sexual assault cases reported in the Navy involve alcohol, spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
The rules do not apply to Marine Corps exchanges.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has approved nearly $10 million for an additional 54 Naval Criminal Investigative Service employees, including agents and crime scene personnel. The new NCIS staff will work on specialized teams trained to handle sexual assault cases, according to a Navy press release.
The small-team approach has worked well in the Norfolk area and has significantly reduced the amount of time it takes to investigate crimes – from an average of 300 days to between 80 and 90, Kirby said.
“We must do all we can to protect our people from those who would wish do them harm, especially if they reside within our own ranks,” Mabus said. “This department is committed to using all available resources to prevent this crime, aggressively investigate allegations and prosecute as appropriate. We will not hide from this challenge – we will be active, open and transparent.”
That transparency includes a directive from Mabus that the Navy and Marine Corps begin publishing summaries of the results of all special and general courts-martial, including sexual assault cases, by July 25. The services will publish the results on their websites, Navy.mil and Marines.mil.
The first of the results will include courts-martial that were completed from January through June of this year, the Navy said.
Greenert also directed a number of other efforts, including hiring and training civilian resiliency counselors who will deploy with carrier strike groups, expeditionary strike groups and amphibious ready groups to provide training and support.
“What these initiatives all represent are efforts by Navy leadership to try to address the crime of sexual assault across the spectrum,” Kirby said, though the service does not expect or all of the initiatives to be a panacea.
“We recognize that there’s still more work to do,” he said. “Nobody is under the illusion that solving this problem is going to be easy or it’s going to be quick.”
A Department of Defense Inspector General review of 2010 sexual assault complaints across the services found that 11 percent of the cases had “significant deficiencies,” according to a report released Monday. Of the 157 NCIS cases reviewed in the study, 20 had no deficiencies and 111 had minor deficiencies, according to the report.
Twenty-six cases, more than 16 percent, had significant deficiencies in areas such as evidence collection, crime scene examinations and witness interviews, the report said.
Megan McCloskey and Chris Carroll contributed to this report.