City Officials Defend Police Handling of Rape Allegations at Duke University

Published May 10, 2006

| Associated Press

City officials defended how the police department handled a oman's allegations that she was raped at a party thrown by Duke University's lacrosse team.

Mayor Bill Bell said Tuesday nothing suggests that officers have not vigorously investigated the case. His comments followed a report released by Duke on Monday concluding the university was slow to respond to the allegations partly because city police initially said the accuser "kept changing her story and was not credible."

"If they just walked away from it and hadn't attempted to pursue further investigation then that might merit some indication that they weren't taking it seriously," Bell said. "But as far as I know, they've been trying to investigate and get information."

However, Bell still directed the city manager to ask police about the report, saying specifics were needed about what officers were involved and what they said.

The day after the March 13 team party where a 27-year-old black woman claimed she was raped, Durham police told campus officers that "this will blow over," the report said. The woman initially told police she was raped by 20 white men, then said she was attacked by three, the report said.

Police told Duke officers that if any charges were filed, "they would be no more than misdemeanors," the report said.

But more than a month after the party, a grand jury indicted two team members on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault. District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he hopes to charge a third person.

The report — commissioned by Duke's president and prepared by two former heads of universities — does not say who at the Durham Police Department cast doubt on the accuser's complaint.

One of the report's authors, Julius Chambers, said the committee that prepared the report made no independent effort to speak with Durham police, and relied on material provided by campus officers.

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