Treat sexual assault as the crime it is

People generally agree that as crimes go, sexual assault is one of the most heinous and despicable crimes there is. It is physically, emotionally and psychologically damaging to the victim. Few crimes, outside of murder, carry the long-lasting traumatic aftereffects. Society believes that sex offenders deserve harsh penalties; indeed, those who show a proclivity to offend over and over again can be committed to a state program that keeps them in custody long after their prison sentences are served as long as they are deemed a danger to the public.

So it is discouraging to read the series of reports by the Star Tribune about how many of the state’s biggest law enforcement agencies have a pattern of letting sexual assaults go without much more than a cursory investigation.

The series is causing lawmakers and state officials to demand accountability from police departments and sheriff’s offices. Top law enforcement officials and county attorneys are also promising to take a closer look at what is happening, to see if more investigators are needed, or if more and better training is needed for officers who handle the investigations.

That is the least they owe to the victims of sexual assault who have seen their complaints filed away and forgotten.

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