Advocates were already fed up with the head of the NYPD’s troubled Special Victims Division just over a year into his tenure, but after the gut-wrenching testimony from rape victims this week — they now say he’s got to go.
Inspector Michael King took the reins of SVD in August 2020 from Deputy Chief Judith Harrison and was touted by police brass for his unique qualifications to oversee the unit as a forensic nurse.
Advocates and police sources told The Post it has become apparent that King, who never worked as a detective, lacked the managerial and investigatory skills to reform the long-embattled unit.
“Mike King has heart but I don’t know that he has the skills to run this unit,” an insider source told The Post. “This position needs to be held by an expert investigator and a management person to manage their staff and their cases because there will always be investigative issues.”
The NYPD declined a request by The Post to speak with King and referred to his testimony to the City Council on Monday.
Advocates and sources say King has harped on meaningless paperwork instead of keeping in touch with victims, no longer interviews investigators before they are reassigned to SVD and has lost control of who is placed in the unit, which has been flooded with officers, not detectives, moved out of their commands as favors.
“I think [King’s] just taking care of people coming in,” a police source said. “They’re cops with a couple of years on the job who never did any investigative work and then they come there and you’re trying to train people, but there’s really not a lot of senior detectives and supervisors there anymore.”
SVD — which is charged with solving child abuse and sexual assaults, some of the most complex cases in police work — is staffed by 255 investigators.
That accounts for less than 1 percent of the uniformed police force and, as of Monday, just over 100 of those cops have not been trained to interview survivors alone, forcing a buddy-system approach to investigations, according to advocates and sources.
King has even been called out for his poor managerial skills by his superiors. Just weeks ago, Chief of Department Rodney Harrison dressed him down in a closed-door meeting for shoddy paperwork in the unit.
Advocates did concede reform is a high bar in the small, beleaguered division without support from the top and hope a new administration brings change.
“Any commanding officer is being set up to fail until they are given adequate staff, adequate experienced detectives,” said Jane Manning, director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project.
Mary Haviland, former executive director at New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, added there has been a “real investigative brain drain since [Michael] Osgood” was forced out.
“Neither Judith Harrison nor Michael King was a detective and neither has deep investigative skills,” Haviland said.
Those problems, advocates say, are just the latest addition to a lengthy list of unchanged systemic issues in the unit that were exemplified Monday when rape survivors emotionally recounted their disturbing interactions with investigators to New York City Council members.
One victim went as far as to say that her interaction with an SVD investigator was worse than the sexual assault itself. Another said she found out she was pregnant before an investigator followed up with her.
In a shocking revelation, one woman recounted to the council that a sergeant had dismissed her rape claim because she was sleeping when it started. He then went on to casually admit that “he has sex with his wife while she’s asleep and she’s not reporting him for rape.”
Haviland — who asked the Department of Justice to open a probe into the NYPD’s SVD unit this summer — said that those “old-fashioned, outmoded” perceptions of sex assaults is a hurdle the department must overcome — but it isn’t unique to the rank and file.
“I can’t say how many times those stereotypes have been mentioned in meetings with commissioners,” said Haviland, adding that it shows in the lack of resources “the NYPD attributes to these crimes.”
During one meeting in 2019, she recalled to The Post, then-Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea tried to write off filling the unit with low-level officers instead of trained investigators.
“What you need is heart and passion,” she recalled the now-police commissioner saying in pitching the inexperienced investigators as a positive step.
“He should have been promoting the skills of detectives,” Haviland said.
Shea claimed back in 2018 he spearheaded reforms in the unit as the city’s top detectives after a scathing Department of Investigations report, but advocates say much of what was done was a shell game, shifting resources from child abuse cases to adult sexual assault units.
And advocates now believe the effects of that shift this year are being seen in the uptick of child deaths.
Manning, who is also a former sex crimes prosecutor, said the lack of reforms all falls to the leadership at the highest levels of the department.
“There is someone that can fix the ongoing failures of the SVD and that person is Police Commissioner Dermot Shea,” said Manning.
Both Haviland and Manning said they hope for a nationwide search for a new head of the SVD.
“I want to hear the mayoral candidates explain what they will demand of their police commissioner when it comes to repairing NYPD response to sexual assault,” she said.
In a statement, police spokesman Sgt. Edward Riley said the department “is committed to ensuring that all sexual assault survivors feel the safety and support needed to come forward.”
“Special Victims Unit investigators bring a victim-centric and evidence-driven approach and work tirelessly to build the strongest possible case,” Riley said.