NEW YORK (AP) — The new head of New York City’s sex crimes unit is not only a veteran police investigator, but also a forensic nurse who has conducted the physical exams and evidence collection vital to solving such cases.
Deputy Inspector Michael King started Monday as commander of the NYPD’s Special Victims Division, the same unit that put film producer Harvey Weinstein behind bars.
Along with meeting detectives and setting his vision for a victim-centered, open-minded approach to investigations, King spent part of his first few days on the job going to the hospital to assist doctors with rape kits.
“I don’t know of any other law enforcement officer anywhere in the country that has that background,” King said. “When we go to a hospital and a rape victim is being examined, a cop can’t even be in the room. So imagine a cop who actually knows how to do that.”
The police department formally announced King’s appointment to the high-profile post on Thursday. He replaces Judith Harrison, who became a Brooklyn borough commander this summer.
King, who has been with the New York Police Department for nearly 20 years, takes over a sex crimes unit that has gotten mixed reviews from victims, advocates and watchdogs in recent years.
In response to some of the criticism, private waiting and interview rooms were set up at police stations, and all investigators were trained in compassionate interview techniques, known as trauma-informed questioning.
King says he wants to carry that way of thinking to the front lines of the police department, advocating sensitivity training for patrol officers, who are often the first NYPD representatives victims see after calling 911.
“The attitude of a patrol officer can make or break a victim wanting to go forward in reporting that complaint,” King said.
King was born in raised in Jamaica, moved to New York when he was 16 and in college earned the nickname “Doogie Howser.” He was younger than his classmates because high school on the Caribbean island nation finished at an earlier age than in the U.S.
King joined the NYPD in September 2000 and became a registered nurse in 2005, going to nursing school and working in city hospitals in his off hours. Four years later, he became a sexual assault forensic examiner.
All the while, he worked his way up the investigative ranks — first in internal affairs and later as a crime scene commander and the executive officer of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
He oversaw forensic investigations into the 2016 pipe bombing attack Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, the attempted bombing of a Times Square subway station in 2017, and the mailing of package bombs to prominent Democrats and CNN’s New York hub in 2018.
John Miller, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism, recommended King for the sex crimes post.
“If we didn’t have Mike King, I am not sure we could have invented him,” Miller said, noting his career path and breadth of knowledge.
“At SVU he can combine his experiences of helping people in trauma, his knowledge of science, forensics and investigation and his sense of justice in a way no one else — at least no one else I know — could,” Miller said.