‘Impactful and thought-provoking’: Lynnwood police chief reflects on Netflix’s ‘Unbelievable’

"Unbelievable" was going to be provocative under any circumstances, focusing on a Pulitzer Prize-winning article about how a serial rapist evaded detection for some time, in large part because police were unwilling to believe his victims.

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — A western Washington police chief has penned a poignant letter in response to a new Netflix series that’s based – in part – on a botched sexual assault investigation by Lynnwood Police in 2008.

“Unbelievable” follows the case of Marie Adler (“Booksmart” star Kaitlyn Dever), then 18, who filed a report in 2008 claiming she was sexually assaulted by an intruder in her home.

The detectives who interview her, however, don’t believe her story. Under pressure, Marie eventually says that she made it up, and must endure the consequences of that until a pair of female detectives (played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) begin putting the pieces together, interviewing other women in a seemingly unconnected series of rapes.

In a letter addressed to the “Lynnwood Community,” Police Chief Tom Davis says the “circumstances surrounding this horrendous sexual assault … still resonates deeply with members of this department over a decade later.”

“Quite simply, there is no acceptable explanation for what occurred at that time,” he says.

Davis was part of a team of outside investigators who in 2011 conducted an independent review of the sexual assault investigation, along with a review of how the Lynnwood PD handled sexual assault cases.

After that review, Lynnwood Police implemented several changes, including a “victim-centered investigative philosophy” and additional training for sexual assault detectives.

Lynnwood Police has also hired a full-time crime victim coordinator who works directly with crime victims, including sexual assault cases, Davis says in the letter.

“Although I was not an employee of this department in 2008 or 2011, I am no less distressed by the decisions and circumstances from 11 years ago that undoubtedly caused additional harm to the victim. This was not acceptable then and it would not be acceptable today.”

The eight-episode Netflix series is based on an article by The Marshall Project and ProPublica, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” as well as an episode of NPR’s “This American Life.”

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