Brooklyn Diocese appoints NYPD veteran to office of child protection

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Elizabeth Harris, a 21-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, has been selected to fill two roles at the Office of Protection of Children and Young People at the Brooklyn Diocese.
File photo courtesy Brooklyn Diocese/Twitter

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn has appointed a 21-year veteran of the New York City Police Department to fill two roles in the Office of Protection of Children and Young People, the organization announced Friday.

Elizabeth Harris, a retired NYPD detective, will provide support and resources to victims of sexual abuse by clergymembers in the Diocese’s Office of Victim Assistance and help monitor former priests who have been removed from the church as the 1722 Supervisor. 

“Detective Harris brings a unique breadth of experience that will further enhance our efforts to protect the faithful with the strong safe environment protocols we already have in place,” said Bishop Robert Brennan in a statement. “I am grateful she is now sharing her expertise with the Diocese to assist us in this most important mission.”

headshot of elizabeth harris, new brooklyn diocese child protection officer
Harris, a retired NYPD detective, will help to provide support for victims and monitor former clergymembers who have been removed from the church. Courtesy Brooklyn Diocese

Harris spent four years at the NYPD’s department’s sex offender monitoring unit and 12 with the Manhattan Child Abuse Squad, where she investigated allegations of child sexual abuse and frequently interviewed victims. Since retiring from the police force, Harris has worked as the Director of Forensic Services at The Safe Center of Long Island. 

“I am thrilled to bring my experience to the Diocese of Brooklyn and join their mission to advocate for victims of sexual abuse,” Harris said in a statement. “It is impressive to witness the level of commitment by Bishop Brennan and the diocese in their work to eradicate any further abuse of children. I am so proud to be a part of this movement.”

The diocese created the Office of Victim Assistance in 2004 “to deal with allegations of past or current sexual abuse by clergy, religious, or any layperson working or volunteering with the Diocese,” according to the office’s website. It is charged with helping victims report their abuse to the Diocese, make sure outside authorities are notified, and ensure victims receive counseling and other support.

Last year, the Office of Victim Assistance was brought under the umbrella of the newly-created Office for Protection of Children and Young People, which also oversees the Safe Environment Office and the 1722 Supervisor. 

“After having gone through the IRCP and the CVA, and after listening sessions I held with the faithful, I wanted to strengthen the work of the Diocese with respect to these issues, so I felt a reorganization was in order,” said former Bishop of Brooklyn Nicholas Dimarzio at the time. “The Diocese of Brooklyn has worked hard to implement the requirements of the Dallas Charter since 2002 and has been nationally recognized for its robust Victim Assistance Ministry. This move will solidify our ability to continue to provide safe environments for the faithful of the Diocese of Brooklyn and pastoral care for survivors of abuse.”

nicholas dimarzio diocese of brooklyn
The Office of Protection of Children and Young People was created under the leadership of former bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who himself was accused of sexual abuse by two former parishioners. File photo by Steve Ruark/Associated Press

Nearly 600 people filed lawsuits alleging sex abuse against the diocese after the state passed the Child Victims Act, which temporarily eliminated the statute of limitations on reporting sexual abuse and assault, in 2019.

DiMarzio himself was accused of sexually abusing two former parishioners when they were children. An internal probe by the church cleared DiMarzio of wrongdoing, though his alleged victims said the investigation was biased and incomplete. The former bishop retired and was replaced by Brennan last year.