The US Justice Department will investigate the New York police agency that inspired the hit TV show "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," over its treatment of sexual assault victims.

Two federal prosecutors in New York announced Thursday in a joint statement that the Special Victims Department (SVD) would be investigated to determine whether it "engages in a pattern or practice of gender-biased policing."

Allegations against the agency "include failing to conduct basic investigative steps and instead shaming and abusing survivors and re-traumatizing them during investigations," the statement said.

"Victims of sex crimes deserve the same rigorous and unbiased investigations of their cases that the NYPD affords to other categories of crime," Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in the statement.

His Eastern District counterpart Breon Peace added that in recent months "we have learned concerning information from a variety of sources of historical issues about the way the Special Victims Division has conducted its investigations for many years."


Eastern District of New York Attorney Breon Peace (C) speaks during a press conference in May 2022 / © AFP/File

The Justice Department said it plans to conduct a comprehensive review of the SVD's policies, procedures, and training for investigations of sexual assault crimes.

New York Mayor Eric Adams, who is the city's former police chief, as well as the current chief Keechant Sewell said they will cooperate with the probe.

The NYPD is the largest municipal police force in the United States with some 36,000 uniformed officers and 19,000 administrative employees.

"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is part of the wildly popular "Law & Order" TV franchise, and has been on air on NBC since 1999.

With no fewer than 23 seasons, it is the longest-running prime-time series in US TV history -- and NBC said on Wednesday that season 24 will launch in September this year.