Associated Press published a damning report based on a yearlong investigation of sexual misconduct by U.S. law enforcement. Their investigation uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty sex.
Live Oak, FL officer arrested for possession of child pornography. http://t.co/OZxBokdGHG
— PoliceMisconduct.net (@NPMRP) October 29, 2015
Around 1,000 officers is a low estimate; it only represents those officers whose licenses to work in law enforcement were revoked. Not all states revoke licenses for such misconduct. California and New York — with several of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies — offered no records to the AP because they have no statewide system to decertify officers for misconduct. Among states that provided records, some reported no officers removed for sexual misconduct even though cases were identified from news stories or court records.
Adams Co., CO deputy fired and arrested for sexual assault while he was on duty. http://t.co/S9JLmFL3la
— PoliceMisconduct.net (@NPMRP) October 26, 2015
“It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida, who helped study the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”
In addition to victims fearing to report sexual misconduct by law enforcement and lack of statewide systems to decertify officers for offenses, disclosure of disciplinary records for police officer misconduct varies by state with mostly limited or no transparency.
Only 12 states in the US grant the public access to police misconduct files. Records are limited in 15 states and in 23 states, police misconduct records are kept confidential. In those 23 states, and the District of Columbia, a police officer’s disciplinary history is mostly unavailable through public records requests.
A daycare worker who was pulled over in Oaklahoma City for erratic driving testified to a judge that she was:
“splayed outside the patrol car for a pat-down, made to lift her shirt to prove she wasn’t hiding anything, then to pull down her pants when the officer still wasn’t convinced. He shined his flashlight between her legs, she said, then ordered her to sit in the squad car and face him as he towered above. His gun in sight, she said she pleaded “No, sir” as he unzipped his fly and exposed himself with a hurried directive.”
The woman in her 50’s identified in police reports as J.L. was then forced to perform oral sex on the officer who pulled her over. She testified that she thought the officer was going to kill her. She was let go after the traffic stop without charges. J.L. reported the accusations immediately, but it wasn’t until months later when the investigation was completed.
J.L is one of 13 women who will testify in a trial that begins Monday against Officer Daniel Holtzclaw, 28 who has plead not guilty on all charges. All women are expected to testify including one defendant who says she was 17 when the officer pulled down her pink cotton shorts and raped her on her mother’s front porch.
The AP’s investigation obtained records spanning 5 years from 2009 through 2014 involving cases from 41 states on police decertification – an administrative process in which an officer’s law enforcement license is revoked. Nine states and the District of Columbia said they either did not decertify officers for misconduct or declined to provide information.
AP revealed that “550 officers had been decertified for sexual assault, including rape and sodomy, sexual shakedowns in which citizens were extorted into performing favors to avoid arrest, or gratuitous pat-downs.” In addition, 440 officers lost their badges for other sex offenses, like possessing child pornography, or for sexual misconduct that included being a peeping Tom, sexting juveniles or having on-duty intercourse.
Spokane, WA officers accused by county sheriff of destroying evidence in sexual assault case against a colleague. http://t.co/a20ILGBWrt
— PoliceMisconduct.net (@NPMRP) October 30, 2015
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD (Houston) officer sentenced to 1 yr in jail for pulling woman over and asking for sexual favor http://t.co/nJ8ViJqA86
— PoliceMisconduct.net (@NPMRP) October 26, 2015
The results of the investigation into officer sexual misconduct are startling, but not surprising. Reporting on police brutality over the past year has improved, shining a light on incidents of excessive force and police killings. Sexual misconduct appears to be another issue that has been swept under the rug – and for several reasons besides police departments wanting to avoiding law suits or officers escaping responsibility for their crimes.
The lack of standard reporting practices nationwide along with not enough transparency lets sexual predators wear badges and walk among us with impunity.