Police brutality has been in the national headlines for the past several months. But it may surprise some people to learn that sexual misconduct is the second most common complaint against police officers, behind only excessive force. According to research by the Associated Press, about 1,000 law enforcement officials lost their badges due to rape, sodomy, sexual assault, possession of child pornography, as well as sexual misconduct on the job. The AP further explained that the actual number of officers who had their license removed may be much higher in that some states do not move to strip offending officers of their badges.
As BuzzFeed News recently reported, 35 states have loopholes that allow cops to evade sexual assault convictions by claiming that an encounter with somebody in their custody was consensual. Another major loophole that exists in all 50 states — as officers are not forbidden from having sex with a witness or an alleged victim in a case they’re investigating. Since 2006 at least 31 cops accused of groping or sexually assaulting someone they were tasked with helping faced no sex crime charges or had their cases dismissed before trial, according a Buffalo News database of more than 700 law enforcement officers accused of sexual misconduct.
It is well understood that sexual battery is often particularly devastating when committed by an authority figure due to the betrayal of trust and imbalance of power. Police officers are the ultimate “authority figure.” They serve to deter crime, apprehend offenders, and provide a line of defense preventing a lawless society. Sexual violence and misconduct committed by police officers traumatize victims and make communities distrustful of law enforcement. Abuses by officers, as well as the failure of police departments to properly investigate and remove offending officers, also undermine efforts to combat rape and sexual assault in society as a whole. Sexual violence and misconduct by law enforcement need to become critical parts of the national conversation around efforts to improve responsible policing.
A combination of conditions can enable abuse. Victims in many instances are seen as lacking credibility, because they are poor, young, using drugs or holding criminal records. Yet, these are often precisely the characteristics that offending law enforcement seek out in a victim because such persons are vulnerable and may not be believed. Many victims, out of fear of retaliation from other officers, do not file reports. Loose laws, lax hiring procedures and long processes for decertification allow officers accused of sexual offenses to transfer from one job to another without repercussion. According to the AP, about 20 states decertify an officer only in the event of a criminal conviction. Nine states told the AP they either did not decertify officers for misconduct or declined to provide information.
Horowitz Law is experienced in handling claims of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual battery by a member of law enforcement, please email attorney Adam Horowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our law firm at (954) 651-2100