By Richard B. Muhammad-Guest Columnist-
Over the last three years, there has been an explosion of stories, prosecutions and demands that men, powerful men, be held accountable for the sexual abuse of women who are in vulnerable positions, often seeking employment or job advancement.
Lawmakers have lost positions, movie producers and celebrities have faced prosecution, CEOs have resigned, lawsuits have been filed, documentaries made, and there have been demands for greater accountability and punishment for those who violate women and their rights. The #MeToo Movement has highlighted these destructive behaviors and demanded immediate action-even without a trial or due process.
Yet one group, a group with the most power to compel compliance, seems almost exempt for discussion and almost exempt from full prosecution: Police officers.
Armed with badges and guns, these officers have the ability to take freedom at any moment and to take lives. What could be more scary than abusive cops? What could deserve more attention than the instances in which cops sexually assault women? Shouldn’t the National Organization for Women, #MeToo activists, advocates and high-powerful lawyers be shouting about such cases from the mountaintops?
It’s not happening, and cops continue to abuse women and continue to walk away with “penalties” that are baffling and horrifying for their lack accountability.
Take the case of Anna Chambers, who was 18-years-old when two New York cops raped her in a police van. “The young woman had been detained, handcuffed, and taken into the officers’ unmarked van, having been found in possession of a small amount of drugs. Chambers performed oral sex on both officers and had vaginal sex with Martins. Then the cops left her on a corner,” reported The Intercept.
Ms. Chambers recently “learned that the two former New York Police Department officers who had raped her while on duty would serve no jail time. Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, the cops who resigned after the incident involving the then-18-year-old Chambers, were sentenced to five years of probation after they pleaded guilty to 11 charges, including bribery and misconduct. Both men admitted to having sex with the teenage girl while she was held in their custody in 2017, an act that, thanks to Chambers’s case, now constitutes rape under the law (and always constituted rape under any moral reading of the word),” the online news outlet reported Aug. 30.
In 2017, “state law did not assert the most obvious of facts: that a person in police custody cannot consent to sex. The egregious legal loophole has since been closed, but it was too late to benefit Chambers-or to stop Martins and Hall from getting away with rape. All rape charges against the officers were dropped in March as prosecutors questioned Chambers’s credibility-an issue that should have had no bearing in a case with such clear-cut facts.”
This is what passes for justice in America? So not only do cops get to kill at will in this country, they also get to rape, rob and pillage too?
But not only was the sentence horrible, the whole court process smelled corrupt as neither the young woman nor her lawyer knew about the hearing for the cops and a plea deal in late August as they prepared to be in court in early September. The lawyer “only learned about the officers’ plea deals when he was called by a New York Post court reporter, who in turn had been tipped off by a court clerk. The secretive hearing was the latest insult poured upon Chambers’s injurious criminal justice ordeal,” said the Intercept.
The problem isn’t limited to New York: A few years back controversy exploded on the West Coast after a teenager’s involvement with San Francisco Bay area officers came to light. The young woman, who was selling sex, said she had been involved with officers in five different departments involving over 20 officers. And, she said, some of these encounters took place when she was underage. A few officers were disciplined and at least four lost their jobs. But prosecutions fell off as the young woman refused to testify in other cases.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals recently rejected an appeal of a 263-year prison sentence handed down to Daniel Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer convicted of assaulting Black women while on duty. He was found guilty in 2015 on 18 charges involving seven women and one girl.
He is also not the only pervert-on-patrol. “In a yearlong investigation of sexual misconduct by U.S. law enforcement, The Associated Press 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 intercourse,” the news wire reported.
“The number is unquestionably an undercount because it represents only those officers whose licenses to work in law enforcement were revoked, and not all states take such action. California and New York-with several of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies-offered no records because they have no statewide system to decertify officers for misconduct. And even among states that provided records, some reported no officers removed for sexual misdeeds even though cases were identified via news stories or court records.”
Another Associated Press investigation, in 2016, found “officers across the country misuse confidential law enforcement databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work.”
Despite immense power and abuses of power, there is little effort to make an example of officers who cross the line into criminality. Excuses are made, unions howl about “good” officers being targeted and rarely is there a definitive statement that violation of the law makes you a criminal and it doesn’t matter that you had badge. So, the abuses continue, the terror continues, and the injustice continues under the color and cover of law.