Police officer sexual misconduct is often called ‘a hidden crime’ as most cases are not reported. Studies on these crimes show police sexual abuse involves serious forms of sex-related acts, and that most victims of sex-related police crimes are younger than the age of 18.
Police Officers and Sexual Abuse
Police work makes it easy for sexual predators to engage in sexual abuse acts. Their job provides them unique opportunities for dishonest officers to engage in acts of sexual abuse and other crimes against citizens they come into contact with.
Many times police officers work alone and are free from any direct supervision from either their supervisors or other police officers. Their contact with the public is generally with people who are vulnerable due to their criminal history, current criminal action, or have been perceived to be ‘suspicious’ by the officer stopping them.
When a person is stopped by law enforcement for ‘suspicious’ action, it subjects them to the power and coercive authority given to the law officer. Illicit interactions with the police occur most often in the late hours of the night, which provides the officer with low-public visibility and many opportunities for those who are dishonest to take advantage of citizens. It gives the officers who are corrupt and sexual predators, the perfect setting to commit sexual abuse.
Why Police Officer Sexual Abuse Goes Unreported
Sex-related misconduct and sexual abuse crimes committed by officers of the law are described as ‘hidden offenses’ as there is a lot that goes unreported. It is challenging to study and document these cases, because of the suspected large number that occurs without ever being reported to other law officers.
Victims are reluctant to report a sexual abuse incident committed by a police officer to other authorities as they feel humiliated and are afraid there will be retaliation. They also come up against barriers when filing a complaint as this process can be made to be complicated and intimidating.
Who should a victim of a crime call when they are in trouble? The Police. When a victim suffers from sexual abuse by a police officer, who are they suppose to call? This situation is terrifying, and what keeps victims quiet through their suffering. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm wants you to know; you do not have to be quiet. We want to be your voice and ensure that you receive the justice you deserve for your suffering.
#MeToo Movement and Police Officer Sexual Abuse
The #MeToo Movement is a movement to stop sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. It began to go viral in October of 2017 as a hashtag on a social media site and was intended to demonstrate how widespread sexual assault and abuse was growing in the workplace.
A significant side effect of this movement was for women to feel empowered to report their sexual abuse to law enforcement officials. What makes this hard to complete is the hesitation on the part of a victim to report sexual abuse when a police officer inflicted it.
Law enforcement or police officers are the first line of defense against a sexual predator, but there are times when this line of defense doesn’t exist, or at least the victim feels it does not exist. Most police officers go into law enforcement so they can protect and serve their community, but some abuse that power.
There are many ways for a police officer to fail women from bullying them during an interview to committing sexual abuse. There are too many reports where an officer of the law, police officers, are sexual predators and have sexually abused women during traffic violations, or when they’ve been taken into custody for another suspected crime.
There are numerous states which have a ‘legal loophole’ that allows for police to claim the sex was consensual when they have taken a person into custody. This loophole was brought to the public’s attention when a New York City woman claimed two officers raped her in the back of their police van. Since it has been brought to the attention of the public and other law enforcers, many states are now closing this loophole.
Closing the loophole did not prohibit police officers from having sexual activity with people they detain, only those in custody. The closing of the loophole also only helps those who get their case in front of a judge; there is still no help for all those cases that go unreported. Policies have to change that makes a victim feel safe, making a claim against a police officer. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm can help you if you have been sexually abused by a police officer. It is a difficult situation and one that may make you feel you have no one to turn to for help. We are here to deal with the legal complexities of this crime, while you begin healing.
Research Conducted on Police Officer Sexual Abuse
Researchers have not had much data to analyze as many of these crimes haven’t been reported, but of those that have, many victims reported they were afraid to report their sexual abuse because of outside scrutiny. They also realized their claim would be hard to prove as it is almost impossible to gain information without a court order. Police departments typically do not collect and distribute data on police practices considered to be coercive and would not provide crime-related details needed to back-up the woman's claim.
Research data used on police officers committing sexual abuse and other sexual misconduct act was gathered using surveys, published federal court opinions, limited news searches, and interviews. The data used in this line of research is based on a comparatively small amount of sample cases, many of which were gathered from a small number of agencies or jurisdictions.
Another reason for the lack of data to observe for proper research into the scope of this problem is that the federal government cannot compel states to make law enforcement agencies report their numbers. Even if the numbers were reported, the Justice Department does not have the resources to maintain such a database.
Unions are another factor in these ‘hidden cases’ as they work hard to protect the reputation of police officers. Some states will shield the identities of their police officers when they are found to have committed a crime, and other jurisdictions include nondisclosure agreements when they settle with victims.
One research conducted by Bowling Green State University discovered there is an average of 45 incidents of sexual abuse and rape committed by police officers across the country each year. Cases where officers forcibly fondled an unwilling victim is much higher.
Police Officers Sexually Abuse Those They Have Sworn to Protect
What data is available on police officer sexual abuse shows that for almost every abuse incident that happens, there are on average five more that are not reported to the media. It is also estimated that more than half of the victims are children. These are victims the police have sworn to protect, and others are people they are chasing.
The police are supposed to represent an institution of trust. Experts on these forms of crimes state the dishonest officers out there who prey on people they come into contact with take that trust and use it to their advantage. The police have a reputational advantage over anyone, especially those who are afraid of being charged with a crime. People want to believe the police, and in terms of that trust, they are third only to the small business owner and the military.
There are several categories that victims of sexual abuse by a police officer fall under:
- They are sex workers
- Have issues with alcohol or drugs
- Have existing criminal records
- They are homeless
- They are vulnerable minors
These classifications of people are typically one's the jury will not believe over the word of the police.
Police Officer Sexual Abuse Breaks Trust
Most police officers are honest and hard-working to protect the public's best interests. The majority are not sexual predators, but the problem is much more significant than most realize. Those who are not solely protecting the public, but rather using their uniform to exploit victims cause a ‘ripple effect’ in the people's trust.
Residents become fearful and anxious when encountering the police after an incident of sexual abuse has been reported. These actions cheat the good cops. However, the trust issue only goes deeper when the ‘blue wall’ of silence is put up when one of their fellow officers is accused of a crime.
The ‘blue wall’ of silence by other officers on the force of one dishonest police officer who is charged with sexual abuse is natural. Police officers have to rely on one another heavily, especially when involved in dangerous situations. If one of them ‘rats’ out another, they could be in trouble the next time they need backup out on the streets. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm will take on this ‘wall’ and find the evidence needed to prove your sexual abuse claims.
Revamping Police Culture to Reduce the Incidence of Police Officers Committing Sexual Abuse
Experts who specifically study sexual abuse in this country would like to see police departments enact:
- When officers have take-home vehicles, they would like to see a GPS tracking system installed in their cars. This system would allow supervisors to track where the officer frequents and whether or not women between specific age ranges are being targeted. These patterns would send a red-flag to the supervising officer that would allow them to question, investigate, and hopefully stop such acts.
- Mandate the use of dashcams and body cams with disciplinary actions enforced when they don’t use them. Experts state this policy would work to the benefit of both the officers and the public.
- Have officers on staff who are trained in sexual abuse along with anonymous online reporting of incidents. These policies would allow victims to feel safe when they need to report sexual abuse committed by a police officer.
- Not allow the hiring of officers who have been fired from other agencies for sexual misconduct acts.
- Perform random or sting operations to ensure police officers are interacting with the public appropriately.
Some of these policies are active in several police departments across the country and Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm will work with you to find the evidence needed through these policies if a local police officer has sexually abused you. These cases are time-consuming and challenging, but we are committed to supporting you and seeing that justice is served, especially when an officer of the law commits this form of heinous abuse.
The quality of policing depends on the individual station you will have to deal with when sexually abused by a police officer. These departments operate under their own rules which are based on recruitment methods, past procedures, policies they have had in place for years, making them a traditional form of policing. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm will evaluate these policies and find the governing office that will help put a stop to these actions and recover compensation for your suffering.
Filing a Lawsuit Against a Police Officer for Committing Sexual Abuse
Victims of police officer sexual abuse crimes are able to pursue justice through the civil court system.
- Federal Civil Rights Statute Section 1983
After the Civil War, Section 1983 of the Federal Civil Rights Statute was passed to protect freed slaves from groups like the KKK. It laid dormant for many years and did have much impact on the public until 1961 when the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that an African-American man could use this statue to sue police officers for violating his civil rights when they arrested him after ransacking his home for no apparent good cause.
Under this section today, police brutality is brought to attention and helps the public address all forms of excessive force tragedies. The critical factor in Section 1983, is that it can be used to sue police officers who violate your Fourth Amendment Rights and use unreasonable seizure and the Eighth Amendment Rights when they enforce cruel and unusual punishment. Sexually abuse would fall under violation of both these constitutional rights.
As a victim of sexual abuse committed by a police officer, you can bring a claim for violations in either a state or federal court. If successful under Section 1983, you can be awarded money. As a victim, you may also win ‘victory for justice’ by receiving injunctive relief when the courts order the police department to change their policies.
For people who have been wronged by people in power, Section 1983 is an important statute. The problem with the Section is that there are hurdles a victim has to overcome when dealing with police sexual abuse or brutality. One of those hurdles is the doctrine of qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity protects a police officer from liability unless it has been proven they acted as no reasonable police officer would have acted in a similar manner. Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm can establish this when sexual abuse has been declared as no police officer has the right to act in this manner. Depending on the facts of your case, Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm can help you sue the police department, the chief of police presiding in this department, as well as the individual police officer who has sexually abused you.
Section 1983 protects your rights and gives you the option of suing the police officer who has sexually abused you on a federal level. You may also be able to sue on the state level as well. In California, you can file a claim against a police officer for sexual abuse through a state tort lawsuit. The law is beginning to realize sexual abuse and brutality do occur perpetrated by police officers, which causes unimaginable harm to victims, and that police departments are responsible for bearing accountability along with the officers charged with these crimes.
- California State Tort for Police Abuse
As a victim of police abuse or brutality, the State of California law provides a way to have the crime addressed through the court system. As a victim of police sexual abuse or other forms of brutality, you can sue police officers under a state tort theory.
A ‘tort’ is considered a ‘civil’ wrong, and ‘tort lawsuits’ are common law actions allowing an injured victim the right to sue the person responsible for that injury. A tort lawsuit is different from other crimes punished in the courts as it awards money to the plaintiff, whereas a criminal lawsuit is punished with prison or jail time.
As a victim of sexual abuse from a police officer, you can sue for damages to compensate for your lost wages, as well as for pain and suffering. Depending on the degree of injuries or if the police officer’s actions were especially egregious, you can also sue for higher amounts intended to punish the officer and deter them from similar conduct in the future.
In the olden days of policing, before 1991 and the case of Mary M. versus the City of Los Angeles, judges would not hold counties and cities financially responsible for sexual abuse or rapes committed by police officers. This action was based on the theory that an act of sexual abuse or rape is outside the scope and course of a police officer’s duty.
This outrageous theory was thankfully fought against by lawyers much like those you will find at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, and California courts now recognize there is a limited exception allowing counties and cities to be vicariously liable for the sexual abuse committed by their police officers. What this finding means for victims is that if the offending officer cannot afford to pay restitution, the county or city must step up and pay the victim the damages they deserve.
In the case of Mary M. versus the City of Los Angeles, it was evaluated whether the city could be held responsible for an officer’s sexual abuse in regards to:
- Risk spreading
Society trusts police officers to enforce laws and ensure their safety, and for this reason, the courts decided after the Mary M. versus the City of Los Angeles case, they had to allow for vicarious liability in the cases concerning police officers committing sexual abuse. It was further decided that while carrying out the crucial responsibilities bestowed on police officers, they are considered acting under the authority of the state. When officers, while working under the state’s authority, perform formidable power to commit sexual abuse, the state (public employer) must be held accountable for the crime and make sure the officer’s abuse if forever eliminated.
Difference Between Criminal and Civil Cases of Police Officer Committing Sexual Abuse
There is a difference between criminal law and civil law. Civil cases need only satisfy the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ and the case, either through litigation or an administrative review, is brought against a governmental authority or law enforcement agency. Through the civil case, it is sought that the law enforcement agency changes their policies and practices which have fostered an officer’s misconduct, and can request relief for the victim when appropriate.
In a criminal case, charges are made against the accused police officer. The evidence against this officer must be established ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ for the event to be found to have occurred. Punishment of a prison sentence is sought or other sanctions to punish the officer.
Federal ‘Under Color of Law’ Enforcement for Police Officer Committing Sexual Abuse
When a person is acting ‘under the color of law,’ it is a crime to willfully deprive a person or to conspire to deprive a person of any of their rights protected by the Constitution or the laws. When a person is acting under the power assigned to them by their government agency, whether local, state, or federal governments, they are ‘under the color of law.’
A law enforcement officer is ‘under the color of law’ even if they are exceeding their rightful power. The forms of misconduct covered by these laws include:
- Sexual abuse or misconduct
- Intentional false arrests
- Excessive force
- Intentional fabrication of evidence
The enforcement of these provisions does not require any religious, racial, or other discriminatory motives exist. These are criminal statutes and violations of these laws can be punishable by imprisonment, fines, or both. As a private citizen, you have no individual right of action under these statutes, so you would need legal counsel from Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm working with you to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Federal Civil Enforcement for Police Misconduct including Sexual Abuse
The Federal Civil Enforcement, Police Misconduct Provision, makes it unlawful for a local or state law enforcement officer to conduct a pattern or practice of depriving any persons of their rights protected by the Constitution of the United States. The forms of conduct covered under this provision include:
- Sexual abuse or sexual misconduct
- Excessive force
- Unlawful stops
- Unlawful searches or arrests
- False arrests
- Discriminatory harassment
The conduct has to represent a pattern or practice by the officer and cannot be one isolated incident. It has to be shown the agency for which the officer works for has an unlawful policy or that the pattern exhibited by the officer constituted a pattern of unlawful conduct.
Relief under this Provision does not provide for injunctive relief; instead, they issue orders to end the misconduct and change in the department’s procedures and policies that allowed for the abuse. Only the Department of Justice can file a claim for violations of Police Misconduct Provision, so you would have to work with Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm to receive help in filing a claim under this law.
Find Help Near Me Regarding Sexual Abuse By A Police Officer
Sexual abuse by a police officer is a traumatic break in a person’s trust. The crime of sexual abuse is terrifying enough, but when completed by one who should be protecting you, increases the fears associated with this heinous crime. Call Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm at 310-359-9451 to find the help you need with this devastating crime