Over the last six years, about 1,000 police officers in the United States lost their badges because of sexual misconduct, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. That amounts to an officer being fired for sexual misconduct nearly every other day.
The AP report examined police decertification records from 41 states between 2009 and 2014 to determine how many cases fit the Department of Justices’ standard for sexual assault:
“AP determined that some 550 officers were 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. Some 440 officers lost their badges for other sex offenses, such as possessing child pornography, or for sexual misconduct that included being a peeping Tom, sexting juveniles or having on-duty intercourse.”
The investigation did not include data from nine states and the District of Columbia, because they either did not decertify any officers or refused to provide this information to the AP. Decertification is an administrative process that results the loss of the ability to serve in law enforcement. This process varies by state. California and New York, two of the most populous states, are also not included in these findings, as they have no statewide system to track decertifications. Federal officers were excluded as well. Because of these gaps, these numbers are most certainly an undercount.
Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida said, “It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country… 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.”
The report comes as the trial of Daniel Holtzclaw—the former Oklahoma City police officer facing 36 counts including rape, sexual battery and forcible oral sodomy—is set to begin this week. At least 13 African American women have come forward against Holtzclaw, who seems to have targeted these women because they are Black. Despite being charged with these heinous crimes and abusing his authority in the community, Holtzclaw was released on bond, which was later revoked when he let his GPS monitored ankle bracelet battery go dead. Black Women’s Blueprint, a national Black feminist organization, has called this a part of a history that “devalue[s] Black women as legitimate victims of rape and assault.”
In May, the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) released a report, “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women,” highlighting stories of Black women who have been killed by police, and studying forms of police brutality, such as sexual assault, that are often disproportionately experienced by women.
“Although Black women are routinely killed, raped and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality,” explains Kimberlé Crenshaw, AAPF founder and director. “Yet, inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives and police demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combating racialized state violence for Black communities and other communities of color.”
Media Resources: The Associated Press 11/1/15; Vox 11/2/15; Feminist Newswire 11/20/14; Black Women’s Blueprint 9/22/14; AAFP Report May 2015