Between 2005 and 2014, police officers in the United States were charged with committing 405 rapes. Let that appalling number sink in. What’s worse is that these are just the incidents that were reported and charged. The true number of rapes is most certainly far higher than that. Think about that, 45 charged rapes committed by law enforcement each year.
During this same time period, law enforcement officials were also charged in 636 incidents of forcible fondling and 219 instances of forcible sodomy, according to data collected by Bowling Green University.
Other stats collected by BGU researchers involving police crime over that nine-year period include 152 cases of murder and non-negligent manslaughter; 82 cases of negligent manslaughter; 807 cases of aggravated assault; 36 cases of arson; 223 cases of burglary or breaking and entering; 328 cases of kidnapping or abduction; and 140 cases of robbery. That doesn’t include the myriad numbers of cops charged with drug and alcohol offenses, fraud, gambling offenses, and numerous other crimes.
These assaults are referred to as “hidden offenses,” because there are no comprehensive statistics available on these incidents. The BGU researchers relied on documented cases of arrested nonfederal law enforcement personnel to compile the sexual assault data, relying on Google alerts. There is no government agency collecting this information.
As a rule of thumb, for every reported sexual assault, authorities believe there are five that go unreported. As a ballpark figure, that means police raped approximately 2,000 victims from 2005 to 2013. However, it’s quite possible that the number of victims is even higher.
It’s hard enough for many rape victims to contact law enforcement about their assault. What are they going to do when a police officer is the perpetrator? Making a horrific situation even worse is the fact that many of these victims are underage.
Although victims of sexual violence by police officers run the gamut, they are often people that those cops have arrested, as well as crime victims- victims that reached out to law enforcement only to be victimized again. Many cops work with little supervision, which provides an opportunity for wrongdoing to occur. Already traumatized crime victims especially tend to trust the police, until an officer violates that trust with a sexual assault.
Sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual predation by law enforcement. The same holds true for those arrested for drug or alcohol offenses, or the homeless. The more vulnerable a person is in their personal lives, the more likely they are likely to fall prey to a sex offender in a uniform.
Bad cops know a jury won’t believe such individuals when it comes down to a “he said/she said” situation. Good cops, however, understand that the behavior of pathological peers affects the public’s perception of all law enforcement personnel.
Tackling the Problem
What to do about rape and other crimes committed by cops? Experts have several recommendations. These include:
- Tracking officers by GPS – Simply noting who officers are stopping may prove a red alert. A cop regularly pulling over young women at similar times in the same area merits further investigation.
- Not hiring officers fired by other police departments.
- Mandating the use of body cams and dash cams.
- Internal affairs sting operations.
There’s also the question of national standards. Currently, the 18,000 police departments in the U.S. operate under their own regulations and policies. A national standard would not only improve the overall quality of law enforcement, but an officer caught in a crime, such as sexual assault, would lose their license once and for all.
Weeding Out Bad Cops
While not all officers are bad, we must do whatever we can, take whatever measures we must, to weed out the bad, the criminally minded, and the psychopaths.
The data shows that the problem is actually a lot bigger than what we hear about. These recorded numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.
When cops do wrong they're rarely charged, things are settled for a slap on the wrist, swept under the rug, or just ignored. What you see here is one, dramatically underreported, facet of horrific police misconduct occurring across the U.S. The good cops need to stand up and make sure that this type of conduct does not occurr in their department and We the People need to not only support the good officers, but also catch the criminal cops. No more sweeping bad conduct under the rug because it was committed by someone wearing a badge. It’s a badge, not a halo.
Joseph Tully is a certified specialist in criminal law by the California state bar, and has been recognized as a Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorney by Attorney and Practice Magazine, one of an elite few having earned that designation. To connect with Joseph: [hidden email].