by John W. Whitehead, Rutherford Institute:
“Sexual predation by police officers happens far more often than people in the business are willing to admit.”—Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper
How could this be happening right under our noses?
That’s what readers wanted to know after my column went viral about the extent to which young children are being bought and sold for sex in America.
Where are the police when these children—some as young as 9 years old—are being raped repeatedly?
For that matter, what is the Trump Administration doing about the fact that adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in suburbs, cities and towns across this nation?
I’ll tell you what the government is doing: little to nothing.
While America’s children are being menaced by sexual predators, the Trump Administration and its congressional cohorts continue to wage endless wars, run up the national debt, and distract the populace with vitriol and kabuki political theater.
The police are not much better.
In too many instances, the cops are worse.
Indeed, while there are certainly many good cops in this country—and I’ve had the honor of working with a number of them—the bad cops have become symptomatic of a criminal justice system that is deeply rotten through and through.
We can no longer count on police to save us from the worst in our society.
In many cases, rather than being part of the solution, America’s police forces—riddled with corruption, brutality, sexual misconduct and drug abuse—have largely become part of the problem. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “Hundreds of police officers across the country have turned from protectors to predators, using the power of their badge to extort sex.”
Let’s start with sex trafficking.
In a number of cases, victims of sex trafficking report that police are among those “buying” young girls and women for sex.
In other words, as a recent study by the State Commission on the Status of Women and Arizona State University makes clear, “victims are being exploited by the very people who are supposed to protect them: police officers.”
In New York, seven NYPD cops—three sergeants, two detectives and two officers—were accused of running brothels that sold 15-minute sexual encounters, raking in more than $2 million over the course of 13 months. Two of the cops, brothers, were charged with holding a bachelor party at one of the brothels where “they got the place for nothing and they used the prostitutes.”
In California, a police sergeant—a 16-year veteran of the police force—was arrested for raping a 16-year-old girl who was being held captive and sold for sex in a home in an upscale neighborhood.
A week-long sting in Florida ended with 277 arrests of individuals accused of sex trafficking, including doctors, pharmacists and police officers.
Sex trafficking victims in Hawaii described “cops asking for sexual favors to more coercive situations like I’ll let you go if you do X, Y, or Z for me.”
One study found that “over 14 percent of sex workers said that they had been threatened with arrest unless they had sex with a police officer.” In many states, it’s actually legal for police to have sex with prostitutes during the course of sting operations.
While the problem of cops engaged in sex trafficking is part of the American police state’s seedy underbelly that doesn’t get addressed enough, equally alarming is the number of cops who commit sex crimes against those they encounter as part of their job duties, a largely underreported number given the “blue wall of silence” that shields police misconduct.
Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper describes cases in which cops fondled prisoners, made false traffic stops of attractive women, traded sexual favors for freedom, had sex with teenagers and raped children.
Young girls are particularly vulnerable to these predators in blue.
Former police officer Phil Stinson estimates that half of the victims of police sex crimes are minors under the age of eighteen.
According to The Washington Post, a national study found that 40 percent of reported cases of police sexual misconduct involved teens. One young woman was assaulted during a “ride along” with an officer, who said in a taped confession: “The badge gets you the p—y and the p—y gets your badge, you know?”
For example, a Pennsylvania police chief and his friend were arrested for allegedly raping a young girl hundreds of times—orally, vaginally, and anally several times a week—over the course of seven years, starting when she was 4 years old.
In 2017, two NYPD cops were accused of arresting a teenager, handcuffing her, and driving her in an unmarked van to a nearby parking lot, where they raped her and forced her to perform oral sex on them, then dropped her off on a nearby street corner.
The New York Times reports that “a sheriff’s deputy in San Antonio was charged with sexually assaulting the 4-year-old daughter of an undocumented Guatemalan woman and threatening to have her deported if she reported the abuse.”
One young girl, J.E., was kidnapped by a Border Patrol agent when she was 14 years old, taken to his apartment and raped. “In the apartment, there were two beds on top of the other, children’s bunk beds, and ropes there, too. They were shoelaces. For my wrists and my feet. My mind was blank,” recalls J.E. “I was trying to understand everything. I didn’t know what to do. My feet were tied up. I would look at him and he had a gun. And that frightened me. I asked him why, and he answered me that he was doing this to me because I was the prettiest one of the three.”
Two teenage girls accused a Customs and Border Protection officer of forcing them to strip, fondling them, then trying to get them to stop crying by offering chocolates, potato chips and a blanket. The government settled the case for $125,000.
Mind you, this is the same government that has been separating immigrant children from their parents and locking them up in detention centers, where they are easy prey for sexual predators. So far, the government has received more than 4500 complaints about sexual abuse at those child detention facilities.
This is also the same government that “lost” almost 1500 migrant children. Who knows how many of those children ended up in the hands of traffickers?
The police state’s sexual assaults of children are sickening enough, but when you add sex crimes against grown women into the mix, the picture becomes even more sordid.
According to The Washington Post, “research on ‘police sexual misconduct’—a term used to describe actions from sexual harassment and extortion to forcible rape by officers—overwhelmingly concludes that it is a systemic problem.”
Investigative journalist Andrea Ritchie has tracked national patterns of sexual violence by police officers during traffic stops, in addition to heightened risk from minor offenses, drug arrests and police interactions with teenagers.
Victims of domestic abuse, women of color, transgender women, women who use drugs or alcohol, and women involved in the sex trade are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault by police.
One Oklahoma City police officer allegedly sexually assaulted at least seven women while on duty over the course of four months, including a 57-year-old grandmother who says she was forced to give the cop oral sex after he pulled her over.
A Philadelphia state trooper, eventually convicted of assaulting six women and teenagers, once visited the hospital bedside of a pregnant woman who had attempted suicide, and groped her breasts and masturbated.
These aren’t isolated incidents.
According to research from Bowling Green State University, police officers in the U.S. were charged with more than 400 rapes over a 9-year period. During that same time period, 600 police officers were arrested for forcible fondling; 219 were charged with forcible sodomy; 186 were arrested for statutory rape; 58 for sexual assault with an object; and 98 with indecent exposure.
Sexual assault is believed to be the second-most reported form of misconduct against police officers after the use of excessive force, making up more than 9% of all complaints.
Even so, these crimes are believed to be largely underreported so much so that sex crimes may in fact be the number one form of misconduct among police officers.
So why are the numbers underreported? “The women are terrified. Who are they going to call? It’s the police who are abusing them,” said Penny Harrington, the former police chief of Portland, Ore.
One Philadelphia cop threatened to arrest a teenager for carjacking unless she had sex with him. “He had all the power. I had no choice,” testified the girl. “Who was I? He had his badge.”