A police officer is accused of an act of sexual misconduct at least every five days in the United States. A national analysis found more than 500 officer arrests for sexual misconduct over a three-year period.
It’s hard to face these numbers, because police officers are supposed to be a source of trust and aid. As stories of egregious police brutality continue to surface in the media, we’ve been forced to readjust our image of the police and the pedestal upon which we may have put them.
How Cops Become Predators
In New York City, two plainclothes police detectives pulled over a young woman and her two male friends for being in a public park after dark. The officers then arrested the young woman after searching her car and finding marijuana and anti-anxiety medication. After putting the woman in the back of their unmarked van, the officers sexually assaulted her and threatened her with criminal charges if she didn’t cooperate (Washington Post).
In Los Angeles, a woman was walking her dog when two police officers drove by in an unmarked car. They ordered the woman to get in the car, drove her to a secluded location, and sexually assaulted her. Afterward, they threatened her with jail time if she reported the assault (CNN).
These incidents follow national patterns of sexual assault by police officers during traffic stops, handling of minor offenses, and drug arrests. Male officers consistently target young women who they deem to be more vulnerable and less believable. This includes domestic violence survivors, women of color, and women with arrests related to drugs, alcohol, or work in the sex trade (Newsweek).
Police officers hold a unique position of power over citizens and can use threats and intimidation to take advantage of that power. A threat of arrest, jail time, or other consequences may be enough to persuade victims to follow orders that lead to assault, and avoid reporting the assault afterward. A Brooklyn teenager who was a victim of sexual assault by a police officer reported that at least nine police officers came to her hospital room to discourage her from reporting the assault.
These women often feel like they will at the very least be disbelieved, be arrested, or have their family and life threatened. Many assaults go unreported, and many officers who are accused are not even let go from the police force, let alone prosecuted.
Getting Justice after an Attack
The statistics may make it seem as though there is little hope for justice after an assault by a police officer. However, there are ways to prove police sexual violence. Police departments and/or an attorney can review data from officers’ traffic or pedestrian stops to look for outliers or discrepancies, can review GPS-tracked patrol car movements, can check reported mileage when transporting arrestees, and can review dashboard camera or body camera footage.
When Texas Officer Daniel Hubbard was accused of sexual assault during a traffic stop, dashcam footage actually cleared him of any wrongdoing. While false accusations like this are infrequent, this kind of evidence can help to prove officers’ innocence in addition to helping victims corroborate their stories (The Root).
What to Do Immediately After You’ve Been Hurt
In the moments after you’ve been assaulted by a police officer, you may be scared, confused, and unsure of what to do next. You should seek immediate medical attention. Medical professionals can attend to any serious injuries and may perform exams to assess the assault. These types of exams will help you substantiate your case later down the line.
Next, you should contact a local personal injury attorney. A legal team can help you sort through the details of the incident and help you determine your next steps—the sooner, the better.
Working with an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
There are ways to get justice, but you need a tough, smart, and skilled advocate to help you get it. Having a perpetrator in a position of power creates a challenging circumstance for a victim to fight back. After an assault, you should seek the counsel of a law firm experienced with police misconduct and discrimination as soon as possible.
An experienced attorney can help you pursue a civil case to hold the officer accountable for damages in the form of medical bills, lost wages, and payment for the emotional and psychological trauma. Pursuing a civil case can sometimes help victims get results where a criminal case falls short. If you have been harmed by police misconduct and would like to speak with a Dallas police brutality lawyer, give Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP a call at (214) 231-0544.