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By Justin King
The recent release by the L.A. Times of hiring documents from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department highlighted a seemingly growing problem in U.S. law enforcement agencies: those that commit sex crimes are finding their way into police agencies.
Studies repeatedly confirm that sex crimes are not committed out of an impulsive desire to have sex, but rather a need “to inflict pain, violence, and humiliation” and achieve domination and power over their victim. Police officers often use the unchecked power of their badge to intimidate and coerce their victims. The scale of the problem is illustrated in a study that shows an American is twice as likely to be raped by a law enforcement official as they are to be raped by an average member of society, to include convicted felons.
In the Times article, David McDonald is profiled. McDonald admitted to having a relationship with a 14-year-old girl when he was 28 and that he kissed and groped the child, but denies intercourse ever occurred. He claims to have initially believed she was 16, but did not terminate the relationship when he discovered her true age.
In 1985, he was fired from the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department after being found to use excessive force while dealing with inmates in the jail. He was asked how he thought inmates should be controlled and responded by saying:
"Well, like Clint Eastwood, tell them what to do and they either do it or else."
With all of this information available to those making the hiring decisions, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department hired him and placed him to work in their county jail. He has since been disciplined for a use of force decision made in the jail. He was quoted as saying:
"How can you put me back in the jails when I already had a problem there?"
December 5, 2013: Stephen Ricco, previously arrested on charges of domestic violence, is currently being held on new charges of first-degree sexual assault. In February, the Pawtucket was charged in a separate domestic violence case, which he plead no contest to.
December 4, 2013: Carl Bookamer, a former Citrus Heights police officer, was arrested on five counts related to an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old volunteer. Bookamer was employed by the department when the incidents allegedly occurred.
December 3, 2013: A Washington, DC Metro Police Officer was charged with production of child pornography. Reportedly under the guise of just following procedures, he ordered a 15-year-old to remove articles of clothing and photographed her. A search of his camera reportedly turned up images of other young girls. After a brief investigation, Marc Washington was taken into custody.
December 2, 2013: A Police Sergeant with the Rio Grande City Police Department was arrested on two counts of sexual assault of a child. The officer, Rodolfo Hinojosa, is alleged to have had sexual contact with a teen enrolled in one of the department’s youth programs. Hinojosa had resigned from the department on November 21.
December 2, 2013: Retired Conroe Police Department Sergeant Will Ewing was charged with sexual assault of a child and compelling prostitution.
November 24, 2013: A San Antonio officer was arrested for allegedly handcuffing, groping, and raping a 19-year-old after claiming her car was stolen. He reportedly groped her during a frisk, after she showed him documentation proving the car was not stolen. He then handcuffed her, took her back to his patrol car, and raped her. The Police Chief says this is the third accusation of sexual misconduct against Jackie Neal, an 11-year veteran of the force. The Chief has asked the FBI to join the investigation to pursue civil rights violations, a move that is applauded by many as most departments investigate internally.
November 6, 2013: A Chicago cop, Allen Hall, was charged with multiple counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and assault, including some counts alleging the victim was a child.
News of the above cases broke within the last 60 days, and profile officers assigned to lower level positions. However, cases of sexual misconduct are not isolated to street cops.
August 28, 2013: Police Chief of West Columbia, Michael Palmer, was indicted on ten counts, ranging from aggravated sexual assault of a child to indecency with a child - sexual contact. He had previously been accused of stealing drugs from the evidence room.
The problem is such a common occurrence that pages of Facebook have sprung up, offering support to victims and raising awareness. “Tribute to survivors of child sexual assault by law enforcement officers,” a page that focuses only on crimes when the victim is a minor, has profiled nine separate stories in the last five days alone.
A comment on the page reflects the growing distrust citizens have for police and their growing power.
“Not all cops abuse their power. It’s just a few bad apples. And that 90% of bad apples gives the other 10% a bad name.”
In the second quarter of 2010, the Department of Justice reported that 63.7 per 100,000 officers were implicated in a sexual assault case. The rest of the U.S. population maintains a 29.3 per 100,000 implication rate.