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Disturbing Trend of Assault in Law Enforcement

Disturbing Trend of Assault in Law Enforcement

By Jeff Charles

Two NYPD police officers were arrested and charged on Tuesday for allegedly assaulting an intoxicated woman in July 2023. The incident occurred in the Bronx when the officers met the woman in a restaurant.

The allegations involve 40-year-old Julio Alcantara-Santiago and 32-year-old Christian Garcia, who are both facing a series of charges for the alleged sexual assault. The victim had become so intoxicated at the bar that she was “unable to stand on her own and subsequently passed out,” according to the New York Post.

The officers were seen on video footage on either side of her holding her arms to keep her upright as they led her to a vehicle at 12:37 a.m. They drove the victim to an apartment where the rape allegedly happed. Security footage on the premises showed that she was still unable to stand on her own. The video showed that the woman’s eyes were closed, and her mouth was open.

The victim indicated that she began waking up while the officers were sexually assaulting her. She said Alcantara-Garcia “egged on” the other officer, telling him,

Stick it in, bro, she’s clean.

Garcia, the other officer, responded: “Nah, bro, she’s too out of it.”

When the officers realized the victim was waking up, Garcia said, “Let’s go, bro, she’s waking up.”

Later in the morning, the woman went to a local hospital to obtain a rape kit, which found evidence tying the two officers to the crime. “Doctors swabbed dried spit on the woman and DNA tests later confirmed that it matched both NYPD officers, according to the complaint,” the New York Post reported.

The officers, who had previously served as partners, have pleaded not guilty and were released on bail. 

Police Sexual Violence

This incident is part of a broader pattern of law enforcement officers sexually assaulting members of the community – mostly women. 

A comprehensive study titled “The Situational Context of Police Sexual Violence: Data and Policy Implications,” conducted last year, highlights the disturbing trend. Researchers analyzed 669 cases of police sexual violence, providing a grim glimpse into the ordeals faced by predominantly female victims. 

The study identified three primary scenarios where these abuses of authority occur: During traffic stops dubbed “driving while female,” in situations involving child sexual abuse, and within the prostitution industry.

Interestingly enough, it was revealed that in nearly all of the cases analyzed, civilians were the ones who exposed the crimes, not law enforcement. “As opposed to law enforcement doing its solemn duty to report criminality…citizens rather than police initiated the detection of the crimes,” the report reads, pointing to a serious lack of accountability and safeguards within police agencies across the country.

The findings of the report underscore a systemic rot within the culture of many law enforcement agencies where sexual predation is more prevalent than one might think. Particularly concerning about this trend is the conspicuous lack of self-policing within law enforcement agencies.

The internal mechanisms for preventing these crimes, as well as others, were either non-existent or blatantly inadequate for addressing the misconduct. The report suggests that “Sexual predation on the part of the police, along with the routine cover-ups that perpetuate these crimes, appears to be just one component of the ‘rotten barrel.’”

Blue Wall of Silence

The “blue wall of silence” and the “persistent organizational actions designed to hide and cover them up,” are critical impediments to holding officers accountable. In many cases, officers “maintained a code of silence in order to protect their brother officer,” according to the report.

The report highlights multiple reasons why some police officers abuse their authority in such a predatory fashion. For starters, officers often operate alone, without direct supervision. This is particularly the case during late hours. They typically come into contact with more vulnerable civilians. 

There is also the issue of policies and training aimed at decreasing the number of police officers who go on to sexually assault members of the community. When there are no robust policies and procedures in place to report an officer’s malfeasance, it is difficult to take action.

However, the primary element in this equation is a stark lack of accountability. The report notes that “No governmental entity collects aggregate level data on crimes committed by police officers” and that law enforcement agencies “typically do not collect and distribute data on coercive police practices, much less crimes committed by police officers.”

What this boils down to is an environment in which members of law enforcement know they will likely not face real consequences if they prey on members of the community. Even if they happen to lose their jobs, in many cases, they can simply work for another police agency. If there is little chance of being arrested and sent to prison for rape, why would a corrupt officer decide against committing the act?

Motivations of Violence

Beyond the lack of accountability, it is difficult to ascertain why officers would sexually assault members of the community. This is even further compounded by the fact that the rate of sexual assault by police is more than double that of the general public. The study indicated that the victims are predominantly women, which could suggest a level of misogyny. It is also worth considering whether the power they possess corrupts them to the point that they behave in ways they might not have if they were not wearing the uniform and badge.

There is also the possibility that police work attracts the type of person who might be prone to rape. It seems there are many who are drawn to the profession because of the power that it brings, which leads to all kinds of abuses perpetrated by those who have been granted this level of authority. Moreover, many Americans still hold a deep level of trust and respect for law enforcement, which makes it easier for them to prey on civilians. Indeed, this happened in a case in New Orleans in which an officer groomed a teenage rape victim after responding to the call.

Unfortunately, this is the case for a wide range of crimes committed by police officers. 

Is Reform Possible?

The study offers several recommendations that could help to address the problem of sexual assault committed by police officers. Firstly, the authors advocate for specific legislation aimed at the problem. They proposed enhanced penalties and immediate termination for those found guilty. This would send the message that those who abuse members of the community will face consequences.

Secondly, the authors call for a complete overhaul of police department policies and training methods. The agencies should enact policies directly addressing sexual misconduct and violence. These measures must be reflective of a zero-tolerance approach. 

Of course, any real reforms would require oversight by members of the community. People have already seen how it turns out when the government is investigating the government. It typically results in the perpetrators being protected. When law enforcement is directly accountable to the people, it becomes easier to hold them accountable when their officers overstep their boundaries.

Accompanying these policies should be comprehensive and ongoing training to equip officers with the tools to recognize and combat sexual crimes within their ranks. Employing a broader use of technology, such as body-worn cameras and other methods, to increase monitoring and accountability is also essential.

It is also worth noting that a drastic change in police culture must be made. Hiring and training practices should reflect a commitment to weeding out corrupt officers prone to abusing their positions. Without a comprehensive overhaul within law enforcement, this issue will only persist.

Enacting meaningful change remains a complex political issue. Police unions will resist any attempts to mitigate their power or place it in community leaders’ hands. Attempts to change policing can be seen as politically toxic and defunding the police. Reform will need to come from leadership within Police departments willing to change and civilian leadership able to put the safety of its citizens above partisanship.

Todd Davis

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