By The Editorial Board; New York Times Opinion/Editorial
In October, two New York City police officers were charged with kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old Brooklyn woman they had taken into custody. The facts of the case are bad enough, but they also underscore another outrage: Vaguely written statutes in many states, including New York, permit police officers to escape sexual assault charges by claiming that the victims consented to the act.
The New York State Assembly last week passed legislation to close that odious loophole — and the State Senate, which is considering the same bill, needs to swiftly follow suit. States across the country that may be letting police officers get away with rape need to revisit their statutes as well.
The New York City case was particularly disturbing. According to a 50-count indictment unsealed by the Brooklyn district attorney in the fall, two veteran plainclothes detectives took the young woman into custody for having marijuana in her car, and they drove her away from the scene in their police van.
Prosecutors say the detectives, who have both pleaded not guilty, raped the woman as she cried and pleaded for them to stop. Lawyers for the detectives subsequently implied that the sex could not be viewed as assault because it was consensual.
Elected officials were rightly outraged to find that the state statute prohibiting sexual contact between corrections officers and parole officers and those in their custody does not expressly rule out sexual contact between police officers and people they detain or arrest. After learning that, New York City Council member Mark Treyger introduced a resolution calling on the State Legislature to remedy this problem.
The bill that passed the Assembly, and that is pending in the State Senate, would rightly bring police officers under the sexual contact restriction and reinforce the common-sense principle that people whom the police have placed under arrest are legally incapable of consenting to sexual acts with officers, who hold enormous power over them.
Much of the country has yet to grasp that fundamental point. An analysisof state statutes by the BuzzFeed News reporter Albert Samaha found that laws in 35 states may be letting officers get away with sexual assault by claiming that the encounters are consensual.
Based on a review of a Buffalo News database, including the cases of more than 700 law enforcement officers from across the country accused of sexual misconduct, Mr. Samaha concluded that at least 158 officers had been charged with unlawful sexual conduct with people under their control since 2006 and that at least 26 had been acquitted or had charges dropped as a result of the consent defense.
Even officers who were convicted have gotten off with outrageously light sentences…
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