About 1,000 police officers in the United States were fired from 2009 to 2014 for “sexual misconduct,” which includes charges of rape, sodomy, possession of child pornography, and propositioning citizens or having on-duty intercourse.
A yearlong investigation conducted by the Associated Press, which looked at the decertification records in 41 states, revealed that “flaws in law enforcement policies and a protective culture of policing can allow sexual predators in police ranks to go unnoticed or unpunished until it’s too late.”
The AP noted that no federal officers were included in the investigation and some states, such as California and New York, “had no records because they have no statewide system for revoking the licenses of officers who commit misconduct.”
In several of the states that provided records, “some reported no officers removed for sexual misdeeds even though cases were discovered in news stories or court records.”
Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida has been investigating the issue for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and she told the AP that she believes it is “happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country.”
“It’s so underreported, and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them,” DiPino said.
The investigation found that 550 of the officers who were fired lost their licenses for sexual assault offenses “including rape, pat-downs that amounted to groping, and shakedowns in which citizens were extorted into performing favors to avoid arrest.” The review revealed that 440 of the officers were decertified for misconduct such as possession of child pornography, “voyeurism in the guise of police work and consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.”
The AP described the case of former officer Sergio Alvarez, who spent six years working a night shift and was sued by six women who claimed that he sexually assaulted them between 2011 and 2012.
Alvarez was convicted of sexually assaulting the women while on the job, four of whom he abducted and raped. The women have been paid a total of $4.1 million in settlements, with $2.8 million coming from the city. Alvarez is now serving 205 years to life in prison.
Tom McDonald, a former captain for the Los Angeles Police Department who took over in West Sacramento after Alvarez’s arrest, told the AP that while it is hard to see the victims, it is even harder to think that he might be contributing to the problem.
“It hurts the heart to see victims,” McDonald said. “But it makes it even worse when you are, in one way, shape or form, a contributing factor to them being hurt.”
The report noted that “about one-third of the decertified officers were accused in incidents involving juveniles,” and the victims were “overwhelmingly women” who were often “the poor, the addicted, the young,” with many officers using the victims’ criminal record or search for help as a means for exploitation.
The AP stated that the issue was part of a problem stemming from policies and procedures which includes poor supervision and training, neglected “warning signs,” and a “good old boy culture in which inappropriate behavior was ignored or even condoned.”