Police sexual misconduct: Just how big of a problem is it?

Pretty big. That’s how big.
Over the weekend the Associated Press published the results of a year-long investigation into sexual misconduct by law enforcement in the U.S. The investigation found that about 1,000 officers from 41 states across the country were booted from police forces due to sex-related conduct over a five-year period, from 2009 to 2014. That number comes from a total of about 9,000 records that the AP combed through.

The AP investigation’s results were released just in time for the start of the trial of one of their subjects, Daniel Holtzclaw. His trial begins today in Oklahoma with jury selection. The former Oklahoma City police officer faces 36 counts of sexual assault and other crimes against 13 women.

The report is obviously troubling for a number of reasons. One—and only one—is that the total number of officers that engage in such behavior isn’t truly known. Some

like New York and California, for example, do not remove officers who commit such crimes, nor do they keep track of “officer wrongdoing.”

Another reason the report is so troubling is because it identifies what police chiefs themselves have said are the conditions of the job that lead to such violations: Cops are in a position of having power over people. Some of these people are vulnerable, and that vulnerability includes being seen as less credible than an officer of the law. Even patrolling at night was listed as being a perk for a predator with a badge.

Lastly, the report identifies some of the steps that police chiefs—the ones whose shoulders this issue falls on—have undertaken to remedy the issue, including more stringent hiring policies that thoroughly screen applicants’ backgrounds and mental health status.

Good luck with that.

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