When Cops Rape Crime Victims

handcuffsJust this month, three police officers in different cities have been charged with raping women who called the police for help:

March 20, Baltimore: A police officer with Baltimore’s MTA, the local transit authority, was charged with raping a woman who called for help after her car was hit by a city bus. Officer Martez Johnson responded to the call, investigated the scene, then drove the victim home in his police cruiser. It was at her home, says the woman, that Johnson raped her.

March 12, San Jose: Officer Geoffrey Graves responded to a domestic disturbance call; when he arrived, he found a woman and her husband fighting. The woman told the officer she wanted to spend the night at a hotel, so he drove her to the location in his cruiser. The woman says that 15 minutes after she checked in, the officer returned, “entered the room, grabbed the victim forcibly and pushed her onto the bed,” according to San Jose police investigator Sgt. Craig Storlie.

March 7, Detroit: A Detroit woman called 911 after being attacked by her boyfriend. Deon Nunlee, one of the officers who responded to the call, allegedly took the caller to an upstairs bedroom and raped her while his partner dealt with the boyfriend downstairs.

That’s just this month. There are ongoing rape investigations involving police officers happening all over the country, and the incidence of sexual assault by cops is nothing new.

How can women feel safe calling the police knowing they may find themselves victimized by those charged with protecting them? Intervention by the federal government into local police departments may be one way.

A group of federal agencies launched investigations this week into officer misconduct at the San Diego police department. The federal justice department is reviewing about 15 cases of misconduct that have already been prosecuted—many involving sexual assault by officers—while the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office launched a criminal investigation into other allegations against San Diego police. Said SDPD chief Shelley Zimmerman,

Our entire department feels terrible about this misconduct. We believe that those few officers have betrayed our badge, discredited, dishonored our noble profession. And our officers welcome this [investigation]. All of us want to know what we can do to prevent hiring somebody that is going to make the terrible decision to discredit our badge.

The justice department can choose to sue for civil-rights violations, and if they’re successful the court can appoint an independent monitor to oversee the police department. According to Joshua Chanin, a San Diego State University professor, justice department interventions and independent monitoring are some of the best ways to turn around police departments gone bad.

“It’s the most effective way to provide quick and lasting change,” Chanin said. Though independent monitoring can be expensive, it’s worth it to keep crime victims safe from further abuse.

The SDPD review has only just begun, and Chief Zimmerman has said she doesn’t think a monitor is necessary, but she did vow to reinstate a police anti-corruption unit that her predecessor had disbanded. The results of these federal investigations could go a long way toward keeping women victims of crime safe from bad cops—and we hope the nation’s other police departments are watching.

Photo by Flickr user Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons 2.0



Stephanie Hallett is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. She can be found on Twitter @stephhallett.


  1. When an officer commits rape it is especially heinous. However, the tone of this article makes it sound like “cop rape” is a growing problem. When one group is singled out over others it creates sensationalism and like most “isms”, it is not helpful. Rape, itself is the growing problem and we know that there is not one group or culture that is immune to being the perp. or the victim.

    • I didn’t read it that way. My question to you is do you think this shouldn’t be talked about? Women and minorities are singled out all the time.

  2. Marlene E. Simmons says:

    This is the stuff my nightmares are made of. I would like to propose that police officers have to submit to DNA collection and keep them in a database independent of the police investigations units where they can be targeted easily and quickly should such abuses ensue. Also, it seems that still the mandatory sensitivity training falls far short of any kind of success in these departments. Another thing I would propose consequently is mandatory and ongoing therapy and psych assessments for all officers on the force. We are paying for these services and they aren’t being utilized.

  3. “All of us want to know what we can do to prevent hiring somebody that is going to make the terrible decision to discredit our badge.”

    Three simple words: Hire more women.

    • Angeline says:

      Women are capable of rape, too. In Texas it was the female officers who arrived on scene that conducted spontaneous cavity searches on women pulled over on the side of the road, without switching gloves in between searching the anus and the vagina.

      The answer isn’t so simple, because it involves the militaristic attitudes that permeate throughout our society and manifest themselves most violently in our police force, who look at us more often as insurgents than people they’re supposed to be protecting.

    • That is true hiring more woman may help some. But when you’re indoctrinated into a system; power and control is power and control.

  4. Elaine Cole says:

    Sounds like an excellent idea to me. Another thing I would like to add is to remove the perpetrator of domestic violence from the premises for 24 hrs. so the victim can be escorted away by a domestic violence worker and a cop. If any person is escorted alone by a police officer for any reason, the ride and all activity MUST go into a central recording device. There must be no lapse in time, and the device MUST be tamper proof. All dash cams must also be activated. This is to prevent these types of events from happening. In addition, hotel front desk must report any officer seen returning to hotels after a victim has went to a room, whether in or out of uniform.

  5. Colette Erck says:

    I so agree that more females need to be in the police. I

  6. This news just breaks my heart. Hiring women is always a good idea but teaching MEN to be respectful from the start is good idea, too. SMH

  7. Its 2014. Half the people are female. The problem of union intimidation discrimination sex assaults and rape amongst the ranks.is rampant in these unions. When will 50 percent of the force be women. Demand it. Female officers also commit coverups. They hide them behind desks and lack of numbers causes intimidation. Corruption continues at every level. Hospitals, drs, government, other entities. Drugging them to keep there mouths shut. When will it stop.

  8. Rightway says:

    I think the problem is also with the heads of the departments. That statement
    “All of us want to know what we can do to prevent hiring somebody that is going to make the terrible decision TO DISCREDIT OUR BADGE.”

  9. Many people are under the false impression that it is the job of the police to protect the public. Ever since the US Supreme Court decided in the 1989 case “Deshaney vs. Winnebago County that “police have no duty to protect private citizens”, courts have routinely upheld that it is not the job of law enforcement to protect the public.

    In fact, courts have consistently ruled that police need not take public safety into consideration at all in order to enforce the law.

    The job of law enforcement is just that: enforce the law. Look in the dictionary. Enforce: impose your will by means of force. Police HAVE NO DUTY to protect. Thier job is to impose thier will by means of force.

    Officer safety is paramount. Public safety is irrelevant. Police impose thier will as they see fit. If you defy them, they are legally justified in gaining your compliance (imposing thier will) by any means necessary.

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