Andrea Ritchie was with two male friends as they drove through a park in New York City. Two cops from the Brooklyn South precinct pulled them over for being in a public park past dark. The cops search found marijuana and Klonopin. Andrea was arrested, put in the back of police van — which was unmarked — handcuffed her and demanded her two friends not follow.
Arrested and indicted for 50-counts which included rape, kidnapping, and misconduct, the two cops wait. Ther lawyers still worked to undermine Andrea’s account of the night she was made to perform oral sex on both and was raped by one. Andrea was threatened with arrest and criminal charges if she didn’t go along.
In October 2017, the story broke. The young woman’s experience didn’t surprise activists. Advocates for reform say the case is representative of national patterns of sexual violence by officers.
Studies of ‘police sexual misconduct’ show it as a systemic problem. In 2015, the Buffalo News reviewed a decade’s worth of court records and found an officer is accused of sexual misconduct every five days. The majority of those incidents involve motorists, students, and victims of domestic violence. Over 60% of the cases studied, a cop was convicted of a crime and faced consequences.
Research shows police officers targeting young women like Andrea. A 2000 review of 1,000 New York City youth found 2 out of 5 women reported sexual harassment by cops — almost half of the victims were black, Latino or Asian.
Cops target women whom they don’t think would be believed. Women of color, transgender women, drug abusers and women involved in sex work are the victim of choice by rogue police officers. Daniel Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City cop, was sentenced to 263 years for sexual assault. His victims were black women and young girls and women who used drugs or whom he believed to be ‘working girls.’
Why aren’t agencies doing more to stop officers? Most law enforcement departments lack policies or training which would make it clear sexual misconduct on-duty is prohibited. At a minimum, agencies should enact and enforce policies preventing sexual violence. While that should change, departments haven’t been asked to explicitly tell officers that sexual assault is unacceptable and will result in being fired and prosecuted.
Most individuals know by now that the police can’t be depended on to police themselves. But that leaves a conundrum. Where can a woman who has been sexually assaulted go to report it? If she goes to the district attorney, she’s referred to the police department.
Intimidation by law enforcement is familiar. Tk said at least eight cops came to her room in the hospital to discourage her from following through with a rape kit. Cities can make it easier for victims to come forward and the U.S. Justice Department recommends civilian investigators be found, hired and trained.
Survivors deserve solutions that pound at the problem’s root. Instead, the public expresses outrage, the protests make the news and then everything is back to business-as-usual.
No survivor of sexual violence should be ignored based on her perpetrator being a cop.