Culture of mistrust. The widespread culture of mistrust in law enforcement officers in the United States stems from egregious acts committed by those who are supposed to provide a safe space for citizens, especially children.  In Calhoun County Florida a police officer did not uphold his oath to protect and maintain a safe space for citizens when he committed the most egregious of police brutality offenses, by engaging in sexual acts with a minor.  He violated his authoritative position and endangered a child instead of providing a safe environment.  Cases of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct by police officers result from officers who are found to have conducted sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual acts and/or other types of sex-related violations on an adult or minor and covers consensual sexual activity that occurs when an officer is on-duty, sexual assault and child molestation. Police say they worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate allegations against Sergeant Christian Smith, and determined they appeared to be true. Sergeant Smith was placed on administrative leave and Thursday he showed up at the station to turn himself in.

Laws against misconduct. Federal laws addressing police misconduct include criminal and civil statutes to cover officers’ action in state, county and local jurisdictions including prisons and jails, addressing illegal willful actions undertaken while using the power vested in them by a governmental agency.  The phrase that defines this power is “under color of law.” It is a crime to deprive another person of their protected rights under United States Constitution (18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242), and criminal and civil legal action can be initiated to remedy the injustice with the possibility of fines and/or prison time. The laws are to protect all people in the United States whether they are citizens or not.  In the Florida Statutes, Chapter 776.05 outlines when an officer is justified in the use of any force.

Database would be helpful. A national database has not yet been created to track and determine how widespread the problem  of sexual harassment is in law enforcement, however the Associated Press investigated these types of charges at police departments in the United States to glean a formal data set to support its claims.  They found that when officers are under investigation or found guilty of sexual harassment charges, they are often de-certified in that location.  Unfortunately, not all states have this process, nor do they keep records where data can be easily accessed so a police officer may become decertified in one state and move on to another department in another state without the new employer’s awareness of past negative interactions on the job. Florida is a state that keeps records and found that 2,125 officers were decertified between 2009-2014, and 162 were related to sexual misconduct on the job.  Florida is automatically notified if an officer is arrested but local departments must further report the sexual misconduct of those activities that are below the standards of “moral character” so that it can be categorized for future evaluation at multi-departmental levels.

Sexual harassment/misconduct is a type of police brutality and is an illegal and actionable offense punishable by state and federal laws. Contact a lawyer if you believe you have been a victim of sexual misconduct by a police officer.  It is second to the most widespread police brutality offense of excessive force.  Common acts of police brutality include:

  • Sexual Harassment/Misconduct – unwelcome sexual advances, requests or demands for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature by law enforcement in the course of their job.
  • Excessive Force – utilizing more physical force than necessary to subdue a criminal causing bodily harm or death.
  • False Arrest and Wrongful Imprisonment – unlawful restraint of a person’s freedom of movement by another acting in perceived accordance with the law.
  • Wrongful Search and Seizure Activity – protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures” notwithstanding probable cause enabling a search warrant.
  • Racial and Gender Discrimination – bias-based policing is the intentional practice by an individual law enforcement officer who incorporates prejudicial judgments based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, religious beliefs, or age that are inappropriately applied in the performance of his/her duties.

If you or someone you know has been victimized by a police officer through sexual harassment or sexual misconduct,  legal counsel is available for consultation to go over your legal options. Damages may include hospital/medical expenses; past and future permanent disability payments; emotional distress including depression and anxiety; loss of enjoyment of life; physical pain and suffering; and loss of love and companionship due to a death or serious injury caused by police brutality through sexual harassment or misconduct.

Sources:

http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2018/776.05

https://www.justice.gov/crt/addressing-police-misconduct-laws-enforced-department-justice

https://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am4.html