The job is to protect and serve. While it’s no longer news that some law enforcement officers abuse the power that comes with the badge, the numbers revealed in a new Associated Press report are shocking: a thousand officers lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sexual assault, possession of child pornography and propositioning citizens. In his investigation, reporter Matt Sedensky found that the reported rate is much lower than what’s actually happening.
The investigation started with a single case in Oklahoma of an officer with assaults against 13 women, which spurred Sedensky to investigate whether these kinds of egregious crimes were happening elsewhere.
“There’s really no reliable data on police misconduct, so we had to go state to state trying to piece this together,” Sedensky says.
Texas gave information on the decertifications on 619 officers, 79 for sex-related misconduct, from 2009 to 2014. These numbers may not reflect all the cases because there isn’t complete information on what specific charges were brought against an officer in an given arrest.
“It’s an imperfect lens from which to view this issue but it’s pretty revealing the number of cases that we found,” he says.
Sedensky says it’s similar to clergy abuse in the Catholic Church because of the power dynamic involved in a police stop.
“It’s someone with a tremendous amount of public trust, a tremendous amount of autonomy, who’s being accused of this heinous crime, often against a vulnerable individual,” he says. “With all that, you just see this outsize opportunity for abuse.”
Hear the full interview in the audio player above.