Friday, August 12, 2016

Another Side of Police Bias in Baltimore: How Officers Treat Women

The following excerpts are taken from the NY Times article "Another Side of Police Bias in Baltimore: How Officers Treat Women" (August 11, 2016)



>> WASHINGTON — For the past two years, ever since 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer, America has been enmeshed in a wrenching discussion about how the police treat young black men.

But this week’s blistering report from the Justice Department on police bias in Baltimore also exposed a different, though related, concern: how the police in that majority-black city treat women, especially victims of sexual assault.

In six pages of the 163-page report documenting how Baltimore police officers have systematically violated the rights of African-Americans, the Justice Department also painted a picture of a police culture deeply dismissive of sexual assault victims and hostile toward prostitutes and transgender people. It branded the Baltimore Police Department’s response to sexual assault cases “grossly inadequate.”

Baltimore officers sometimes humiliated women who tried to report sexual assault, often failed to gather basic evidence, and disregarded some complaints filed by prostitutes. Some officers blamed victims or discouraged them from identifying their assailants ...

And the culture seemed to extend to prosecutors, investigators found. In one email exchange, a prosecutor referred to a woman who had reported a sexual assault as a “conniving little whore.” ...

[...] Other “pattern or practice” investigations of police departments — including in New Orleans; Puerto Rico; and Missoula, Mont. — have also identified gender bias...

[...] But experts and advocates agree that the problem is especially complex, and perhaps more acute, in Baltimore because so many women there are poor and black.

[...] The Baltimore police commissioner, Kevin Davis, who vowed Wednesday to turn his department into “a model for the rest of the nation,” did not dispute the Justice Department’s findings...

[...] African-Americans make up 63 percent of the population in Baltimore, and the city has been in the thick of its own painful conversation about race and policing since the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who sustained a fatal spinal injury in police custody...

[...] Civil and women’s rights advocates in Baltimore have been saying for years that the police do an inadequate job of investigating rape and sexual assault cases. In 2010, The Baltimore Sun reported that in the previous four years, the police had routinely failed to solve rape cases; in reviewing F.B.I. data, the newspaper found that the percentage of rape cases dismissed as false or baseless was higher in Baltimore than in any other city in the country.

[...] The Police Department’s lackluster investigation of rapes was of particular concern, the report said...

[...] Officers failed to perform basic detective work, the report said.

One woman reported a rape by a taxi driver, but the department never tried to test the suspect’s DNA. Another woman reported a sexual assault by an unlicensed cabdriver, and although a detective identified a suspect, the police never tried to contact him ...

“We have many, many women who will never go to the police about a rape ever again because of the way they’ve been treated,” said Jacqueline Robarge, the director and founder of Power Inside ...

Ms. Robarge added that she had worked with women who had been the victims of sexual misconduct by officers themselves. She recalled a 24-year-old prostitute who said a police officer had ordered her into his car and coerced her to have sex.

The woman, fearing retaliation, did not talk to investigators, Ms. Robarge said. But Justice Department investigators cited similar instances in their report.

“We heard complaints from the community that some officers target members of a vulnerable population — people involved in the sex trade — to coerce sexual favors from them in exchange for avoiding arrest, or for cash or narcotics,” the investigators wrote.

The report also described deep insensitivity on the part of some Baltimore officers toward transgender people, which reflected “underlying unlawful gender bias.” One transgender woman, for instance, said that an officer who was ordered to search her had protested in disgust, complaining to a colleague, “I am not searching that.” ...  <<

(source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/12/us/baltimore-police-sexual-assault-gender-bias.html)

No comments: