New York, NY — It has been over five months since then 18-year-old Anna Chambers accused two on-duty NYPD officers of raping her in the back of a police van on the night of September 15th, 2017. As emphatically as she claims she was raped and did not consent to having sex with two police officers, she asserts not only have the police continued to attempt to intimidate her but the very justice system she looked to for help was set up to help the alleged rapists — until now.
On Thursday, New York lawmakers passed a bill banning cops from having sex with people they arrest. No, this is not an April Fools joke. Up until this week, cops in New York could have sex with people in custody, so long as they claimed it was consensual.
The law cops were using to protect themselves from Anna’s testimony happens to exist in 34 other states as well where police officers can claim sex with someone they have taken into custody was consensual. Buzzfeed News described the previous situation in New York:
It was one of 35 states where armed law enforcement officers can evade sexual assault charges by claiming that such an encounter — from groping to intercourse — was consensual.
All of this means if the jury believes the police officers’ testimony over Anna’s, they were going to walk free, probably get their jobs back, and continue to hide behind their badge when they have sex while on duty.
However, thanks to the new bill, it is no longer legal for cops to have sex with people they arrest. The fact that this was legal at all speaks to the nature of the sadistic above the law attitudes of police officers.
While the same standard passed in this bill already existed in jails and police stations, before its passage, police could rape someone in their custody, claim it was consensual and then get off with a slap on the wrist misconduct charge instead of felony rape.
As the NY Daily News reports, Bill S7708, which was sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza, explicitly states that anyone under arrest or in detention is incapable of giving consent.
How a law exists in so many states in the first place remains a mystery. When armed individuals chain a person’s hands and kidnap them, there is no reasonable manner in which that person could consent to having sex.
“This horrific rape outraged our community, and from day one I have made it clear I would do whatever it took to advocate for common sense consent laws to make sure that this could never happen again,” New York City Council member Mark Treyger, who represents the district in Brooklyn where the alleged rape of Anna took place, said. “Grateful to all the advocates that joined this fight.”
It is now time to go after the 34 other states who still have laws on the books allowing police officers to arrest people and then have sex with them. Sadly, this push to stop cops from legally raping their detainees is often met with backlash as laws attempting to restrict police behavior are notoriously unpopular — especially with police unions.
As Buzzfeed reports, in a sample of 158 police officers who’ve been charged with sexual assault, sexual battery, or unlawful sexual contact with somebody under their control, at least 26 have been acquitted or had charges dropped based on the consent defense, according to a Buzzfeed review of a Buffalo News database of more than 700 law enforcement officers accused of sexual misconduct.
These numbers are indeed startling.
“Cultural shifts happen, but what we need to see is a policy shift,” said Terra Burns, an advocate in Alaska who has worked to expand police sexual assault laws. “There’s a long entrenched history of institutionalized rape culture that has to change.”
Indeed, one need only browse through our archives to see the brutal reality that is police sexual misconduct.