A Michigan woman, who claims she was raped by former Covert Township police officer Erich Fritz, is now suing the former officer as well as the township. Fritz, acting in his duties as a Covert Township police officer, pulled over the car in which Melissa McMillan was a passenger in July of 2016. But instead of taking McMillan to jail, Fritz took her to a motel where he allegedly kidnapped and raped her.
The case went to trial in 2017 with McMillan highly dissatisfied with the slap on the wrist the former officer received. Fritz was originally charged with sexual assault and kidnapping. Fritz’ lawyers successfully plea bargained helping to get the officer out of the kidnapping and sexual assault charges. He ultimately pleaded “no contest” to “unlawful imprisonment.” Fritz maintained the sex between he and McMilan was consensual. The judge sentenced Fritz to a year in jail with one day of time served. At sentencing, McMilan addressed the court saying:
[Fritz] knew I was highly intoxicated yet he used that as a selfish opportunity...My life has been forever changed. Every aspect of my life has been affected. My children who struggled, my friends, family and loved ones who have watched me through a year of hell...Though the victim said she's grateful Fritz is off the police force, one year in jail is not long enough...I feel you did not get the full punishment that you deserved, but your friends, family, the public and most importantly you will always know what you did," she said to Fritz...You will never be a police officer again, and for that I’m grateful.
Van Buren County Circuit Judge Kathleen Brickley told Fritz:
You preyed upon and exploited a damaged woman, a woman who was entirely helpless due to excessive intoxication.
Fast-forward to 2018, Fritz is presumbably out of jail, but McMilan isn’t satisfied with the so-called justice she’s received. According to Michigan Live, on Friday she and her lawyers filed a civil rights lawsuit naming several defendants.
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Melissa McMillan filed the lawsuit against former Covert Township officer Erich Fritz, the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department as well as Covert Township and Van Buren County.
McMilan claims Fritz committed “unwanted sexual advances, harassment and assault" which she and her lawyers claim constitute a violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Civil Rights Act.
Covert Township and Van Buren County are accused by McMilan of failing to properly train personnel. But researchers say the phenomena of police officers sexually assaulting the public is more common than the public may realize. In a database compiled by The Buffalo News 700 allegations of sexual assault by police officers took place over a 10-year period. Those staff reporters gathering the statistics claim the numbers are likely much higher as no federal database actually tracks such cases.
The risk of being raped by a police officer are greater for female (and male) motorists. According to The Buffalo News:
Road cops are most likely to offend. About 72 percent were patrol deputies, troopers, officers, constables. Others were detectives, officers with rank, or federal agents, federal security workers, or parole or probation officers. About 3 percent held high-level posts: chiefs, deputy chiefs and sheriffs, such as the sheriff in Custer County, Okla., who forced female drug defendants into sex with him in exchange for better treatment. Some 28 percent were suspected of engaging with more than one person.
As TFTP has consistently reported, The Buffalo News also states the officers who commit sexual crimes while on duty, more often than not, never see one day behind bars. They write:
Many of those named faced only departmental charges and were fired or resigned. Some have been indicted and their cases are still playing out. But most officers in the data, 63 percent, were convicted of a crime after being accused of various acts of abuse, assault or misconduct.