[I sent a copy of this letter to the governor and my state legislators.]
I was appalled to read this story about two NYPD officers who arrested a teenager for alleged drug possession, then drove to an isolated location and raped her. According to media reporting on the case, the police officers admit that sexual acts occurred (and DNA evidence confirms it), but they told investigators that the sex was “consensual”.
Although these rapist officers may still be charged and convicted, it’s outrageous that they’re permitted to offer this defense at all. It’s ludicrous to imagine that a teenage girl could “consent” to sex with two police officers who had just arrested her, who had total power over her physical safety and total discretion over whether or not she’d face criminal charges.
New York state law already says that sex cannot be consensual if it’s between a prisoner and a prison guard, or a hospital patient and a hospital employee overseeing their care. This is as it should be, since the power imbalance in those situations makes it impossible for there to be genuinely free and voluntary consent. You can’t be presumed to have said “yes” of your own free will when the person asking for sex has such vast power to punish you for saying no.
However, the law neglects to state that consent also can’t exist between police officers and a person who’s been arrested and is in their custody. This is an obvious oversight that should be fixed immediately. It’s a huge loophole that gives rapists and sexual predators a sense of impunity, and if they get away with it this time, we can be sure that there will be more stories like this one.
I’m calling on you to pass legislation to close this loophole. I’m also urging you to make sure that the NYPD and the Brooklyn district attorney’s office conduct a thorough and impartial investigation and recommend an appropriate punishment for the officers who are a disgrace to law enforcement.