Kern County, California has been the source of an in-depth investigation into its police by Guardian reporters Oliver Laughland and Jon Swaine. The county is mired in police corruption and brutality—it possesses the “highest per capita rate of officer-involved deaths” in the entire U.S.
Digging deeper into their report, Laughland and Swaine recently uncovered multiple instances of police sexual assault and misconduct; there have been eight cases of officers offering bribes for this, but one stands out as particularly disgusting and egregious.
A 21-year-old woman anonymously referred to as Jane Doe was allegedly sexually assaulted by Kern County deputy Gabriel Lopez in 2013. Lopez and another deputy came in to her apartment to check on her boyfriend, who was on probation. Lopez then put Doe in handcuffs, patted her down, grabbed her crotch and groped her, after which he removed the handcuffs and left.
Only minutes later, he came back to the apartment, alone, and did something horrifying:
“He told Doe he needed to perform a cavity search on her to check once more for drugs. He took her back to the bedroom and instructed her to take off all her clothes. He touched her all over her naked body as she bent over with her hands against the bed. She sobbed throughout. She begged him to stop, but he refused. And then he left.”
Doe filed a report with the sheriff’s department, which offered her $7,500 to prevent her from suing the department. Doe did not accept, but the Guardian’s investigation shows other women, also sexually assaulted by officers, have accepted, allowing the county to dismiss any responsibility toward the issue.
Lopez was convicted after investigation by the Kern County’s police department, but these instances of bribery do not bode well for its department.
Over 1,000 officers in the U.S. have lost their badges for various sex-related crimes in the past six years, but stories like this demonstrate there are most likely many unreported or unprosecuted cases against officers who do not deserve their role as public sentinels of safety.
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