Policing the Predators


Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Admittedly I have long since had the scales fall from my eyes regarding the integrity of officers, but I just don’t get how people remain so enamored of the badge that they can be free of doubt regarding any individual officers credibility.

    Good on KS for making this explicit.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

      The thing that is difficult for me to understand is that even when the officers don’t deny the sex, they still give them a pass.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Chris Rock’s new comedy special on Netflix goes for a riff on “a few bad apples”.

    What would other professions look like? Would United explain that, hey, *MOST* of their pilots prefer to land safely?Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      Mostly I noticed the awkward silences in his new special… he’s not tracking with his audience demographic very well.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        It also seemed a much more… intimate… venue than I’ve seen him perform at in the past.

        That said, his divorce probably messed him up. The fact that, by his admission, it was all his own damn fault makes it much more difficult to establish the trust and rapport needed to make something tragic into something funny rather than cringy.

        But the thing about the cops was funny.

        (Hey, another problem is that United Pilots don’t all start talking about how difficult it is to fly planes when a pilot habitually crashes planes to the point where they have to pass laws saying “don’t deliberately crash planes”.)Report

  3. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    This seems like one of those situations like patient/therapist, student/teacher, or subordinate/supervisor where individualized consent is almost beside the point. Sure, you can easily imagine scenarios where the sex is consensual, but it’s so difficult to reliably make that determination in any particular case that it’s much better for all concerned parties to just make a blanket rule.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

      True. People are people, and we cannot rely on them to not abuse their position of power, nor can we rely upon juries to understand dynamic, which makes laws like this necessary.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      I agree, but I also think that it is much worse in these particular kinds of cases involving cops. Supervisors, teachers and maybe even therapists can find a way to have an ethical relationship with subordinates, students and patients; but the first thing that has to happen for the intimate relationship to begin is for the official relationship to end. Most companies have a policy where people can acknowledge their mutual attraction, report their relationship to HR and the company makes sure that supervisor is no longer in the reporting line of the other employee.

      I know a woman who married her high school English teacher. I believe that they are still married twenty-odd years later. The relationship started after she graduated. I also know a guy (not well) who is (or was?) a cop and met his wife while on duty. Her father passed away in their home and he was the first officer to respond to the 911 call. I assume that whenever either of them decided to act on their attraction, it was after the situation that brought them into contact with each other.

      What makes these other cop cases so terrible is that they explicitly maintain the role of police officer through the interaction. And I think that it is emblematic of a larger problem with the role that cops have come to play: that of arbitrary and largely unaccountable authority figure. Yes, cops are accountable to their senior management, who are in turn accountable to their political bosses, but, if you are a member of one of the many marginalized groups that come into contact with the police on a regular basis, they aren’t accountable to anybody that you know.Report

  4. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    This signifies the continued erosion of common sense in this country. Because an officer does not explicitly break the law, no law is broken. When you need to pass laws so detailed to regulate behavior that common sense says is taboo, then where do you stop?Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      @slade-the-leveller I’m not sure it’s continued erosion. I mean, officers were doing this despite its taboo nature as far back as at least the 19th century to my certain knowledge. I assume it goes back to at least the 10th….

      Things are becoming more explicitly Not Okay, but they aren’t things that weren’t happening just because they were taboo.Report

      • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

        I think the erosion lies in the fact that an explicit law needs to be written and passed. Surely there’s something on the books already that would have forbidden such conduct.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          (mumble mumble police unions mumble)Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          @slade-the-leveller It would’ve except it never has actually stopped it from happening. From my perspective it’s something that has never been effectively stopped, and the new law represents a new attempt at actually stopping it. Perhaps I am just more of a long-term pessimist than most.Report

          • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

            No law is going to stop a determined crook, even (especially) one wearing a badge. I share your long-term pessimism.Report

            • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

              They may not stop crooks bent on committing a crime, but they might stop the opportunistic predators like the ones I mentioned, who take advantage of a situation. They may not have done it if they’d known it was illegal. They knew it wasn’t, hence their immediate confessions.Report

              • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

                Perhaps what’s needed more than laws is a code of ethics, violation of which would result in dismissal. Something akin to disbarment.Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

                They were both forced to resign from the State Police for violating policy. One retired from law enforcement altogether, but the other just moved on to a different department. Civil service protections insulated them from losing their law enforcement certification.Report

              • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

                Ugh, that’s so disheartening. How is it that it’s almost impossible to prevent bad actors from staying in the field?Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

                I think somebody may have mumbled something about one possible answer a bit upthread….Report

              • *shouts @jaybird previous mumbling* Police Unions. Take to heart the term “policing your own” would be a good start.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter says:

              No law is going to stop a determined crook, even (especially) one wearing a badge. I share your long-term pessimism.

              I don’t.

              We are rapidly headed for a society where all interactions (especially with the police) are recorded by both sides. That will put a very different spin on “he said she said”.Report

        • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

          Well, yes, coercion. Using intimidation, the presence of a weapon, the threat of arrest.., under common law these things can support a rape charge. The problem is the reluctance of prosecutors or jurors to see that, absent overt violence.Report

          • Avatar Blomster says:

            For all its problems, South Africa doesn’t have trial by jury. I have been happy about this many times for exactly this type of scenario.Report

        • Avatar J_A says:


          Following on @maribou’s comment, I think it is the opposite. We have been slowly but steadily moving towards -for lack of a better word I can think of now- a more moral world.

          We are moving from “people have hierarchies, and higher rank people have POWER over lower ranked people” towards “people are more or less equal and all power is just circumstantial and temporary”.

          One important step in this process is to codify limits to power. KS law, as silly at it seems, is not conceptually different that the Constitutional prohibition against takings without compensation. Making explicit new limitations to what, for centuries, was understood to be privileges of Power.Report

          • Avatar J_A says:

            In the same vein, we are also moving from a world where violence was the standard, to a world where violence is formally shunned.

            The XVII Century was shocked by the novelty of the prohibition of duels. Up to then, dueling was almost a duty to safeguard your honor. The idea that nobles were forbidden to duel (with what were, for them, very strict penalties) was revolutionary in itself.

            A couple of centuries later, we have also lost the taste for war. A hundred and fifty years ago, most people rejoiced at the news of war. No one does now. That, in our history, is a very recent novelty.Report

          • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

            I would think trying to codify a punishment for every imaginable instance of bad behavior points to exactly the opposite of a more moral world. Say you can find a legal loophole for something, perhaps a uniformed and armed police officer driving a woman in distress to a dark alley and having sex with her. I would posit that a reasonable person would see that as immoral, while simultaneously being legal. Some things are just known to be wrong, and if we have to point that out then we’ve lost our bearings.Report

  5. Avatar Reformed Republican says:

    In a perfect world, all officers of the law would be worthy of the respect their positions command.

    In a perfect world, we would not need officers of the law.Report