Ken White over at PopeHat — I’ve been waiting for this post for a while now — asks the question, “What Is The Quantum of Proof Necessary for Police to Rape and Torture you in New Mexico?”
Turns out the answer is, “There basically isn’t one.” If New Mexico police want to rape and torture you, it’s a done deal.
Ken’s question, though, suffers from the fact that it implies rape and torture by cops is limited to New Mexico.
In a story ironically posted on 9/11/2013, we learn that in Chicago,
…120 men were tortured by Burge and other detectives during a period between 1973 and 1991.
So far as I know, no cops were ever punished for this, although one was “dismissed” from the department in 1993 — two years after the time period just noted. No criminal charges were ever filed against him, but he eventually was convicted for lying during the civil trials and given 4 1/2 years in prison. At least two men mentioned in the story did twenty-one years after being convicted because of these cops.
In New York in 1997, we had Abner Louima. The cops did not get away with the rape and torture, but that’s actually somewhat rare — and they certainly believed they were going to get away with it that time. More recently in New York, officers raped a fashion executive after she became drunk and was taken home by the officers.
Recently, in California, a transgender woman said she was raped by an officer who, after groping her, asked if she was “a nasty she-male.” The officer has been placed on leave, but not arrested, while DNA results are pending. Also in California (Sacramento), another alleged rapist-officer was caught after the son of an elderly stroke victim who had trouble communicating put up a video camera, whereafter her rapist returned for a third go at her. Again in California, two LAPD cops apparently got their rocks off raping female informants and sex workers over a period of years.
In Milwaukee, in a story which endorses my oft-proclaimed admonition that people should never call the cops for help, a young woman called 911 after someone threw a brick through her window. One of the responding officers raped her. The District Attorney allegedly believed the woman, but did not believe the evidence would be strong enough to convict; the officer is still on the job. [UPDATE: An astute reader noted I was wrong on this. The cop was later fired. See the comments below. The woman herself? Still raped.]
This isn’t unusual: police who rape are not often punished until they become so brazen, the fact that they rape can no longer be hidden behind the “thin” blue line that normally functions as a perfect blockade to this disgusting truth. If the line fails, police who rape are sometimes punished. Just ask former Houston police officer Adan Jimenez Carranza, sentenced to 10 years for raping a woman in his custody.
According to the National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, the United States outdoes India when it comes to custodial rapes of women by law enforcement personnel. It can be difficult for the women to prove the rapes, because often the officers’ threats are enough to overcome the women’s refusal to engage in sex acts. In other words, it can sometimes look consensual, even if there is evidence of sex. (This is also the claim of the Sacramento officer already mentioned above, accused of raping the elderly stroke victim.)
Who knows? Maybe it’s true. After all, cops don’t always use force to commit rape. (The stat rape thing is just too common: even Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer has been accused of sleeping with underage girls, although to my understanding those claims did not result in charges, and were never proven.)
By the way, the New Mexico police torture-and-rape stories? Police in New Mexico don’t just rape ordinary citizens: they even go after their own. And when they aren’t actually raping, it’s sometimes because they’re busy arresting women for reporting rapes.
“Well, okay,” you’re thinking. “Sad as it is, I get the rape thing. That’s part of an unfortunately common impulse that many men — not just police officers — have problems resisting.” (I’m not sure how that makes it better, but I’ve heard the “it’s not just police officers” argument.)
What about torture? Unless you count beatings — and there are good arguments for doing so, but I won’t here — it’s a bit rarer than rape. Still…
- Kern County, September, 2013
- Long Island, New York, December 2012
- Maine Correctional Center, June 20121
- Orange County, California, February 2012
- Pennsylvania, 2011
- Denver, April, 20102
- Campbell County, Tennessee, 2004
Hell, San Diego police are apparently so good at it that they train Mexican police officers on torture techniques.
If you want to include police torturing dogs, by the way, here’s a really long list.
No, sadly, very sadly, too sadly, the problem is not limited to New Mexico. It’s just another symptom of the Panopticon.
Quantum of proof? It’s nothing. Just words. And with each new court case that guts our Constitution, “quantum of proof” has become shorthand for what is only a series of formulaic excuses the police pull out of their asses, usually only after they get caught shoving things up ours.
- This story contains references to at least five other people tortured to death while in custody in different parts of the United States. It is, perhaps, “unfair” to include this in the list, since it is American prison torture, rather than torture by regular police officers. And prison torture — that is, torture by correctional officers — has its own long and sordid, and ongoing history. [↩]
- This one gets close to being about a beating, but the word “torture” was used to describe the incident, and it did also involve bending back fingers. [↩]