Jane Doe was 27 in March 2013 when she alleges she was groped by an LAPD officer in the course of an arrest, and then allowed to fall from a moving vehicle, incurring serious injuries that required multiple surgeries and extensive hospitalization. She’s suing the LAPD for compensation in her case, cracking open a horrific story of police brutality and violence that’s exposing the need for close watching of an already controversial police department.
Her story began, according to herself and witnesses, on March 17, 2013, when she was waiting for a designated driver in Koreatown with some friends. Two police officers stopped to see if she needed any help, and then stated that they would take Doe to a police station for her own safety given her state of intoxication. After handcuffing her and placing her in the backseat of the car, Doe says, one of the officers sat with her, groped at her thighs, and attempted to pull her closer.
Sexual assault in the back of a cop car is bad enough, but what happened next is so shocking, it almost beggars belief. As the car passed through a stoplight, Jane Doe tumbled out of the backseat and into the street. With her arms restrained, she couldn’t reach up to protect her head, and her jaw was broken by the fall. Several of her teeth were shattered, and she was rushed to the hospital with a severe head injury.
The officers claim she fell out of the vehicle when it stopped at a stoplight and then accelerated, but another video, provided by Doe’s attorney, shows a different story, of her body tumbling from a moving car as it proceeded through a green light. Security cameras from the area where she fell show that her dress was pulled down around her waist when she came to rest in the street, strongly suggesting that she had been partially undressed in the police car, as she testified in a deposition filed late in December.
In a suit against the officers involved, along with the LAPD, Doe claims that they failed to engage back door locks, thus engaging in negligence that contributed to her accident. She’s seeking justice both for her sexual assault, and for the accident itself, which resulted in time lost from school, high medical expenses, and other complications she’ll be living with for life, including the aftermath of her head injury. She’s needed dental and cosmetic surgeries, and she experiences chronic headaches.
This is not the first time LAPD officers have been accused of sexual assault. An off-duty officer was arrested in Austin, Texas on suspicion of sexual assault in 2009, while last year two officers were accused of threatening women with jail if they didn’t “consent” to sex. Clearly, despite close oversight in the wake of the RAMPART scandal, the LAPD still has some housekeeping to do, especially in regards to the treatment of female suspects, persons of interest and members of the community.
Jane Doe may have been arrested with the intent of bringing her to a police department to sleep off her intoxication, but many other women actively seek out help from police officers when they’re intoxicated and worried about their safety. The thought that those same police might actually be the safety threat is chilling, and allowing sexual assault to occur in the ranks of the LAPD (and other police departments) tells women that police officers are not safe, which is a dangerous precedent to set.
Photo credit: John Liu.