Who’s Watching the Detectives?


Written by Deborah Jacobs

Since President Obama took office, the Department of Justice has emerged as a formidable force in holding police accountable. The Department of Justice has initiated 18 investigations into police activities since 2009, including in New Orleans; Seattle; Newark, N.J.; Portland, Ore.; and, of course, in Sanford, Fla., after the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (Full disclosure: The investigation of the Newark Police Department was triggered by a petition from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, of which I am executive director.)

This increased oversight is good for the general public, but it’s especially good news for women. Like most injustices, police misconduct disproportionately affects women. And when accountability measures fall short, our vulnerability only increases.

Women too often find themselves at the mercy of police agencies that neglect women’s safety, whether by ignoring women’s allegations of abuse by an officer or making light of crimes reported by women. The dramatic underrepresentation of women in law enforcement (they make up only about 12 percent of local police officers), only exacerbates these problems.

An examination of discipline records against officers reveals just how much women bear the brunt of police misconduct. To stop unfit officers from moving from one department to another, most states can decertify officers who engage in misconduct, curbing mistreatment of women. Studies of decertification both in Florida between 1976 and 1983 and in Missouri in 1999 found that sexual abuse of women was the most frequent reason for decertification in cases involving public, official misconduct. The reluctance of sexual assault victims to report the crimes committed against them makes it even more imperative for states to take officers who engage in misconduct–often repeatedly–off of the streets.

The DOJ’s latest investigation, initiated last week in Missoula, Mont., highlights the desperate need for its heightened focus on police practices. Allegations suggest that the Missoula police failed to investigate reports of sexual assaults against women “because of their gender or in a manner that has a disparate impact on women.” In response, the DOJ has opened a review into 80 reports of rape in Missoula over the last three years.

Investigations into overall police misconduct also shed light on the indignities women regularly suffer. After investigating the New Orleans police, the DOJ reported in 2011 that the department’s culture not only dismisses complaints of violence against women, but encourages officers to disregard those complaints. The DOJ goes further: “We find that in situations where the Department pursues sexual assault complaints, the investigations are seriously deficient, marked by poor victim interviewing skills, missing or inadequate documentation, and minimal efforts to contact witnesses or interrogate suspects.”

The departments singled out by the DOJ, such as New Orleans, undoubtedly deserve the attention. The police handling of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida rightly raised red flags. Yet the problems with policing in America won’t end with these investigations. If anything, these select departments, many among the country’s largest, represent a microcosm. Every state suffers to some degree from a lack of the training, concern and accountability required to protect women. The DOJ’s decision to shine a light on police misconduct puts all police departments on notice. And it provides a beacon for women in search of security.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.


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Fiona T.
Past Member 5 years ago

Monitoring is important

Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago

This article states that most of crime reported should be tilted in favour of women. The characters of the cops varies from the offender. These cops are normally egoistic jimbos that refuse to help, cut short investigations for formalities and normally give late judgement to pursue personal motives such as promotions and popularism.
Hope that these cops are true to their duties. Thx.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

Never trust a cop. No matter what country or circumstances or gender.. They are ALL corrupt!

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

- - - a judge, whenever that would be.
Once arrested, I would be handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol car, driven to a jail where they would force me to strip, show off the inside of my vagina, my anus, under my tongue and under my breasts. I would then be scrubbed with a caustic, anti-lice soap filled with chemicals. I suppose if I were to refuse, I would be then physically forced, not unlike being raped.

Am I scared? I am absolutely terrified.

And this is why Obama won't be getting my vote again.

Not a day goes by anymore that I don't read a story about someone who is either innocent or guilty of a trumped up charge being incarcerated in this way.
Can't believe CARE2 didn't run the story of the guy in MN who was imprisoned and tortured just because he didn't finish the siding on his house!

Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W5 years ago

Sorry, but I'm not buying that the DOJ or Obama are on the side of the people. I happen to believe the Salon.com article that stated that they urged to Supreme Court to find in favor of the state in Lee vs. County of Burlington on Apr. 2nd.
It was a gift to the mayors around the country that if protesters could be treated in such a harsh fashion, perhaps they'd think twice before protesting in public.
But this judgement goes far beyond that because the man who was subjected to the harsh treatment was an innocent man, not guilty of any crime whatsoever.
But it was ruled he couldn't sue. He was stripped, scrubbed, had his body cavities investigated and was incarcerated for weeks. Then let go without so much as an apology.

Then it was decided he could not sue over this travesty of justice because it's just the police doing their jobs.

IT IS A TRAVESTY!! And Obama has lost my support because of it!
We are ALL in danger of the authorities now. Doubt it? That's just because no one you know yet has been picked up - - - yet.
I have a bad debt (one I declare not to owe) that's been hanging over me for 6 yrs. now. I recently found out that the collection pigs can take me to court and never have to notify me. Once that's done, the judge can rule contempt of court for my not being there and a warrant can be issued nationwide.
After that, I can be arrested in my own home, KIDNAPPED without a word to my family, and taken to prison until such time as I may be heard by a

Arild Warud

Yet still we see Policemen misbehave daily.................

Wesley Struebing
Wesley S5 years ago

Sandy E. We *already* have "national police. US Marshals for one set, and of course the FBI being the most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) is another set. Also the group known as BATF(E) Is this a good thing? I think that the jury is out on that question - but I was just pointing out that it/they already exist.

Or were you saying we need to do away with them?

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson5 years ago

Do NOT need national police!

John Mansky
John Mansky5 years ago

We are still coming closer and closer,to a total Police State!..

Jeffrey H.
Jeffrey H.5 years ago


Independent civilian boards and the federal "courts" need to oversee corrupt police departments -- self-policing never works.