The Department of Justice has been investigating the Baltimore Police Department after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a black man who sustained fatal injuries at the hands of police while in custody in a police van. Not only did they find racial bias and discrimination within the Baltimore Police Department, but the report released August 10 has unearthed a disturbing gender bias, and an unwillingness to prosecute rape cases, according to the Washington Post. One email discovered in the investigation included a prosecutor referring to an alleged rape victim in derogatory sexual terms in the written exchange to an officer.
“I am not excited about charging it. This victim seems like a conniving little wh*re.”
Rape cases have been in the news a lot lately with the notorious Stanford rape case and light sentencing of Brock Turner, and just this last week, University of Colorado student Austin James Wilkerson, who raped an unconscious freshman, was given no prison time whatsoever. Those cases have been stirring up a lot of public outrage, but now reports of police officers and prosecutors — the very people who are supposed to be fighting for the victims — not only disregarding rape claims, but referring to victims as “wh*res,” will likely fan the flames even higher.
And how did the officer respond to the prosecutor’s derogatory comments about the alleged rape victim? “LMAO,” replied the unnamed officer. “I feel the same.”
The Baltimore Police Department is already struggling with the huge problem over the death of Gray in custody, and the 167-page report does not paint a picture of a police department interested in serving the public in any kind of fair or unbiased manner. In fact, the report opened up a whole can of worms, including unconstitutional searches, unconstitutional arrests, unreasonable force with juveniles and with those with mental disabilities, and a disproportionate number of arrests of African-Americans, to no one’s surprise.
While all of that is certainly disturbing enough, the investigation revealed that the Baltimore Police Department only made arrests in 17 percent of sexual assault cases in 2015. Given the email with the derogatory remarks, this probably isn’t as surprising as it should be, but Mother Jones outlined the specific areas in which the BPD failed to ensure thorough investigations into sexual assault claims. The report found that officers regularly disregard reports from women working in the sex trade, and that in 2010, the Baltimore Police Department had the highest percentage in the nation of sexual assault reports disregarded as “unfounded” at 30 percent, or roughly one-third of rape cases. Their solution? Leave those “unfounded” rape cases open so the numbers dropped down to a rate that wasn’t five times higher than the national average.
The BPD won’t test a rape kit unless a detective specifically requests it, and those requests run at about 15 percent of all reported rapes and sexual assault. While that may be a passive form of letting rapists go free, the DOJ report also found that officers actively engage in victim blaming to reduce the conviction rate.
“Officers and detectives in BPD’s Sex Offense Unit often question victims in a manner that puts the blame for the sexual assault on the victim’s shoulders — for example, with questions suggesting that victims should feel personally responsible for the potential consequences of a criminal report on a suspect, or for having engaged in behavior that invited the assault. In their interviews of women reporting sexual assault, for example, BPD detectives ask questions such as ‘Why are you messing that guy’s life up?’ BPD officers and detectives also ask questions suggesting that they discredit the reports of victims who delayed in reporting the assault to the police.”
Even when accusers were able to identify the men that allegedly sexually assaulted them, the Baltimore Police Department often did not follow through and even speak with the accused, much less pursue the case.
[Image via AP Stock Images]