Being stalked or assaulted by anyone is a terrifying experience; being stalked or assaulted by a cop must be even more terrifying. Officers have ready access to many information, tracking technologies, and guns, to name a few things. Where do you turn for help when the people who are supposed to protect you are the ones who are putting you in danger?
Former federal Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said at the sentencing of one officer, “There can be no greater breach of trust or abuse of authority than a police officer using the power of his badge to sexually assault the same persons he has pledged to protect. Today’s guilty plea should serve as a reminder that no one, especially those who have taken an oath to uphold the law, is above the law.”
How often does anything like this happen?
It’s difficult to say, but even a cursory Google News search uncovers many reports of rogue cops stalking and intimidating suspects. A cop in New Jersey was charged with stalking an ex-girlfriend in August of previous year. He tormented and threatened her on social media and on a prepaid anonymous cell phone. The victim, unaware that it was him, requested his assistance in identifying her stalker; he then used a law enforcement investigation database to “assist” her in solving the case while harassing her.
A Colorado police officer was fired in September after he used the department’s resources to find out where a lady lived and worked so he could regularly phone her and ask her out. Another officer in Pennsylvania and police chief in Utah was charged with stalking in October. And these are only the people that have been apprehended.
Jessica Lussenhop reported for City Pages in 2012 about an attractive woman who became a frequent target of spying and harassment by dozens of Minnesota police officers. 425 times, 104 police officers from 18 different agencies viewed her driving record (including her photo, address, phone number, and automobile information). Until she came forward and sought an internal investigation, she was besieged with texts, phone calls, and date offers.
Stalking has regularly been demonstrated to be a grossly under-reported crime in studies of stalker and stalking victims’ experiences. It’s a pervasive and personal experience, and many victims worry that they won’t be taken seriously or that they won’t have enough “evidence” to prove their case.
When officers are dealing with these types of complaints, it’s even more critical that they stay open-minded and encouraging throughout the process. “A hostile officer who makes it clear by his demeanor that domestic disputes are not his idea of real police work confirms a victim’s feelings of worthlessness and fears that nothing will be done to change her situation,” sociologists B. Joyce Stephens and Peter Sinden wrote in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence about stalking and abuse by partners and ex-partners.
In a recent edition of the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior, psychologists looked at the elements influencing a stalking victim’s decision on how and when to seek aid. According to a previous study, only 2% of stalker victims reported the incident to police authorities, while 70% confided in friends and family. Those who have been physically hurt or assaulted are more likely to seek help from sources than those who are terrified but have not been physically abused. When the stalker is someone they know, the victims seek support from friends and family, but when the stalker is someone they don’t know, they go to police enforcement.
But, again, what if the stalker is a law enforcement officer, stranger or not? According to the Columbus Dispatch, one of the victims of Bryan Lee, the out-of-control State Highway Patrol Trooper in Ohio, had a lawyer contact Lee’s higher-ups about the assault at the time. She said they didn’t believe her, and her protests were ignored. Only years later did the red lights in that standard dash-cam evaluation inspire an investigation into Lee’s strange behavior. “It’s almost bittersweet,” she told the Dispatch’s, Eric Lyttle. “Why didn’t they believe me four years ago?” she wondered. If I had acted earlier, none of this would have happened.”
People who believe they are being stalked by police officers or other people in positions of authority are not required to go to their local precincts for help, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, which has a specific Stalking Resource Center. Instead, they should seek assistance through the NCVC or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If you feel you are being stalked by police and fear for your safety, contact our team. We have extensive experience dealing with potentially criminal scenarios that involve the police.