When those who are clueless get behind a movement that cannot work in any functional capacity, it's always the purist of intentions residing at its base. This is exactly what is happening with the recent surge of social media discussions about the Blue Lives Matter Movement. Pure intentions, incapable of becoming reality.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
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If you are not familiar with Blue Lives Matter, it's pretty simple. Their supporters want legislation where those who are prosecuted and convicted of killing law enforcement officers would be sentenced under hate crime statutes. Most people know that police can be targets. There have been many criminals who have killed police when the cop hasn't been the primary target of their crime simply because they hate the police. There are also going to be some folks who take the stance that if you do not support Blue Lives, then you hate the police and want complete anarchy.
I have had both excellent, and not so excellent experiences with the police, so this isn't an attempt to damage law enforcement in any way. The reason why I say this movement cannot work is because the police are not held anywhere near as accountable for the crimes they commit as the average person. You can claim it's due to the nature of their job, that they are faced with life and death situations almost daily and have to make snap decisions—I get that. But there have been many crimes committed by police officers that cannot simply be explained away. Though racism has run amok in the world of the police and is the kernel for the Black Lives Matter movement, I wanted to focus on another criminal aspect that oftentimes goes unreported in the force—sexual assault. Racism may be prevalent, but sexual assaults by police officers are a heinous crime that impacts people of every color and every walk of life.
Americans' confidence in the police has fallen to its lowest levels. During 2020 it hit its lowest in the nearly 30 years Gallup has been tracking such data. A mere 48% of Americans said they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the police, down from 53% the previous year and an all-time high of 64% in 2004. Whether racially motivated or not, the police are not held to anywhere near the same accountability for ANY crimes. Whether through Supreme Court rulings or the systemic brotherhood that permeates every level of law enforcement, it is a system that has been impermeable since its inception. But when you look at the numbers for this century when it pertains to sexual assault, it is clear that there has not been a single crack in this fortress. It is utterly mind-boggling. Though I'm going to focus on the national numbers in a moment, there is one state that seems to have had an almost immediate relationship between cause and effect when it comes to this topic: Wyoming.
Wyoming is incredibly pro-police. Over the last several years, almost every time there has been a Black Lives Matter protest in the state, it has been met with a Blue Lives Matter protest across the street. While the constituents are out singing the praises of the "boys in blue," those same boys are using the relaxed laws regarding those accused of sexual assault to their benefit. Though for quite some time, Wyoming has had some of the most pro-suspect laws in America when it pertains to sexual assault; it wasn't until a stunning report by the Casper Star-Tribune in 2018, that these legal deficiencies were shown in glaring light. In February of that year, a 25-year old man was arrested for murder. Within 24 hours, his name, mugshot, and everything were available via news outlets. Yet in September of the same year, a man was charged with first-degree sexual assault for allegedly pinning down a teenage girl and molesting her, it took nearly six months before the public knew of the crime and the person who was suspected of committing it. Under Wyoming law, a person who is charged with a sex crime has extra protection to keep his or her identity concealed until their case reaches district court, where felony cases are heard. The statute prohibits public employees—law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, court staff, and others—from naming or releasing information that could identify a victim of a sex crime or the alleged perpetrator until that case reaches district court. Those who willingly name victims or defendants in sexual assault cases can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. In theory, this should mean the press will get the information to the public within a couple of weeks of the arrest. This is not at all how it has gone in practice with some suspects information not reaching the public for six months or longer. It goes as no surprise that during this century, sexual misconduct in Wyoming police precincts has run rampant.
The example that was the most brazen happened with the Jackson Hole Police Department during 2019 when a former Jackson officer—choosing to remain nameless—said she left the department before her two-year employment commitment was fulfilled because of sexual harassment she endured from not only her colleagues but also her direct supervisor. “The environment enabled completely inappropriate behaviors,” the officer wrote in April 2019 in her response to the town of Jackson’s summons against her for breaking her contract. “I could not be there another day.” A prime example of this culture was when Lt. Roger Schultz posted on the PD's official Facebook page about how officers were investigating an alleged statutory rape but might need coffee and doughnuts to help them figure out if a crime was committed AT ALL. New Chief of Police Michelle Weber apologized and said, “The JPD will partner with local media to have appropriate access to call log information. A renewed partnership with the Community Safety Network is currently being developed to involve their highly trained staff in intimate partner violence, stalking, and reports of sexual assault responses.” The culprits of fostering that environment, Schultz and former Chief of Police Todd Smith, both retired or resigned when these accusations came to light; and that’s it. I haven’t been able to find anything proclaiming they lost their pensions or suffered some kind of repercussion for terrorizing that poor woman.
We could point to the laws protecting suspects in Wyoming as the enabler to allow subterfuge for cops, but it seems there's a more likely cause—one that's more nation-wide in its scope.
First off, for sexual assault victims, it's an uphill battle out of the gate. Per a recent RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) study, only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. That means about 3 out of 4 go unreported. When taking these numbers into account, one can only imagine when the dynamic of the perpetrator having the power of the law behind them. Another fact that is against the victim is how these charges are presented. According to the 2016 federally funded paper, Police Integrity Lost: A Study of Law Enforcement Officers Arrested, it says "Police sexual misconduct and cases of police sexual violence are often referred to as hidden offenses, and studies on police sexual misconduct are usually based on small samples or derived from officer surveys that are threatened by a reluctance to reveal these cases." Per research from Bowling Green State University (BGSU) police officers in the US were charged with forcible rape 405 times between 2005 and 2013. That’s an average of 45 a year. Forcible fondling was more common, with 636 instances. These numbers are completely unacceptable. That same Police Integrity Report gives a very stark, very real reason as to why these sexual assaults happen. “Opportunities for sex-related police crime abound because officers operate in a low visibility environment with very little supervision,” it says. “The potential victims of sex-related police crime include criminal suspects but also unaccompanied victims of crime.”
There are more examples from other cities and states, but you get the point. It's hard to foster a movement for an entire group of people who have been able to—and with the systemic issues included will continue to—exploit their power for horrific ends. We are dealing with a solidified mountain of pride that cannot be opened from the outside. There is going to have to be a level of accountability for those who uphold our laws before we're going to have a real, sweeping movement of support. One element that spells out the grim future of this topic was addressed in the Police Integrity Report as well. "The biggest problem with all of this is that the federal government cannot compel states to make the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies report the numbers." Once the changes happen internally and we get to a point where we don't have to worry when someone threatens to call the cops for whatever reason. Running parallel is the general public having an overwhelming amount of positive feelings towards law enforcement. If we can at least reach those goals, then maybe the Blue Lives Matter movement will get the same support as other movements currently sweeping the nation. It's all in their hands.
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