A stripper’s lawsuit has brought to light dozens of accusations of sexual misconduct involving Philadelphia police from 1992 to 2002, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. The department dismissed most as groundless, or unprovable. Still, hundreds of police officers across the nation have used the power of their badge to extort sex. Many fit a chilling pattern: Once abusers cross the line, they attack again and again before they are caught. Often, police departments miss warning signs about the behavior. Lawyers for Philadelphia’s 7,000-member department say sexual-misconduct complaints are “extremely rare” and that commanders move swiftly to discipline offenders. The Inquirer found nearly 400 reports of police sexual misconduct in the U.S. in the last five years, including dozens in the Philadelphia area.
Many victims, ashamed and intimidated, never report the crimes. “The women are terrified,” said Penny Harrington, the former police chief of Portland, Or., and founder of the National Center for Women and Policing. “Who are they going to call? It’s the police who are abusing them.” Experts say culprits tend to target vulnerable women such as prostitutes, drug addicts or drunks, knowing they likely won’t be believed. The extent of the problem remains concealed from the public because departments often lump sex-abuse allegations into such categories as “conduct unbecoming.” One Philadelphia officer who admitted having sex on duty said: “Being honest with you, women do like cops. Women love guys in uniform.”