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Standard Procedure 52A: Parking Lot Sex

Handcuff your suspect.
Detain and control,
Threaten and cajole,
Rape and use,
Defame and accuse.

That’s all a rapist has to do.
In Chambers’ case, you had two.
We serve and protect, they pipe,
But we bad boys do what we like.
Richard Hall and Eddie Martins,
NYPD criminals to the core,
Still have a job, to serve us more!

Protect your own

You can truly say not all police officers are rapists. Just as truly, police departments, police unions, and police procedures tend to protect their own. Based on past outcomes, Hall and Martins will not do time for their crimes. In fact, they probably will not be forced out of their careers. NYPD will find a way to protect them.

In this respect, police officers operate in an environment similar to priests who rape children, then receive protection from their employer. The church protected its own. Bishops made sure priests who preyed on children were transferred away from parishes where they committed their crimes, so rapists could prey on unknowing victims somewhere else. Similarly, police officers who rape women in their custody find a way to continue their so-called police work, where they can find other victims to coerce.

One major difference between the two institutions exists. Exposure forced the church to stop – or at least curtail – its unethical protection of criminals. That is not the case with police departments. True enough, police departments understand they can’t stonewall murder investigations now, not if video evidence exists. Sexual assaults are another matter. Police officers raped women in their custody long before Richard Hall and Eddie Martins raped eighteen-year-old Anna Chambers. We know the crimes occur. Yet these assaults continue.

Cultural immunity

Why do police officers think they can get away with these assaults? After all, victims can present DNA evidence of what they have done. When Chambers did exactly that – she went to a hospital so the lab could analyze semen samples – Hall and Martins confessed. Then they claimed Chambers consented to sex, while in handcuffs! They claimed she willingly engaged in sex with them, after they forced her into their vehicle! They even pointed to photographs on Instagram to suggest she asked for it!

Police officers think they can get away with sexual assault because they do get away with it. Significantly, the New York Police Department did not fire them on the spot. They still have jobs as police officers. Just as significantly, both officers remain free, even though they admitted their crime as part of a strategy to exonerate themselves. So far, their strategy appears sound. They still have jobs. Yet a grand jury has already convened, and the Brooklyn district attorney criticizes a letter written by defense counsel on behalf of the prospective defendants. We have to hope Michael David and the Brooklyn district attorney possess sufficient skill to overcome immunity police officers claim for themselves.

First priority: wiggle out of the charge

Natasha Leonard authored The Intercept article below. She writes that Hall and Martins, the guilty police officers who confessed to assault and rape, volunteered their names to the press before anyone knew who they were. The consent bullsh*t accompanied their self-disclosure. Chambers’ attorney, Michael David, believes that with this move, “police were trying to get ahead of the story.” If so, these two officers may have calculated their chances of getting off as greater were they to admit their crime, rather than wait for an arraignment.

Note that David does not attribute this idea to the criminals. He attributes it to the “police.” Martins and Hall would not, and probably could not, get a story like that published without institutional backing. No one who depends on his employer to avoid a long prison term could go to the New York Post with a story like that on his own, two weeks after the crime, with the aim of trying to wiggle out of the charge. One presumes NYPD was involved with the leak.

Police leadership

Why do police chiefs across the country not raise holy hell about conduct like this? To claim consent in this case is like murdering a man, then leaving your gun next to his body so you can claim he committed suicide. Which, come to think of it, is another thing criminals do. That includes criminal police officers. In another case, New Orleans police sniped six people on Danziger bridge in New Orleans after Katrina, killing two. Similar to Hall and Martins, they cooked up some unbelievable story about how those people over on the bridge killed themselves, or deserved to die, or some such malarkey.

Why do police chiefs allow their employees to act so wantonly? Priests did not stop their abuse until church leadership changed. Police won’t stop their abuse until police chiefs, mayors, union leaders, and leadership down to the precinct level sincerely say they won’t stand for any more unprofessional conduct. Rape is unprofessional. It is not difficult to find qualified replacements for bad cops. Send criminals – especially rapists – to prison where they belong. Would anyone wish on them, in prison, the same violence they inflicted on Chambers?

Why do police chiefs protect criminals in their midst? Well, they came up through the same system. ‘Protect your own’ is the overriding value. They had the same protection before they became leaders. They feel they could not function anymore, were they to turn on a brother in trouble. That is the trouble. Police departments see themselves as a brotherhood, like clergy, and nothing you do, except betrayal of the brotherhood, will ever cause your colleagues to turn you out.

Betrayal of the brotherhood

Consider another interesting parallel between abuse in police departments and abuse in the Catholic church. In the film Spotlight, the church pretended it had moral and institutional authority to make the Boston Globe drop its investigation into priests’ abuse of children. Church representatives repeatedly approached the investigation’s leader, played by Michael Keaton, to pressure – not persuade – him to stop. Their argument? “We’re the church. You will regret your mistake if you press ahead.”

In fact, the institution had zero moral authority on this matter, even in Boston where the church has a long history. It did not forfeit this authority because Father Geoghan or any other priest raped children. Every large organization contains individuals who might commit crimes. The church lost its authority on this matter because it protected child rapists, so they could molest and rape again and again and again.

Police departments who protect their own make the same decision. They decide to sacrifice their moral authority to maintain the brotherhood’s solidarity. In that way, both the church and police departments resemble the mafia: the worst thing you can do is rat on someone, or cooperate with law enforcement in any way. The complicating factor for police departments, of course, is that they are law enforcement. They are the people charged with making sure the rest of us obey statutory laws, just as priests help us negotiate adherence to moral laws. When these institutions transform themselves into criminal organizations, through misplaced devotion to loyalty and brotherhood, you have a problem.

Complicity and disrespect

We hear the word ‘complicit’ a lot these days, often in connection with individuals who helped Harvey Weinstein prey on young women, then escape punishment for his crimes. People who enable sexual assault are in fact complicit in these crimes, but the most serious problems develop when complicity becomes an accepted part of institutional culture. Then people within the organization who object to norms of concealment have no realistic option. ‘We take care of our own’ reinforces all self-protective instincts, and overrides every other consideration of right and wrong. The norm is self-enforcing, of course: the only people not protected are those who object to the norm.

Police officers do not deserve special consideration, any more than priests. We are all subject to the same laws, and no institutional norm of self-protection ought to interfere with that principle. Can police departments perceive what happened to the Catholic church, to appreciate the magnitude of their mistakes? Do they understand the gravity of discrediting a whole vocation, of making an inherently honorable form of service into a subject of disrespect? Once more, the commission of one or more crimes is not the issue here. The issue is systemic protection of those who commit crimes. When you do that, people no longer respect the entire organization, even if they respect individual priests or police officers they know.

Sequence of events

Let’s have a look at the sequence of events in Chambers’ case:

September 15: Hall and Martins stop a car with three people in it. On some pretext of loose pills in Chambers’ friend’s purse, they put Chambers in their vehicle and drive her to a Chipotle parking lot. They handcuff her. Both Hall and Martins force her into fellatio. Then Hall rapes her.

September 28: Chambers’ attorney, Michael David, files a formal complaint against the police department. The complaint does not name Hall and Martins. Within hours, Hall and Martins confess to the crime, then claim they are innocent because Chambers decided, while in handcuffs, that yes, she wanted Hall and Martins to rape her. They even point to Instagram photographs Chambers posted to suggest she is a nymphomaniac who can’t be stopped. Thankfully, they do not suggest she raped them, while handcuffed.

Now let’s imagine what happened after the September 15 assaults, down at precinct headquarters. We do not know who Hall and Martins speak with, or when they learn Chambers intends to file a complaint. We do not know what thought processes led to a story so whacko you have to say, the story alone disqualifies them from police work. Do you want police on the streets who think a woman in handcuffs volunteers to have sex with you?

Educated guesses

We can, however, make some guesses based on events. First, Chambers’ action did not take them by surprise, given how rapidly their strategy unfolded after attorney David filed Chambers’ complaint. They planned their response in advance. Second, they would not have undertaken to make their names public, with a leak to the New York Post, no less, without authority from people higher in their chain of command. Third, and most importantly, they calculated that an open lie in this case would serve them better than concealing the truth. Concealment has not worked so well for other police officers in danger of indictment.

We can only guess. Police departments, even when they come up with incredible claims no one can possibly believe, do take care to hide how they came up with them. I’m curious how high in the NYPD chain of command this lie had to go for approval. Why did the department suspend them – Hall and Martins have lost their badges and guns – but not fire them? Do they figure suspensions will help the department navigate the upcoming grand jury investigation?

Meantime I wonder how Hall and Martins currently interact with their families and friends. Perhaps their attorneys would like to file a complaint now, to recover damages for public humiliation their clients have endured. First, NYPD Internal Affairs signs off on a witless lie about consent, then it asks you for your badge. Where’s the justice?

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