Sunday, December 30, 2018

sheriff's deputies and their sex crimes

It cannot be a surprise that law enforcement officers sometimes break the law but some stories still raise our eyebrows. The Omaha World-Herald reports, in a subscriber-only story:
A federal judge has refused to dismiss a young woman’s lawsuit against Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning and his office over a 2013 assault in which an on-duty deputy made her perform a sex act on him at Zorinsky Lake.
In doing so, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon cited 15 sexual misconduct cases involving deputies or Sheriff’s Office employees from 1998 on. Unlike former Deputy Cory Cooper’s 2013 crime against the young woman, none were prosecuted, and several did not seem to rise to the level of a crime. 
Of fifteen, only one case was prosecuted--the 2013 assault at Zorinsky Lake.
However, Bataillon ruled that the woman has the right, at this point, to have jurors decide whether the incidents indicate that Dunning was indifferent to sexual misconduct in his office — and whether such indifference and little training led to a culture where Cooper feared no consequence for boorish behavior. 
Boorish behavior? This deputy is accused of sexual assault, not boorish behavior.

He is accused of forcing a young woman to perform oral sex on him in return for letting her boyfriend go free and it seems he feared no consequences for that sexual assault.
“The court finds that the 15 instances of sexual misconduct at the (Sheriff’s Office) create genuine issues of material fact concerning the municipality’s ... failure to train or supervise its employees on sexual misconduct,” Bataillon wrote. “The DCSO was on notice of these sexual misconduct incidents through the office’s complaint and investigation process. Yet, similar sexual misconduct incidents continued to recur over a nearly twenty-year period. 
“The court agrees with the plaintiff that there is sufficient evidence as a matter of law that would enable a jury to find deliberate indifference on the part of Sheriff Dunning.”
In an interview late this month, Dunning denied being callous toward the misconduct, saying that suspensions or terminations followed any case that could be corroborated. 
Suspensions or terminations but only one prosecution. The article does not include details of any suspensions and terminations.
He also noted that none of those prior cases involved Cooper. And he said he had no warning signs that Cooper — a former military member — would act out.  
“Cooper did what he did because he’s a sex offender and a criminal,” Dunning said.
Because he's a sex offender and a criminal or because the sheriff's office doesn't pay much attention to deputies who use their authority to commit sex crimes?
“Before we hired him, he had a psychological screen. He was polygraphed. As far as we could tell, he was going to be a sterling employee.” 
C'mon, Dunning. We all know that polygraphs are junk science, akin to phrenology. You know it, too. You made a bad hire...or you failed to train your deputies on how not to commit sex offenses, how to keep one's hands to oneself and how to keep one's pants zipped, the way the most people manage to do without special training.

Dunning's deputies need training on how not to abuse one's authority.
Cooper was convicted of misdemeanor assault in a plea deal and served six months in jail. Prosecutors reduced the charges from first-degree sexual assault after consulting with the woman, who wasn’t eager to relive the ordeal at trial. 
Under the plea bargain, Cooper did not have to register as a sex offender and is not a convicted felon.
That's a heck of a plea bargain. Crazy that a law enforcement officer was able to get such a good deal, isn't it?

While it is infuriating to read a story that sounds as if a deputy was able to avoid being listed on the sex offender registry because he is a law enforcement officer, there is a piece of the story that deserves even more attention.

Sheriff Dunning's office administers the sex offender registry for Douglas County. 

This is the office where people listed on the registry report two or four times each year, to report an address change, to report that they have a new vehicle, to be photographed when they have grown a beard or shaved one off, to notify the sheriff that they are leaving town for more than three business days.

They report to deputies who are not held accountable for their own sex offenses.

This is the office where people who have lived law-abiding lives for years have to report that they have nothing to report. If they do not report that they have nothing to report, they will be charged with a felony.

If they fail to report again, even after more law-abiding years, they can be charged with a more serious felony.

Sheriff's deputies, on the other hand, can seemingly commit more than one sex crime and not be prosecuted at all.

A sidebar story in the Omaha World Herald details each of the fifteen cases in which a deputy or staff member was accused of sex offenses. More than one deputy was accused more than once. An example:
2002: A deputy repeatedly licked his juvenile's stepdaughter's nipple while horse playing. He also admitted to getting in the shower with her while she was naked.  
2002: Same deputy (as the previous 2002 case) took a juvenile detainee to his apartment, repeatedly told her how pretty she was and touched her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable. He threatened to shoot her if she told anyone. (Dunning said he did not recall that a threat was made.)
2011: Someone complained about a Douglas County sheriff's lieutenant's romantic relationships, including texting pictures of his genitals to women and sending sexually explicit emails to women. He also was accused of having sex at the office and abusing his work hours to conduct personal business.
The registry protects no one and it certainly protects no one from law enforcement officers who have little worry about being prosecuted for a sex offense.

Update: This is a link to an AP article derived from the OW-H story. No paywall, no subscription required.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love it. ellen
so upset no having to register??????