New bill bans cops from having sex with detainees

Stephon Johnson | 4/5/2018, midnight
New York State didn’t have a law that banned cops from having sex with those in custody.
NYPD Photo by Bill Moore

New York State didn’t have a law that banned cops from having sex with those in custody. That all changed last week.

State legislators passed a bill prohibiting cops from having sex with people in custody, which closes a legal loophole that allowed police to avoid sexual-assault convictions. Cops would get around the possible convictions by claiming that the sex was consensual.

Bill S7708, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza, states that someone in police custody doesn’t have the ability to consent to sex.

Before this weekend, New York was one of 35 states that didn’t have laws on the books explicitly barring sex with those in custody and labeling these incidents as sexual assault.

The public spotlight on the loophole in New York State’s law happened last September when 18-year-old Anna Chambers accused two narcotics detectives, Eddie Martins and Richard Hall, of taking turns sexually assaulting her after she was arrested on marijuana charges. A rape kit revealed the DNA of Martins and Hall. Both have pleaded not guilty. Chambers continued to champion her cause on social media, speaking out against officers and the New York Police Department, and garnering supporters.

Brooklyn borough president and former police officer, Eric Adams, said, in a statement to the AmNews, “I thank the State Legislature for closing this legal loophole in our criminal justice system.”

Anthonine Pierre, a representative for Communities United for Police Reform and deputy director of Brooklyn Movement Center, wasn’t pleased that a loophole existed in the first place.

“It’s disturbing that these loopholes exist and that closing them is necessary to prevent police officers from sexually abusing civilians,” said Pierre. “We applaud the state legislature for swiftly passing legislation to prevent officers from ludicrously claiming consensual sex with someone under arrest or formally in custody, and hope the legislature also acts to end loopholes for people not formally in custody but practically subjected to similar authority by abusive officers.”

New York City council member, Mark Treyger, represents the district where the alleged sexual assault happened. He put a statement on Twitter praising the bill’s passing.

“This horrific rape outraged our community, and from day one I have made it clear I would do whatever it took to advocate for common sense consent laws to make sure that this could never happen again,” said Treyger on Twitter. He called on the state to pass the legislation back in October.

But Pierre thinks there’s a bigger issue at hand and it’s the covert way the authorities operate and do business.

“Additionally, a wide range of sexual abuses that girls, women, LGBT people and other New Yorkers face from police officers still remain shrouded in secrecy unless the state legislature repeals the police secrecy law 50-a,” said Pierre. “It’s critical that the New York State Legislature repeal 50-a, particularly since the de Blasio administration has chosen to misuse the state law to hide increasingly more information on police misconduct while failing to support repeal of the law.”

Section 50-a treats the personnel records of law enforcement and uniformed personnel as confidential, and is used to evaluate potential promotions or employment opportunities. Currently, records can only be disclosed with a court order or the written consent of the employee in question.

In response to an email where the AmNews asked police department officials to comment, a representative pointed to a post from police commissioner, James O’Neill, on Twitter that read “While our internal #NYPD guidelines already prohibit sexual acts between members of the service and people in custody, @NYPDNews applauds legislators in Albany for passing a measure that will—when signed by @NYGovCuomo—officially outlaw such misdeeds.”