A study on police in the US, from Bowling Green University, found officers were charged with forcible rape 405 times between 2005 and 2013. Yet experts say those statistics are not comprehensive. Data on sexual assaults by police are almost nonexistent.
The researchers compiled their list by documenting cases of sworn nonfederal law enforcement officers who have been arrested. However, the 2016 federally funded paper, “Police Integrity Lost: A Study of Law Enforcement Officers Arrested,” says the problem isn’t limited to sexual assault.
“There are no comprehensive statistics available on problems with police integrity,” the report says, and there are no government entities collecting data on police who are arrested.
It adds, “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.”
Researchers on the subject must often rely on published media reports. The BGSU researchers used Google alerts on 48 search terms. The scholars then follow each case through adjudication. While those numbers represent a portion of cases, arrests rely on a victim making a report and a law enforcement agency making that report public. With sexual assaults by police officers this is not guaranteed.
One of the barriers to understanding the scale of police sexual assault is the reluctance of victims to report the crime. The federal government cannot compel states to make law enforcement agencies report the numbers. The Fraternal Order of Police also works hard to protect cops and their reputations.
There also can be legal hurdles to obtaining basic information in such cases. Some states shield the identities of cops who commit crimes, and some jurisdictions include non-disclosure agreements in settlements made to victims.