By Mark Hallum
City and state officials got behind a bill introduced by Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) which will prohibit law enforcement officers from engaging sexual conduct with those in their custody after the indictments of two NYPD detectives in Brooklyn.
The bill introduced by Braunstein was drafted by Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) in response to a September incident in which the detectives, who have since resigned, a teenage girl in their custody had consented to sexual activity with the men.
“I was shocked to hear that the two NYPD detectives involved in the recent high profile rape case in Brooklyn have offered the defense that the sexual contact was consensual,” Braunstein said. “The power dynamic between someone in custody and the officers themselves is such that the person in custody is powerless to consent to sexual activity. State law already prohibits sexual contact between corrections officers and parole officers and those in their custody. The legislation I am introducing at the state level will amend the penal code to also include state and local police officers.”
The two cops have been additionally been indicted on bribery and kidnapping charges by Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez.
“There have been a wave of high-profile, powerful men accused of sexually abusing and harassing vulnerable women and men—and officers who sexually harass and abuse vulnerable individuals in their custody are no different,” Public Advocate Letitia James said. “While the vast majority of officers are hardworking and deeply principled, we must have laws in place to hold those few unscrupulous officers accountable. The bills introduced by Assemblyman Braunstein and Council Member Treyger to ensure that sexual activity between officers and those in their custody is prohibited are common-sense measures to ensure that no individual is above the law.”
Current laws protecting people in custody from sexual misconduct only pertain to corrections and parole officers.
“We need strong laws on the books to ensure that law enforcement officers who abuse their power and sexually assault someone in their custody can never again claim consent as a defense,” Treyger said. “… The victim in this case is a teenager who will now be forced to relive the trauma of this crime in the public eye as this moves to trial. My bill explicitly states that law enforcement officers are prohibited from engaging in sexual activity with anyone in their custody, because there can be no meaningful consent when you are in the custody of a law enforcement officer. All law enforcement officials, including police and peace officers, must be held to the same standard. We have a growing coalition of elected officials and advocates who support this bill because we need to do more to protect the rights of sexual assault victims.”
While Treyger’s bill would make sexual conduct between a peace officer and a person in their custody a misdemeanor, Braunstein’s bill would make punishable as a Class E felony.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall