Two Pennsylvania lawmakers do not believe it is right for police officers in this state to have legal sex with people in their care. They propose bills to ban it.
But before you conclude that Pennsylvania is a strange place to let your cops do it, consider the following: 31 other states also allow it.
We're talking about consensual sex, mind you. If police officers are sexually detained, they can be prosecuted like anyone else.
But the problem here is obvious. Police officers have great authority over people who take them into custody. And they can use this authority to convince a prisoner to engage in sex in exchange for release or indulgence in "consensual" sex.
Hundreds of incidents across the country
The practice appears to be widespread.
In 2015, Buffalo News conducted a comprehensive national analysis of police and detainee sexual encounters and found 700 credible cases over a 10-year period. The news found that badge-based violations "ran over drivers to fish for dates, had sex on duty with willing or reluctant partners, extorted favors by threatening arrest and committing rape."
Since then, awareness has increased, especially since a publicized incident in New York in 2017 that this was a problem.
The New York case
The New York case in question concerned NYPD officials who were accused of raping a handcuffed 18-year-old woman arrested on drug charges charges in the back of a police car. The DNA that the woman found during an exam at a medical center that night matched the officials.
After the woman filed charges, the police replied that the sex was consensual. And this argument, like everything else, sparked widespread outrage in New York. The counter-argument put forward by the officials – that gender was consensual and therefore innocent – surprised people.
The legislature was apparently also surprised, because four months later the legislator passed a law that prohibits consensual sex between the police and people in custody. After New York traded and reduced the number of states that allowed police and inmate sex, three more followed.
The two officials voluntarily quit the NYPD, but the story came back to life in October when a judge hearing the case against her announced his decision. The two men would not serve a prison term. Instead, they were sentenced to five years' probation.
The verdict provoked another outcry. And more reactions, like that of the two legislators in Pennsylvania, that laws have to be changed.