Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) today introduced a bill to make it a crime for federal law enforcement officers to claim consent if they are found to have had a sexual encounter with anyone in their custody. H.R. 6568, The Closing Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act also provides incentives for states to adopt similar laws for state and local law enforcement officers via additional federal funding through Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants.
Reps. Speier and Comstock were spurred to introduce the bill following Buzzfeed’s shocking report on a teenage girl who said she was raped by two police officers while in their custody. The officers made no arrest, issued no citation, and filed no paperwork about the stop or her detention. When she reported the rape, a loophole in New York state law allowed the officers to claim she consented to having sex with them, even though she was handcuffed and under their control.
“Though New York has since closed its ludicrous loophole, a staggering 31 states still allow law enforcement officers to claim that a sexual encounter with someone in their custody was consensual to avoid criminal charges. There is also no federal law that eliminates the consent defense for federal law enforcement, with the exception of federal corrections employees. And research shows that sexual misconduct is the second most frequently reported form of police abuse, yet the true scope of the problem is unknown because states are not required to report these kinds of allegations or arrests to the Bureau of Justice Statistics,” Rep. Speier said. “This is unconscionable. Law enforcement members wield incredible power in their ability to detain individuals. Our bill ensures that police will act accordingly in their official duties, as befitting their role as officers of the law, and that any such abuse of this power will not be tolerated.”
“This bill makes clear what should always be the legal standard – those in police custody should never be subject to sexual abuse or rape from law enforcement officers. It is common sense that those under arrest are legally incapable of consenting to sexual acts with officers who hold enormous power over them. We can never tolerate predators in any profession,” Rep. Comstock said. “This bill will close a loophole that more than a dozen predators have used in the past decade to escape conviction. We know such individuals are in no way representative of the thousands of diligent law enforcement officers who protect our communities every day and their good names cannot be sullied by such people who slip in among their ranks.”
The bill would:
- Make it a criminal offense, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, for a federal law enforcement officer to engage in a sexual act with anyone in their custody, regardless of consent.
- Provide additional VAWA grant-funding to states that pass laws that:
- Make it a criminal offense for state and local law enforcement to engage in sexual acts with individuals in their custody, regardless of consent; and
- Submit information on the number of complaints made to law enforcement agencies regarding an officer engaging in a sexual act with any individual that meets the above description to the U.S. Attorney General on an annual basis. That information will then be reported to Congress.
The Closing Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act is endorsed by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV).
A copy of the bill can be found here.