WASHINGTON, DC – This week, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and nine of her colleagues reintroduced H.R. 1574, the Closing the Law Enforcement Loophole Act. Her bill makes it a crime for a federal law enforcement officer to engage in a sexual act with anyone in his or her custody or while exercising their authority under color of law, regardless of consent. The bill also provides the incentive of additional Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant-funding to states that adopt similar laws for state and local law enforcement agencies and submit information on how many complaints of this nature are made to law enforcement agencies to the Department of Justice. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have sponsored companion legislation.
“Last year, I read an article about a teenager in New York who was raped by police officers while in their custody, with the officers claiming the encounter was consensual. I was shocked to learn that this was a viable defense in 30 states and for federal law enforcement officers. Additionally, in states that bar sex with detainees, some do not outlaw sex while exercising their authority under color of law. This happened in my home state of California, when Officer Scott McGuire was investigated for allegedly raping a woman he was interviewing as part of an ongoing domestic violence investigation. He wasn’t charged because the District Attorney couldn’t conclude that the sex was not consensual,” Rep. Speier said. “If this law is implemented, federal law enforcement officers will not be able to get away with abusing those under their control and states will be given incentives to weed out predators like Officer McGuire. I urge my House and Senate colleagues to act swiftly in passing this bill.”
Rep. Speier’s bill was included in the bipartisan 2019 reauthorization of VAWA that was introduced on Thursday, March 7, 2019. Since its initial passage in 1994, VAWA has provided crucial protections and support for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
The Closing the Law Enforcement Loophole Act would:
- Make it a criminal offense for a federal law enforcement officer to engage in a sexual act with anyone in his or her custody or while exercising their authority under color of law, regardless of consent. This would include federal agents, probation officers, judges, and prosecutors.
- Provide additional Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant funding to states that pass laws:
- To make it a criminal offense for state and local law enforcement officers to engage in sexual acts with individuals while in his or her custody or while exercising their authority under color of law, regardless of consent; and
- Submit information annually on the number of complaints made to law enforcement agencies regarding these offenses to the U.S. Attorney General, who will report these findings to Congress.
The Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole is endorsed by the National Task Force to End Sexual Violence, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN). A copy of the bill text can be read here.