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Shielded by the Badge? Investigation Finds Hundreds of Cops May Have Sexually Exploited Kids — But Avoided Prison Time

Betrayed by the Badge: The Unseen Crisis of Child Abuse by Police
Source: Unsplash

The investigation claims these officers are using their legal system knowledge to stall their cases, get their charges lowered or evade convictions.

Jun. 14 2024, Published 12:02 p.m. ET

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A new investigation reportedly claims hundreds of law enforcement officers in the United States may have sexually abused children, and high ranking officials are failing at protecting minors, punishing the alleged abusers and preventing additional crimes.

According to the Washington Post, police and sheriff’s departments have enabled predators by botching background checks, mishandling investigations and ignoring serious red flags.

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By having knowledge of the legal system, these accused cops have been able to stall their cases, get charges lowered or evade convictions altogether, The Post alleges.

On the flip side, prosecutors have given generous plea deals to the officers who have admitted to raping and groping minors, according to the report. Judges have also allowed many convicted officers to avoid serving time behind bars.

The Post's investigation found at least 1,800 state and local law enforcement officers were charged with crimes involving child sexual abuse from 2005 to 2022.

The outlet conducted an exclusive analysis of the nation’s most comprehensive database, managed by Bowling Green University, of police arrests.

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The findings reportedly show not all allegations of police misconduct become public. The analysis indicates sex crimes, especially those involving children, are widely believed to be underreported.

This can be the case because children may be more afraid of coming forward; the records involving juveniles are more likely to be sealed by courts; and the law enforcement agencies may not be releasing this information about the arrests to the media, according to the research.

police misconduct

The database tracks news reports of arrests of police officers. Only a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of sworn officers in this country are ever charged with crimes and not all arrests are reported in the news media.

From 2005 to 2022, Bowling Green found about 17,700 state and local officers who were charged with crimes, including physical assault, drug offenses, and drunken driving.

Of those officers, 1 in 10 were charged with a crime involving child sexual abuse, The Post reported.

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When asked by the publication about the police misconduct, some officers, prosecutors and judges allegedly admitted that they could have done more to hold officers accountable in the cases they handled.

However, there has been little reckoning over child abusers with police forces. "This is heinous conduct that we cannot tolerate,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who heads the division of the Justice Department that prosecutes officers accused of civil rights violations.

Clarke said these officers who have exploited their positions of power have left juvenile victims with “no recourse and no one else to protect them.”


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