SAPD Officer Accused of Rape Reflects Long Road to Department Reform
Published: December 4, 2013
On Friday, November 22, San Antonio Police Officer Jackie Len Neal handcuffed a young woman, allegedly placed his hand inside her blouse and began groping her breasts, according to a police report. After pulling the woman over for suspected auto theft (although SAPD has yet to confirm the car was stolen, the San Antonio Express-News reported) the 40-year-old white male then took the woman to the back of his police car and raped her, instructing her not to tell anyone.
This isn’t the first sexual assault accusation Neal has faced—a woman made a similar sexual violation complaint against Neal a few years ago. Because the woman didn’t cooperate in the police investigation, it was dropped and Neal saw no penalty. Along the lines of sexual misconduct, Neal dated an 18-year-old member of the department’s Police Explorer program two years ago. He received a three-day suspension in September but was reportedly transferred to the night shift following the incident. Neal was arrested on charges of felony sexual assault for his latest offense, and eventually released on $20,000 bond.
As an isolated incident, Neal’s case is worrisome but moreover, his dismal track record of alleged and documented sexual misconduct reflects a troubling systemic pattern within SAPD culture. As the Current extensively reported back in 2010, SAPD has received a disturbingly high number of sexual misconduct complaints within a system that is said to be unfriendly to alleged victims and equipped with vague tracking for this type of misconduct and thus, accountability, of these violations—making the accusations against Neal not only a heinous act if proven guilty, but a solemn reminder these widespread, institutional problems likely persist.
SAPD public information officers could not comment on further details of the accusation, as the criminal investigation was ongoing as of press time. In an e-mailed statement, Police Chief William McManus said, “This conduct is unthinkable and I’m absolutely outraged. Once we became aware of the allegation, we took prompt action. A high standard of conduct is a priority of the SAPD. I praise the victim for having the courage to come forward and having the confidence in the SAPD to handle the case effectively.”
However, a community-based evaluation of SAPD policies and practice by the Police Executive Research Forum, released in May 2008, detailed several procedural obstacles for these complainants, including accessibility and transparency. The PERF recommended a series of departmental reforms, including an independent review of SAPD.
“At the time, we were dealing with what I would call, an internal affairs department that was out of control,” University of Texas at San Antonio Professor Mario Salas, part of the San Antonio Coalition for Civil and Human Rights and former PERF member, told the Current. Salas pointed to intimidating complaint report practices, such as a provision stating the alleged victim could be liable for felony perjury when giving a statement of the offense, not receiving a copy of the complaint itself and not being able to bring anyone to the advisory action board hearing with them—for either legal reasons or moral support—one of Salas’ “biggest points of contention,” while studying the issue.
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