SAPD Officer Accused of Rape Reflects Long Road to Department Reform
Published: December 4, 2013
“There was clear conduct that this cop was off balance,” said Harrington, who made the complaint after his son heard the victim’s screams from a hotel room, called Nash and received aggression on the other end. “When I heard about Neal I said, ‘you’ll probably find the same thing—warning signs.’”
An ambiguous complaint classification system exacerbates the early intervention and accountability problems, say advocates of SAPD reform. A 2011 SAPD Internal Affairs Report (the most recent year available), that tracks complaints from citizens against SAPD officers, lists 334 formal cases investigated on 284 officers, an increase in caseload from the 280 cases on 361 officers documented by the department in 2010. But it’s difficult to discern which investigations arise from sexual offenses, as sexual misconduct is not separated into its own category, despite the parsing out of detailed subsection rule violations like “court dress codes.” Instead, it falls under the umbrella of an officer’s “conduct and behavior” which was called into question some 66 times in 2011, surpassing all other alleged violations. (The second highest was application of force at 46 times.)
SAPD’s Gutierrez says sexual misconduct is not limited to this category and depends on what the allegation entails. For instance, it can fall under “consorting with persons of ill repute” meaning a prostitute or felon; this category only received a single complaint in 2011.
As for the punishment, Neal is innocent until proven guilty, but those who have examined SAPD policies argue the continuation of his paid leave salary—which SAPD say “follows procedure”—is not only over-the-top, but sets troubling precedent for future possible offenders.
“I think it ought to depend on the severity of the charge; with something like this you should not be getting paid,” said Salas. “If you curse someone out, OK, it’s a lighter thing, but raping someone? I don’t think he should get a dime until this thing is settled.”
Harrington suggested cutting the officer’s salary in half or allotting back pay if he is eventually vindicated—if his compensation isn’t curbed at all, he said, SAPD signals they don’t take these allegations seriously, regardless of what claims they make publicly.
“It sends the message that it’s OK—‘I won’t have to work and I’ll still get paid’—there has to be some kind of punishment that the other cops can see,” Harrington said. “They just don’t do a very good job of [reprimanding sexual misconduct] and I think part of the reason is that they get away with it.”
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