It’s been a while since I’ve written about rape (some of the most significant ones are here,here, and here). But via BoingBoing I’ve just read about a case in San Antonio that’s unusually disturbing: a police officer on duty handcuffed a suspect — a transgender prostitute — then drove her off to a quiet spot and
forced [her] to commit multiple sex acts.
It’s disturbing that it happened, that a law officer would do such a thing. But what’s more disturbing is that the prosecutor charged him not with felony rape, despite the DNA and GPS evidence supporting the victim’s story, but with misdemeanor
official oppression. Craig Nash lost his job and was sentenced to one year in jail.
One year, for violently abusing the trust we gave him as an officer of the law.
From what we’re given in the news article, it appears that the victim’s story is legitimate. In addition, a second victim, from a couple of years earlier, came forward. Nevertheless, the prosecutor gave the (former) cop a plea bargain, agreeing to charge him only with the misdemeanor and not to pursue the second accusation.
Apart from that, even if the sex had been consensual, an on-duty officer having sex with a suspect is sufficiently wrong at so many levels as to warrant a penalty of much more than a year in jail. Think of the opportunities for abuse that crop up here: threatening women with arrest in order to get sex, releasing arrested suspects in exchange for sex, and so on.
It makes no difference how good a police officer he was in other ways or at other times. It certainly makes no difference how good a family man he is. None of that mitigates this crime.
We place a great deal of trust in police officers, and we give them a great deal of power. They must be held accountable for the misuse and abuse of that trust and power, and the punishments must be serious, not just slaps on the wrist. Dismissal, of course, but then real prison time, not just a token jail sentence. We have to show no tolerance for abusive or illegal — not to mention vile — behaviour.
I’ll note the related case from Custer County, Oklahoma, wherein former sheriff Mike Burgess had established a systematic system of sexual abuse. He got 79 years in prison.
 Personally, I consider this to be fully fledged rape, using a threat of arrest instead of, say, a knife or a threat of a severe beating. I’m not sure where the law would stand on it.