Cop stuff: what would you do?

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Cop stuff: what would you do?

Post by fakely mctest on Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:48 pm

Okay, so triggers for sexual assault, which I am putting in spoiler text.  Also this is lengthy.  Apologies!

Spoiler:
I was just settling into bed at a reasonable hour last Thursday (AMAZING) when I thought I heard a woman screaming for help somewhere nearby. I got up a couple times trying to figure out if I had really heard anything and, if so, where it was coming from. Once I turned off my air conditioner I could tell it was coming from the gated underground parking lot in the building next door. So I grabbed my keys and my phone and rushed out in my PJs and bare feet.

There was a woman trapped in the garage. She didn’t live in the building but I guess had gone to some guy’s place who lived there – she’d hung out with him once before without incident but this time something had happened. She said she ran from him and he chased her and she ended up trapped in the lot.

She’d been drinking and was also completely freaked out so it was hard to get a linear story at all. I ended up calling the police and waiting with her, holding her hand through the grating. Eventually someone who lived there came home and used their clicker to open the grate. I stayed with the woman while the police talked to her although she didn’t want to tell them much especially since the one cop opened with, “well, you went home with him willingly.”

I was so upset about everything that went down that I wrote the following to the MPD on Friday:

[summary of what happened] When the police arrived, one of the officers questioned her and when she said that she'd gone to his apartment, the officer's response was to the effect of "well, you went home with him willingly." It was at that point that I could tell that the woman, who was already incredibly distraught, was not going to tell the officers anything else about what had happened to her. Obviously, it's up to the woman herself to decide if she wants to make a statement, but the language the officer used, with the implication that if the woman went willingly then nothing could have happened, is extremely unhelpful. If the man did attack her or if he did try to force her to do something sexual, that has nothing to do with the fact that she went to his apartment. Agreeing to enter someone's home is not consent for them to do whatever they like to a person. Unfortunately, I think the tone of the officer's statement and the implication of it prevented any possible positive outcome if a crime had indeed occurred. I know MPD has a Sex Assault Unit, but it seems like some may need a refresher when it comes to speaking to potential victims.

I wasn't really expecting to hear back at all, but today I got a response email asking for more info (the phone number I used to call 911, date of the incident, address of the building).  I wrote back with the info and included the following:

I appreciate your response.  Please keep me apprised of the results of my report.

I'd also ask that you please do not contact the woman who was the potential victim in this incident.  If she hasn't made an official complaint against the man then it isn't anyone's place to force her to do so.  I wanted to bring my observations to the MPD's attention because I strongly feel that, if the situation had been handled differently, there might have been a different outcome.  It's not my intention to make an unwilling potential victim file a complaint, only to potentially inform future interactions with others like her.

If I don't hear anything else from the MPD then I am considering writing to both the police chief and the head of the Sex Assault Unit.  HOWEVER, I don't want to push things too far and end up with the police badgering this woman, which I'm afraid might happen if I press too much.  Some people suggested writing the paper, but I don't think that's a great idea as it might bring her unintentional publicity.

What do you guys think?

Needless to say, I'm slightly freaked out living in the building next to this guy.

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Re: Cop stuff: what would you do?

Post by Gentleman Johnny on Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:48 pm

This isn't really a situation with good options but I'm going to spitball a few.
1. For future reference, always record cops. Just turn on your voice notes on your phone and drop it back in you pocket. Address the officer by name at some point. Boom, record.

Now, as to the current situation, I'm assuming you don't have any way to contact the woman in question. I'd say definitely don't contact the paper in that situation. Without bringing her into it, all you've got is a you-said he-said situation and police departments are notorious for closing ranks in the face of outside pressure. I would write the SAU's main email with a summary of what happened and go from there based on what they want to do with it.

Does your state have a sex offender registry? If so you can check the address of the building across the street. It might not be useful right now but it could give you an idea of who the guy to watch out for is.

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Re: Cop stuff: what would you do?

Post by eselle28 on Thu Aug 06, 2015 7:11 pm

I think your incident not to write the paper is a good one. I think the odds are it either won't care at all, or that it will care way too much in a way that leads to unfortunate results.

I don't necessarily think that a letter to the Sex Assault Unit will do much good, but I also think it's unlikely to be honored sufficiently to do any harm. I'd probably go with that, and then make sure I kept copies of all my correspondence related to this in case there's some sort of broader internal investigation in the future.
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Re: Cop stuff: what would you do?

Post by Wondering on Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:07 pm

Gentleman Johnny wrote:This isn't really a situation with good options but I'm going to spitball a few.
1. For future reference, always record cops. Just turn on your voice notes on your phone and drop it back in you pocket. Address the officer by name at some point. Boom, record.

Is that always legal?

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Re: Cop stuff: what would you do?

Post by Werel on Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:16 pm

Wondering wrote:
Gentleman Johnny wrote:This isn't really a situation with good options but I'm going to spitball a few.
1. For future reference, always record cops. Just turn on your voice notes on your phone and drop it back in you pocket. Address the officer by name at some point. Boom, record.

Is that always legal?

I think in DC (and most states) you only need consent of one party in a conversation to audio record it, but I'm most definitely not an expert.

Gut says "safer to covertly record a cop interaction and risk fines for illegal recording than to have zero documentation when a cop interaction goes bad," though. Neutral
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Re: Cop stuff: what would you do?

Post by Wondering on Thu Aug 06, 2015 8:19 pm

My state is a two party consent state.

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Re: Cop stuff: what would you do?

Post by fakely mctest on Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:00 pm

So, I actually did record the interaction (at the woman's request). Turned on my phone's video recorder and just held it loosely so I've got the whole exchange...and cop feet. Don't really know what to do with the file though, but I'm hanging on to it.

I'm going to see what happens with the latest message, but I think sending one more letter can't hurt. Just want to feel that I've done everything I can. I know it's not much, but still.

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Re: Cop stuff: what would you do?

Post by Gentleman Johnny on Fri Aug 07, 2015 1:56 pm

Werel wrote:
I think in DC (and most states) you only need consent of one party in a conversation to audio record it, but I'm most definitely not an expert.

Gut says "safer to covertly record a cop interaction and risk fines for illegal recording than to have zero documentation when a cop interaction goes bad," though. Neutral

Generally, and definitely in DC, there is no expectation of privacy in a public place. That's why filming the police when they stop someone is always legal. Although there may be a law on the books that says otherwise, the ACLU is always happy to challenge them and win.

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