Men In Uniform (Cont’d). Officer James Vernon Clayton, North Las Vegas Police Department, North Las Vegas, Nevada

Trigger warning. Briefly describes the crimes of a male police officer working for the North Las Vegas city government, who, while in uniform, harassed and attempted to sexually assault several women that he forced to pull over.

Officer James Vernon Clayton, North Las Vegas Police Department, North Las Vegas, Nevada.

From Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, Officer James Vernon Clayton, a three year veteran ex-cop formerly working for the North Las Vegas Police Department, repeatedly used the power of his badge and gun in order to pull women over, sexually harass the women he was holding captive, pull down his pants and show his dick off to them against their will, used threats of false arrest to grope at least one woman under the excuse of a pat search, and to try to extort sexual favors by threatening them with legal retaliation if they wouldn’t. He did this to at least five women that we know of, while on duty, in uniform, in his police cruiser, and heavily armed. So the boss cops with the North Las Vegas city government gave him a six month paid vacation; then the government prosecutor cut a deal with him so he could plead guilty to five misdemeanors — none of them sex offenses. The government prosecutors wanted this serial sexual predator to spend four months in jail; the government judge accepting this plea decided to give him three years’ probation instead, and told him to pay off the government to the tune of $5,000. The women he harassed, intimidated and coerced[1] will, of course, get nothing.

The government prosecutor had this to say, about the case:

From the onset of this case, what the state found most disturbing is here’s an individual charged with our public safety — we’ve blindly given him our trust to protect community, we’ve given him a badge, and he’s vitiated all of that, including blemishing his department, Chief Deputy District Attorney Stacy Kollins said.

— Quoted by Cara McCoy, Las Vegas Sun (2010-05-18): Ex-officer who sought sexual favors during traffic stops sentenced

Well, sure, except that you ought to speak only for yourself — I never gave Officer James Vernon Clayton a badge or my trust, and neither did much of anyone else outside of the North Las Vegas city government. But that said, perhaps what you ought to learn is that it’s foolish to blindly give your trust to men with guns and uniforms, and dangerous to create an environment in which they wield incredible power over ordinary citizens, with a reliable expectation that even if they get caught, they will never face any serious personal consequences for their violent and abusive actions. Until you figure that out, expect your blind trust to keep getting vitiated, over and over again, by men who use those weapons and that unaccountable power to stalk, harass, and assault the women who they force under their power.

What as at stake here has a lot to do with the individual crimes of three cops, and it’s good to know that the police department is taking that very seriously. But while excoriating these three cops for their personal wickedness, this kind of approach also marginalizes and dismisses any attempt at a serious discussion of the institutional context that made these crimes possible — the fact that each of these three men worked out of the same office on the same shift, the way that policing is organized, the internal culture of their own office and of the police department as a whole, and the way that the so-called criminal justice system gives cops immense power over, and minimal accountability towards, the people that they are professedly trying to protect. It strains belief to claim that when a rape gang is being run out of one shift at a single police station, there’s not something deeply and systematically wrong with that station. If it weren’t for the routine power of well-armed cops in uniform, it would have been much harder for Victor Gonzales, Anthony Munoz, or Raymond Ramos to force their victims into their custody or to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. If it weren’t for the regime of State violence that late-night patrol officers exercise, as part and parcel of their legal duties, against women in prostitution, it would have been that much harder for Gonzales and Munoz to imagine that they could use their patrol as an opportunity to stalk young women, or to then try to make their victim complicit in the rape by forcing her to pretend that the rape was in fact consensual sex for money. And if it weren’t for the way in which they can all too often rely on buddies in the precinct or elsewhere in the force to back them up, no matter how egregiously violent they may be, it would have been much harder for any of them to believe that they were entitled to, or could get away with, sexually torturing women while on patrol, while in full uniform, using their coercive power as cops.

A serious effort to respond to these crimes doesn’t just require individual blame or personal accountability — although it certainly does require that. It also requires a demand for fundamental institutional and legal reform. If police serve a valuable social function, then they can serve it without paramilitary forms of organization, without special legal privileges to order peaceful people around and force innocent people into custody, and without government entitlements to use all kinds of violence without any accountability to their victims. What we have now is not civil policing, but rather a bunch of heavily armed, violently macho, institutionally privileged gangsters in blue.

— GT 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol

See also:

  1. [1] Who chose not to speak out at the sentencing hearing, because they were afraid of retaliation from the would-be rapist who the judge then proceeded to turn loose.

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