Posts tagged Men in Uniform

Rapists on patrol (#7). Officer Marcus Ramon Jackson.

Trigger warning. This post includes extended quotations from a newspaper article that includes narrative descriptions of sexual violence, battery, and other forms of abuse committed by a male police officer against four different young women. It may be triggering for past experiences of sexual or physical abuse.

Officer Marcus Ramon Jackson, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte, North Carolina. Last week, the Charlotte city government’s police force fired and then arrested Officer Marcus Ramon Jackson, for using the power of his badge and the threat of arrest to pull over, abduct and then rape at least two different young women off the street within a period of a week and a half in late December. The police force’s spokesman is keeping mum about it, but apparently Jackson was still out on patrol after the first woman came forward to the police — and raped the second victim during the time he was allowed to stay on the road. This is what Police Spokesman Captain Brian Cunningham considers act[ing] in a swift and appropriate manner.

On Wednesday, Jackson, 25, was arrested after two young women told investigators he had pulled them over on traffic stops and sexually assaulted them. He was on duty in a marked patrol car at the time, according to police.

The first incident allegedly occurred on Dec. 18 but wasn’t reported until Monday. Police Chief Rodney Monroe said Jackson — wearing his uniform and driving his police cruiser – pulled over a 17-year-old girl, forced her into his car, drove to another location and forced her to commit sex acts.

CMPD began its investigation after a relative of the girl called police Monday.

As detectives investigated the allegations, Monroe said, a 21-year-old woman reported Tuesday night that she too had been assaulted by Jackson under similar circumstances. That assault, she said, occurred on Monday.

Police would not say what time on Monday they received the first complaint, or how much time passed before the second attack occurred.

— Ely Portillo and Gary Wright, Charlotte Observer (2010-01-01): Ex-officer had past reports of violence

The reason that Officer Marcus Ramon Jackson was given a badge and a gun and the power to detain and arrest in the first place is because the city government’s police force decided to hire him even though he had already been taken to court two different times for threatening violence and battering women:

Court documents reveal that Jackson’s past included two allegedly violent episodes in Mecklenburg County. The first was in 2003 when Jackson, then 19 and a student at UNC Charlotte, was dating a 15-year-old Harding High School student.

The girl’s mother sought a restraining order against him in May 2003. The defendant threatened my daughter by telling her she was going to get hers and catch one, the mother wrote.

Jackson tried to hit the teen with a car and pushed her into a locker, according to the mother’s complaint. He was later summoned to court after being accused of violating a restraining order, but was found not guilty in August 2003.

In 2005, Jackson was working at Off Broadway Shoes on South Boulevard and still studying at UNCC when his 21-year-old girlfriend sought a restraining order against him.

The defendant grabbed me by the face several times, screaming and yelling…, the girlfriend wrote in her complaint. The defendant hit me in the back of the head, slapped my face, pushed me down in the floor, forcing (me) in (a) walk-in closet.

The judge ordered Jackson to stay away from the victim and not own or carry any firearms [for the duration of the restraining order].

— Ely Portillo and Gary Wright, Charlotte Observer (2010-01-01): Ex-officer had past reports of violence

The police admit that they were already aware of the 2003 domestic violence complaint when they decided to hire and arm Jackson. They claim that they weren’t aware of the 2005 restraining order — but, of course, they claim to do background checks before they hand out badges and guns, and the restraining order was a matter of public record, and could easily have been discovered if they took the time to follow up on the 2003 complaint, to see whether it was part of a pattern of behavior. In other words, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department chose to hire, train, arm, and put out on patrol a man who they already knew, or already should have known, to be a hyperviolent control freak with a history of violence against women. Who then went on to become a serial rapist, using the legal and martial weapons that they gave him to single young women out, force them into his car, abduct them, and force sex on them against their will. Police Chief Rodney Monroe has mentioned to the press that he thinks it would be naïve to believe that Jackson hadn’t raped other women while out on duty.

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Rapists on patrol (#3). Officer Gary Pignato, Greece, New York

(Via Drug War Chronicle Issue #584, 8 May 2009: This Week’s Corrupt Cop Stories.)

A week ago, in Greece, New York, Officer Gary Pignato, stalker, home invader, and serial rapist, was arraigned on charges that, acting under the color of law and with the extensive legally-backed powers that his badge affords, he used the threat of violent force to coerce sex from at least two unwilling women. In at least one of those cases, before he used the threat of arrest to rape her, he first picked her out, followed her back to her home in his police car, took the opportunity to get her phone number, and then, a few days later, invaded her house without permission. After raping her he kept calling her, over and over again, until she said she would expose what he was doing.

A second woman has accused a Greece police officer of using his authority to coerce her into sex.

Gary Pignato of Hilton was arraigned Tuesday on charges of third-degree bribery of a public servant, a felony; second-degree coercion, third-degree criminal trespass and official misconduct, all misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Pignato goes to trial June 1 on an earlier felony count of accepting a bribe and misdemeanor counts of coercion and official misconduct stemming from allegations that he went to a Greece woman’s home in August, then later coerced her into a sexual encounter.

According to documents filed in Greece Town Court on Tuesday, a different woman accuses Pignato of similar acts.

The woman’s name was redacted in the documents and it is the Democrat and Chronicle’s policy not to name victims of sexual crimes.

In a deposition dated April 28, the victim alleges she first met Pignato during the summer of 2005 when he followed her in his marked car as she drove into her apartment complex. She alleges he introduced himself that night, gave her his card and asked for her phone number.

Then, she alleges, a few days later she was smoking marijuana at her dining room table when Pignato walked in unannounced, told her she could be arrested and lose her children for what she was doing and said we can make this go away.

She alleges Pignato said having sex with him would take care of it.

The victim alleges they made arrangements to meet the next night. She said she drove to his house in Hilton where they engaged in sex.

She alleges Pignato continued to call her seeking sex over the next few days and finally stopped calling when she threatened to find his girlfriend and tell her what he did.

In her statement, the victim said a friend convinced her to contact authorities after news broke about Pignato’s other arrest and criminal charges.

In the August case, the victim alleges Pignato visited her home during a domestic dispute, then threatened to arrest her for violating her probation if she didn’t have sex with him.

Pignato has admitted to State Police that he had sex with that woman, but said it was consensual.

. . . Pignato, who has been suspended without pay, turned himself in to State Police Tuesday afternoon. He was released from court on his own recognizance. A court date was set for June 17, but Assistant District Attorney William Gargan said the case could go to a grand jury.

— Meaghan M. McDermott, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (2009-05-06): Greece officer faces additional charges

Please note that if you, or I, or anyone else without a badge and a government uniform were to follow women around, picking out victims for their special attentions, then busted into that woman’s house without permission, threatened to harm her children, threatened to draw a gun and force her into a car and carry her off to some hellhole far away where she would be locked up against their will — if you, or I, or anyone else, I say, did all these things several times, as a threat used to coerce sex from unwilling victims, then we would be treated, by the media and by the law, as rapists of the most dangerous sort and an immediate threat to everyone in the community. You or I would be jailed with an astronomical bail or no bail at all; you or I would hit with multiple aggravated felony charges and if convicted we would spend years of our lives in maximum security prisons. But because Officer Gary Pignato of Hilton, New York happens to be a police officer — because the violence he uses is violence under color of law, and because the threats he makes against his chosen targets are threats backed up by the armed force of the State, and because the women who uses those threats of violence against are suspect women, under the special scrutiny of the police, this dangerous, heavily-armed sexual predator has been released into the community on his own recognizance, and he has been charged with nothing more than a handful of misdemeanors for the rapes and the home invasion he committed. The only felonies he’s been charged with are bribery charges; only his betrayal of the police department, not his repeated use of his government-backed authority to coerce sex from unwilling women, is treated as serious enough to merit a felony charge.

Here’s what I said about a case with several male cops in San Antonio back in December; just replace the comments about the government’s war on sex workers with comments about the government’s war on drug users.

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

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Men in Uniform #3

Here’s a passage from a recent article in the L.A. Times, which is supposedly about a growing problem with alcohol-related offenses by L.A. county sheriff’s deputies. (Actually, what’s growing is the number of police reports of offenses by deputies, not necessarily the number of offenses actually committed. It used to be that L.A. cops would hardly ever report it when they encountered one of their gang brothers drunk and doing something dangerous. Professional courtesy and all that. What’s changed is that the department got some bad P.R. a few years back when a drunken cop started waving his gun around and got his cousin shot. So now they are actually starting to put these things on the books.)

Michael Gennaco, the head of the [County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review], said alcohol-related arrests have nearly tripled since 2004. Alcohol-related incidents in 2009 are at the same pace as last year, he said.

. . . Gennaco’s report also cited two cases in which deputies drew their guns after coming out of bars. In one case, a deputy followed a bar hostess to her car, flashed his badge, told her he’d like to molest her and kissed her on the neck. He displayed his handgun before kissing her again, according to the report. The deputy pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace and was suspended for 15 days, the report said.

— Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times (2009-04-16): Alcohol a growing problem in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, report says

Actually, the newspaper’s summary is kinder to the cop than he deserves. Here’s the full account from the OIR’s full report:

A deputy met a few friends at a bar and struck up a conversation with the bar’s hostess. At approximately 1:30 a.m., the hostess left work. The deputy saw the hostess crossing the street toward a parking garage and offered to walk her to her car.

The hostess declined the offer and encouraged the deputy to rejoin his friends. He then told the hostess that he was a cop. As the hostess continued to walk away from the deputy, he showed her his Department identification card. As the deputy continued to follow her to the dark secluded parking garage, she became increasingly nervous and scared.

As they entered the parking garage, the deputy turned to the hostess and said, You’re young and beautiful, and you probably get this all the time, but I’d really like to molest you. But I’m too nice. The hostess became even more fearful. The deputy then requested a kiss from the hostess, which she declined. The deputy then placed his right hand at the center of the hostess’ back, leaned over and kissed her neck. She moved her head away and told the deputy a second time that he did not have to walk her to her car. He responded that it was okay.

Inside the parking garage, the deputy stated again, Yeah, I’d really like to molest you, but I’m too nice. Then, the deputy asked her whether it looked like he had a gun on him. The hostess replied, That’s creepy. The deputy then asked the hostess whether she wanted to see it–and even though the hostess told him no—the deputy reached into his pant pocket, removed a black semi-automatic handgun and showed it to her. As she neared her car, the hostess thanked the deputy for walking with her and said goodbye. The deputy then moved closer to her and while still holding the handgun in his right hand, kissed her again on the neck. The hostess quickly got into her car and drove out of the parking garage. While she drove off, the hostess saw the deputy standing in the same spot, holding the gun and looking around.

The hostess reported the incident to a local police agency. The case was investigated and presented to a City Attorney’s office. The deputy was ultimately charged with one count of battery. Rather than proceed to trial, the deputy pled nolo contendere to an amended charge of disturbing the peace/causing loud noise. After the criminal conviction, the Department administratively investigated the incident and found that the deputy had violated Department policies. The Department suspended the deputy without pay for 15 days.

— County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review (April 2009): Seventh Annual Report

Of course, the real problem here has more or less nothing to do with alcohol. The problem has to do with a set of legal privileges, a police culture, and an institutional environment where this male deputy could realistically expect that even if he chased a woman trying to get away from him, told her that he’d like to molest her, intimidated her by brandishing his physical advantages and his legal authority, and then forced unwanted sexual contact on her, while she repeatedly said No — and even if he then brandished his gun and forced unwanted sexual contact on her again, even as she continued to say No and tried to get away from the predatory creep — that, after all this had come to light, he’d have no problem staying on at his job, or continuing to carry the badge and the gun that he so eagerly showed off as tools of sexual coercion, and that he would in fact face no personal consequences at all for terrorizing and sexually assaulting a woman, above and beyond pleading out on a misdemeanor nuisance charge, and being given a two week vacation from his job.

The L.A. county sheriff’s office doesn’t have a drinking problem. It has a power problem, and the reason for the problem has a lot to do with the fact that if a deputy turns out to be a creep who abuses his position of power — including male deputies who turn out to get off on using their weapons and their position of power to harass, intimidate, and sexually assault women — there will be no serious attempt to hold them accountable for anything that they may do.

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