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Rapists on patrol

I’m in San Antonio, visiting family for the holidays. This is not the sort of story that I had hoped would greet me on the local news.

2 SAPD Officers Face Oppression Charges

SAN ANTONIO — Two San Antonio police officers were charged Thursday with official oppression in connection with an incident involving a woman.

Victor Hugo Gonzalez, 36, a six-year veteran of the force, was also charged with promotion of prostitution and sexual assault.

Police Chief William McManus said that Gonzalez propositioned and sexually assaulted an 18-year-old woman while on patrol at a park near Riverside Golf Course in June.

McManus also said that woman was forced to commit a sex act for a friend of Gonzalez.

Also charged with official oppression was Michael Anthony Munoz, 33, a five-year veteran of the force.

McManus said that Munoz groped the woman and stood watch for Gonzalez.

KSAT San Antonio (2007-12-20): 2 SAPD Officers Face Oppression Charges

Wanted SAPD Officer Surrenders To Police

SAN ANTONIO — A third San Antonio police officer charged with sexually assaulting of a woman turned himself in to authorities early Friday morning.

Raymond Ramos, 28, turned himself in Friday morning on charges of sexual assault, civil rights violations and official oppression in a Nov. 11 incident involving a 28-year-old woman.

Police investigating Ramos' incident came across information that led to the Thursday arrests of two other officers in a separate incident.

All three officers – now out on bond – worked overnight patrol out of the Southside substation.

— KSAT San Antonio (2007-12-21): Wanted SAPD Officer Surrenders To Police

To their credit, the police department and the D.A. are, for the most part, treating these as serious crimes; that’s better than you can say for some police departments. The cops believed the complainants enough to charge the officers, the arrested cops have been taken off of patrol duty while the indictment is pending (although they have only been transferred to desk jobs; why not just put them on leave entirely?), and the D.A. says that she plans to seek indictments from a grand jury by next month. On the other hand, the boss cops still insist on talking about these rapists in terms of Yet Another Couple of Isolated Incidents — a way of talking about it that takes these particular crimes seriously while also guaranteeing that crimes just like these will keep on happening over and over:

Wednesday's arrests bring the total of police officers arrested in 2007 to five, four of whom worked out of the Southside Substation on the 700 block of West Mayfield Boulevard.

McManus called Thursday's allegations disturbing, but he also said that all officers should not fall under the umbrella of a few who might have broken the law.

McManus said an officer at the substation was the one who brought the allegations to his attention after a woman complained to him about an officer assaulting her.

These types of incidents are not only embarrassing, but frustrating, and they do make you angry, McManus said. By no means are we going to tolerate it, by no means are we going to soft step it.

— KSAT San Antonio (2007-12-20): 2 SAPD Officers Face Oppression Charges

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.

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