But You Can Trust The Cops, Right?

An aspect of the push for new laws criminalizing intimate conduct that hasn’t been given much attention is the underlying assumption that if such laws are enacted, they will not only be enforced, but they will be enforced by law enforcement with a level of trust and respect for the delicate subject matter and the sensibilities of the victims.

Good luck with that. From lovely Contra Costa, California:

The California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing nude photos from a DUI suspect’s phone told investigators that he and his fellow officers have been trading such images for years, in a practice that stretches from its Los Angeles office to his own Dublin station, according to court documents obtained by this newspaper Friday.

CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez, also confessed to stealing explicit photos from the cellphone of a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect in August and forwarding those images to at least two CHP colleagues. The five-year CHP veteran called it a “game” among officers, according to an Oct. 14 search warrant affidavit.

Not to paint cops with too broad a brush, but, ahem, some of them aren’t a whole lot better than those “frat boys” or MRAs you think so poorly of.  In fact, some are pretty awful when it comes to respecting the physical integrity of female suspects, trading off sex acts for arrest because they can. 

And so your grand scheme to save the internet from angry males bent on revealing the private, intimate images of women, is to turn to the guys who steal private, intimate images of women and share them amongst themselves?  Cool game, right?

This is not to say that all cops do, or would, steal nude pics off female suspects’ cellphones.  What it does say, however, is that there is a flaw in the plan to end the plight of women who exercise their right to take and distribute naked images of themselves with impunity by creating crimes.  A very pragmatic flaw. A flaw that nobody has talked about, as far as I’m aware. Until now.

It’s one thing to espouse the theoretical efficacy of law enforcement to cure another symptom of the disease of rape culture.  But after the laws get passed, the Mission Accomplished party is over and the “victims” are left to sign the complaint, what about the nuts and bolts of enforcement?

If you need a more graphic example, think about the complaints of police failing to take seriously (enough) the allegations of sexual assault victims.  If you haven’t been satisfied with their sensitivity there, what makes you think it’s going to be different with naked images?

One fix could be that only women cops enforce laws that involve naked images of women, presumably less inclined to be interested in the contents of the images and less likely to spread them around the precinct.  Is it likely that law enforcement will divvy up its resources based on the sensibilities of victims?  Some might, provided they have enough cops to do so and are inclined to use their resources based upon complainants’ feelings.

Should these laws continue to be enacted and enforced, putting aside the issue of constitutionality and good judgment, it then becomes a matter of putting one’s faith in law enforcement to handle the complaints with the requisite degree of sensitivity.  After all, the complainant is walking into the police department and handing over the very images that they say has turned their lives into misery.

Do you trust the police to protect your images? Do you trust the police to care for them in the way you would hope?  Is there much about police culture that makes you think they will be any more delicate with your life than they are with, well, a lot of other people’s lives, may they rest in peace?

The idea that creating a crime will serve as a disincentive for people to post intimate images on the internet may make a lot more sense in theory than it does in practice.  Of course, maybe you trust that the “new professionalism” will protect you from the ravages of improper distribution of images.  But then again, it didn’t stop the California Highway Patrol cops from doing so, even though it was clearly illegal for them to steal the images off suspects’ cellphones to pass around as part of their game.

Whether this will happen at all, or happen more regularly than not, remains unknown.  Maybe these CHPs officers are an anomaly, engaged in conduct that most cops, all cops but them, would find reprehensible and disgraceful.  Maybe they will honor their oath, believe the PR stuff on the sides of their cruisers, and treat women with the dignity and respect they deserve. Maybe.

So hand over your nude pics and find out. What harm could it do?

One thought on “But You Can Trust The Cops, Right?

  1. Pingback: California Cops Passed Around Explicit Photos Harvested From Arrestees’ Phones | Technology

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