Maryland passed a new law on Monday (Apr. 10) that prohibits police officers from having sex with people who are in their custody, BuzzFeed reports. The law plans to help protect detainees from sexual assault or misconduct from authorities.
“Passing this bill was a first step and I hope to come back next year with more comprehensive protections,” Maryland Delegate Brooke Lierman said. “Because there can be no such thing as ‘consent’ by someone who is in custody, any law enforcement officer who engages in any sexual act with someone in custody has, by default, committed sexual assault.”
Maryland was among 35 states where cops can encounter a sexual assault conviction by stating a sexual interaction with a detainee was consensual. Still, the state’s laws remain less stringent than others like New York where last month, a law deemed all sexual acts while held in custody are considered rape.
The issue surrounding sexual misconduct from police officers got national attention late 2017 when an 18-year-old was raped by two detectives in an NYPD van. She claims the incident happened after she was held in custody for possession of marijuana and loose prescription pills.
Ultimately, evidence from a rape kit matched the two narcotics detectives’ DNA. Since then, Richard Hall and Eddie Martins have been fired and charged with rape, kidnapping, and official misconduct. Reportedly, the cops’ lawyers argue that Chambers seduced their clients, and deny the sexual acts were non-consensual.
But this isn’t a new conundrum within police departments nationwide because 158 cops have been charged with sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact or sexual battery since 2006. About 26 of these officials have had their cases dropped or acquitted for claiming their accusations were, in fact, consensual and not forced.
Lierman hopes this new bill will create change in Maryland, and decrease sexual misconduct among local authorities. “I hope that Maryland’s quick and decisive action … will demonstrate to states around the country that this is a serious issue that can and must be dealt with,” she said.