The Chicago Police Department is investigating whether an officer forced a transgender woman to perform a sex act under threat of arrest.
The woman told police the on-duty sergeant forced her to perform the act inside a police vehicle March 5, according to police reports obtained by the Chicago Tribune. She reported the alleged assault to Rush University Medical Center shortly after it occurred, and she provided what she said was DNA evidence, but she did not submit to rape kit testing, as she said she felt uncomfortable because of police presence at the hospital, according to the paper.
She said the sergeant threatened her by saying, “I can make you one of my regulars.” The incident occurred in an area frequented by sex workers, but she did not say if she was performing sex work at the time. She had told the officer she was simply on her way home.
She has not been publicly identified, and the Tribune is not naming the sergeant because he has not been criminally charged. But after police interviewed her a few weeks after the incident, they began an investigation, and the sergeant was stripped of his police powers as of April 6, the Tribune reports. He retired a week later, something he had planned to do for several months.
The police’s Internal Affairs Division had investigated him more than 20 years ago and recommended that he be fired. “That investigation found the officer and a partner had threatened to throw a convicted felon back into prison on bogus drug charges unless he handed over an illegal gun,” the Tribune reports. Ultimately, he and his partner each received a 30-day suspension.
The paper could not reach the trans woman for comment, and the sergeant declined comment. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office declined to say if its personnel are investigating. But a police spokesman said his department is continuing to investigate and is awaiting the results of a DNA test.
The woman is African-American and the sergeant is white. Chicago activists said the report indicates both racial and gender-related tensions in the city as well as power imbalances. “The power dynamic is so disparate between a potential arrestee and an arresting officer,” Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church and an activist in the Black community, told the Tribune. “It’s never morally right. It’s a corrupted use of police power.”