After NYPD officers allegedly rape teenager in custody, councilman drafts bill to close gap in law

Officers say they had consensual sex with a handcuffed teen. The law still supports them.

The newest members of the New York City police salute during the Star Spangled Banner at their graduation ceremony, Thursday, June 29, 2017, in New York. CREDIT: AP/Mary Altaffer
The newest members of the New York City police salute during the Star Spangled Banner at their graduation ceremony, Thursday, June 29, 2017, in New York. CREDIT: AP/Mary Altaffer

Two NYPD officers allegedly raped a teenager in their custody, and the case has sparked a conversation about how laws should change to address such incidents.

An 18-year-old teenager said she was raped by Brooklyn narcotics detectives Richard Hall and Edward Martins on September 15, after they pulled her over when she was driving with two of her male friends. Police found drugs in a bag and one of her friends had two pills. The teenager, who goes by Anna Chambers on social media, said the officers handcuffed only her and drove her to a Chipotle parking lot in an unmarked van. There, they allegedly raped her orally while she was handcuffed. Then, one of the officers reportedly raped her vaginally. The police left her on a street corner, she said. One of the friends who was with her spoke to the New York Post and said he found her later that night waiting by his car, visibly upset.

The officers claim they had consensual sex with Chambers and their lawyers are now using Chambers’ social media posts to attack her credibility and argue that “provocative” selfies are not normal behavior for rape survivors. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office found this description of how a rape survivor should behave to be “inaccurate” and “demeaning.”

Despite the extremely lopsided power dynamics of a police officer and handcuffed person in police custody, it is not actually illegal in New York for a police officer to have sex with someone in their custody. After learning of the incident, New York City Councilman Mark Treyger found out about this gap in the law. The alleged rape happened in his district.

“I was very disturbed to learn what happened on the night of September 15 in my district,” Treyger told ThinkProgress. He added that he was disgusted by the comments of the officers’ counsel on the social media presence of rape survivors.

“It is completely unacceptable in the sense that is so hard for victims of sexual assault to come forward with these cases. And this smear campaign against her is sending a chilling effect — not just to her, but all victims of rape and sexual assault, that if you come forward, someone will try to smear your character,” Treyger said. “We need to send a very clear message that we support victims of rape and sexual assault every step of the way.”

Although New York state law says that incarcerated people are incapable of giving consent to corrections workers and people under community supervision can’t give consent to parole officers, due exactly to these power dynamics, it has not applied this standard of consent to sexual activity between police officers and someone under arrest.

Michael David, Chambers’ lawyer, told ThinkProgress that there was “zero consent” and never could be under those circumstances.

“I don’t see how someone who has been kidnapped, handcuffed, under arrest by on-duty police officers … I don’t know any circumstances under which it can be consensual,” he said. “As far as we’re concerned, they should be fired from the police force. They admitted to sex. It’s their DNA.”

“This is an elite narcotics unit and they’re out raping a teenager. If it was any ordinary citizen, they would have been arrested overnight,” David added.

Treyger’s office is in the midst of drafting a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for an officer to engage in any kind of sexual activity with someone in custody. He is also asking the state legislature to address this issue in the penal code to make it a felony offense, according to Jezebel. Treyger said that he has observed both city council members and state legislators have been shocked by the fact that current laws do not address this.

Treyger told ThinkProgress there is some support for the legislation. There is not yet a set date by which the councilman expects to have the bill drafted.

“This is someone whether they’re handcuffed or pursued by police on officer police business there is no such thing as consent in this situation. This is rape, period,” Treyger said.

Last week, a dozen or more protesters rallied outside a public community meeting in New York City and in Coney Island in reaction to Chambers’ allegations.