Five days after being detained in Martinez County jail for driving drunk through a San Francisco Bay area suburb, a 23-year old woman was flipping through her iPad when she came to a terrible realization. Nude photographs of her had been forwarded to an unknown number while she was locked up.
California Highway Patrolman Sam Harrington later admitted to searching the woman’s confiscated phone and sending five nude photographs to his phone as well as two other officers.
According to reports from the Contra Costa Times, Harrington explained his actions as a “game” he learned in the CHP’s Los Angeles office. This “game” consists of officers across the state sharing nude photographs and lewd commentary about the women they pick-up.
Since uncovering the scandal, reporters from The Times have discovered many similar instances across the country, none of which resulted in criminal charges against perpetrating officers. This includes an instance this past May, when a woman sued New York City, alleging that while she was locked up last year, an arresting officer forwarded 25 photographs and videos from her phone to his.
According to the New York Daily News:
Pamela Held, 27, of Deer Park, is poised to sue the city and the Police Department, accusing a cop of invading her privacy by forwarding the provocative images from her iPhone. The steamy images of Held were sent to a personal cell phone that her lawyer said belongs to Officer Sean Christian.
“It makes me sick,” Held told the Daily News. “I don’t even want to think about what he’s done with them.”
Police sources confirmed that Christian, 41, assigned to the 104th Precinct stationhouse in Ridgewood, Queens, is the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation stemming from Held’s complaint.
Held’s nightmarish ordeal unfolded the night of Feb. 6 when five cops in a police van pulled over her Sentra in Ridgewood because it had no inspection sticker. The cops found prescription drugs in the car, so the officers, including Christian, hauled Held and her pal to the stationhouse.
When cops began grilling her about her whereabouts that night, Held told them she was visiting a friend and had text messages to prove it. She gave one officer the security code to open her phone and pointed out the messages. Then police left the room, with the phone, while she was processed on misdemeanor drug charges.
“I knew they had my phone and I was bugging out,” Held told The News. “I had a bad feeling.”
She was held nearly three more hours at the stationhouse before her phone was returned and she was given a desk appearance ticket. Held said Christian followed her to her car.
“He was telling me I’m a beautiful girl and I need to stop hanging out with the wrong people,” Held recalled
She left and later pulled over to check her phone.
“I saw this number and all the pictures and videos attached to it,” Held said.
Even after reporting this to the police, the officer remains on duty while he awaits a disciplinary hearing.
One of the main issues that has kept officers from being prosecuted is the claim from local police forces that they lack the training or technological knowledge to investigate incidents that occur online. It’s ironic that officers have enough technological savvy to commit these infractions but the departments that train them claim they lack the knowhow to investigate these instances. Such disconnect is simply another example of how, when faced with the opportunity to right an injustice, police departments would rather take care of their own than those they have sworn to protect and serve.
Christian Medina Beltz is a well-traveled emcee, journalist, educator and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who now lives in Miami. A messenger of many mediums, his work primarily focuses on addressing social concerns, with healthy yet measured doses of sarcasm, rebellion and humor.