Today, former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw received a sentence of 263 years for raping and sexually assaulting eight Black women while on duty. “In this case, justice, although late, was served,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). “We thank the survivors of this officer’s heinous acts for courageously sharing their stories and enduring his trial, conviction, and sentencing. We hope they receive the support they need to begin to heal.”
Police sexual misconduct, particularly in communities of color, is long-standing and widespread. Indeed, Rosa Parks, who is best known for sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott during the civil rights movement, also spearheaded efforts in Alabama to investigate and eliminate sexual assaults against Black women by white men, including law enforcement officers. More recently, an investigation in 2015 by Associated Press found that hundreds of police officers nationwide have lost their licenses for sexual misconduct. The U.S. Department of Justice also released a report last year detailing sexual assaults committed by officers of the San Diego Police Department.
The Holtzclaw case is replete with disturbing examples of the current obstacles that prevent police officers who engage in sexual misconduct from being held accountable. For instance, Holtzclaw’s last victim filed a civil lawsuit against the Oklahoma City Police Department claiming that the police were aware of his misconduct over a month before he sexually assaulted her. Indeed, some reports indicate that Holtzclaw may have assaulted half of his victims while under investigation. The police began investigating Holtzclaw on May 8, 2014, but he was still allowed to stay on regular duty unmonitored. At his trial, an Oklahoma City detective testified that one of Holtzclaw’s victims reported her assault on May 24, 2014, weeks before Holtzclaw attacked his last victim.
“We hope that the Holtzclaw case sends a message to police departments across the country that sexual misconduct will not, and should not, be tolerated,” said Monique Dixon, LDF’s Deputy Director of Policy and Senior Counsel. “We call for immediate national and local reforms to end the code of silence and lack of police accountability so that we can better protect women across the country.”
These reforms include, but are not limited to:
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.