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Maryland officers are now legally forbidden to have sex with people in their custody.
According to the Baltimore Sun, state lawmakers unanimously passed the HB1292 bill Monday after the U.S. Justice Department received reports about Baltimore cops allegedly pressuring detainees for sex.
The federal report reads in part:
We heard complaints from the community that some officers target members of a vulnerable population—people involved in the sex trade—to coerce sexual favors from them in exchange for avoiding arrest, or for cash or narcotics. This conduct is not only criminal, it is an abuse of power. Unfortunately, we not only found evidence of this conduct in BPD’s internal affairs files, it appeared that the Department failed to adequately investigate allegations of such conduct, allowing it to recur.
Prior to this week, Maryland’s on-duty officers could get around possible sexual misconduct convictions by claiming a sexual encounter with a detainee was consensual; however, the so-called loophole has raised more questions about law enforcement’s abuse of power as well as potential civil rights violations.
“I have been shocked at the number of women and organizations serving women who have come forward to tell me they have clients who have experienced this,” Maryland Delegate Brooke Lierman, who introduced the bill, told the Sun. “It’s galling. It’s horrible.”
HB1292 states a Maryland police officer is barred from engaging “in sexual contact, vaginal intercourse, or a sexual act with a person in the custody of the law enforcement officer.” The offense, which is categorized as a misdemeanor, can result in a three-year sentence and/or a $3,000 fine.