City May Be Liable for|Ex-Cop’s Sex Assault

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A newly public ruling shows that New York City still faces claims from a woman who was sexually assaulted by a detective.
     L.C. claims that New York City Police Detective Oscar Sandino used a search warrant to enter her Queens apartment on Feb. 16, 2008.
     Sandino allegedly ordered a strip search in Sandino’s bedroom, and then threatened her on a car ride to the station that she could lose custody of her children unless she agreed to be “bedded.”
     L.C. said that she asked to leave her interrogation later that night to use the bathroom.
     Sandino allegedly followed her into the stall, showed her his gun, told her to undress and forced to perform oral sex.
     Another unidentified officer helped isolate her in the bathroom, and no other officers reported anything to their superiors, according to L.C.’s complaint.
     Sandino allegedly continued to harass her for weeks with text messages and phone calls.
     L.C. says she turned over the messages and recordings to the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau in March 2008, and then met with Sandino while wearing a wire.
     The police allegedly removed Sandino from active duty that month.
     Sandino later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting L.C. and engaging in “lewd sexual behavior” in front of another woman. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
     L.C. sued him, his unidentified colleagues and the city for civil rights violations in 2009.
     U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein refused to grant the city judgment on the pleadings on Aug. 22, 2011, but the opinion was not made until over a year later, Sept. 6, 2012.
     L.C. claims the city has a “policy and practice which provides practically unimpeded control over female suspects and prospective female confidential informants, and which fails to explicitly prohibit the use of sexual dominance and gender exploitative control tactics that seek to further investigative ends and individual officer[s’] personal prurient desire[s],” according to the opinion.
     The NYPD must face claims that its unwritten “code of silence” stops other officers from blowing the whistle on abuse.
     Stein refused to defer to the city’s assurance that a “single rogue police detective” was to blame.
     “The city may be right,” Stein wrote. “However, the alleged facts, taken as true for purposes of this motion, plausibly suggest otherwise.”
     The city might also be liable under the Monell doctrine, named after a 1978 Supreme Court case that first established local government accountability for unconstitutional acts.
     Though the Internal Affairs Bureau allegedly took swift action against Sandino, the city could still be liable.
     “In any event, the issue of whether the city eventually investigates and disciplines employees accused of misconduct is distinct from whether the city was deliberately indifferent to the violation of citizens’ constitutional rights in the first place,” Stein wrote. “In other words, even if the city took corrective action, its training and supervision of male officers vis-a-vis female detainees and informants still may have been inadequate.”
     In a March 2012 motion for summary judgment, city lawyers described Sandino’s conduct as “shocking and deplorable,” but still just an “isolated incident,”
     “There are no facts pled in the complaint which even remotely suggest that the alleged conduct at issue is (or can be) attributable to a custom or policy of the city of New York,” city lawyer Karl Ashanti wrote.
     One consultant told the court that an absent policy could be just as damaging.
     “The NYPD has no specific provisions or safeguards on how to recruit female informants in a manner that would reduce the risk of injuring a female detainee,” former officer Richard Rivera wrote in a declaration supporting L.C. “Since there are no written provisions and a lack of training it leaves officers to do as they see fit and without boundaries to gain the trust of a confidential informant.”
     Rivera says he has trained more than 100 police internal affairs investigators in the past three years.

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