By Michelle Richardson, Special to the AFRO
The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) is investigating a sex assault allegation within their own department.
In a written statement, police spokesman Matt Jablow confirmed 115 of the department’s patrol cars have been put out of service while the investigation continues.
Jablow also confirmed that a woman reported the assault on June 2, but did not say that the act occurred in a patrol car. Jablow did acknowledge the woman was in a patrol car at some point.
Police would not say when the assault occurred or the specific allegations that were reported but according to a memo sent to officers within the department and obtained by local television station WJZ, the victim reported that she was picked up by a man named “Rick” who appeared to be a police officer.
The woman said she was picked up near the Charles Village Pub and taken to a residential area near Camden Yards- where she was forced to have sex-before being taken back to the Charles Village Pub.
The woman then went into a hospital and reported the sex assault.
According to Jablow, Investigators will not be processing all of the cars for evidence, but are holding them. Jablow said he expected many to be released back into service “relatively soon,” and that the department has 415 patrol cars in total.
Until cars are released upon processing, “some officers will have to double up,” meaning there would be two officers to one car so that patrol efforts would not be affected.
Dozens of patrol vehicles sat unused in the lots of multiple police district stations Monday morning blocked off by yellow tape. Jablow said the department was processing vehicles all across the city.
Some advocates in the city believe the investigation should be conducted by a third party as to keep the case transparent and make sure there are no cover up’s.
“When the police engage in sexual violence, be that sexual harassment, coercion or outright sexual assault, the power dynamic is such that it adds extra consequences should the police officer be rebuffed,” said Jacqueline Robarge, head of Power Inside, to WJZ.
“The victims are least likely to be believed and most likely to be highly vulnerable.”
“It’s a particularly devastating trend, she said, given the power dynamics at play, which make victims fear reprisal if they talk, from the very people meant to protect them.”
Police did not say how long the investigation will take but they are “trying to get patrol vehicles back on the street as soon as possible.”