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Shielded by the badge
by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

An unnamed transgender woman went to the San Antonio, Texas police station in 2010. Some time before she visited the station, a police officer, Craig Nash, had picked her up for prostitution. It would seem, according to investigators, that Officer Nash did not take this woman directly to lockup. Instead, after cuffing her he told her to lie down in the back seat and drove her to a remote location. Once there, Nash forced her to perform sexual acts on him. He then dropped her off near a school back in town.

Once she was dropped off, it was a local bus – not Nash's squad car – that took her to the police station. There, a rape kit would be administered, showing that Nash did indeed leave his DNA on the victim. Later, GPS records would place his squad car at the scene at the time the acts occurred.

This was not necessarily an isolated incident. A second person has come forth, claiming to have also been sexually assaulted by Nash back in 2008.

In another alleged incident, from 2009, Nash had a complaint filed against him by the Texas Civil Rights Project. In the complaint, it was alleged that Nash had threatened witnesses with arrest after responding to a domestic assault. Nothing apparently ever came of this report.

Nash has since lost his badge, and is behind bars for his crime – but this is where things get muddy. You see, in spite of very clear evidence against him, Nash was allowed to enter into a plea agreement. In exchange for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of official oppression, the prosecutor agreed not to pursue felony charges for sexual assault. More than this, the prosecutor would not even pursue charges stemming from the 2008 case.

Nash is serving one year in jail for his crimes. Presumably he could even get time off for good behavior.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., a transwoman named Chloe Moore was verbally and physically assaulted. In response, Moore pepper sprayed the man. Undeterred, he chased her, forced her to the ground, and pulled out his badge. His name is Raphael Radon and he's an officer with the Washington, D.C. police department. Radon was off-duty at the time of the alleged incident.

Two other police officers responded to the scene, and determined that Radon was indeed at fault, even noting that he may have committed a bias-based assault. Yet these two officers were not allowed to charge Radon thanks to police Captain Michelle Williams. She interceded in the affair, insisting that Moore be charged with assault while Radon goes free.

The internal affairs unit is investigating, but meanwhile Moore is still the one facing charges.

Finally, in Philadelphia, members of a police advisory committee are seeking yet more information about the killing of Nizah Morris.

Morris died in December 2002, the victim of a skull fracture. Shortly before her death, police had given her a courtesy ride. The committee has sent letters to District Attorney R. Seth Williams and Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, requesting more materials, including "any and all 911 tapes, transcripts or other documents or materials" in the murder.

The police have had a long history of stonewalling in this case, and declared their own records lost in 2008 – hence the reason the commission is now trying to get the DA's copies of the records.

When I was young, I was taught that the police were here to protect us from the bad guys. My family would watch Dragnet or Adam-12, huddled around the glow of the television. On my bookshelf was a copy of the children's book, Policeman Dan. My schools would have days where the local police would come over, educating us about safety, and admonishing us to report suspicious activity in our town. From my earliest days, everything conspired to teach me that the police were the good guys.

Maybe if I was not transgender, I could still live with that belief. Frankly, I'd like to live in a world of heroes swooping in to save the day, protecting us from all of society's so-called ills. Yet what happens if the guy with the badge isn't the good guy at all, and clearly does not want to protect you?

In each of the above cases, it is at least likely – if not downright obvious – that the officers acted inappropriately. Nash's victims were sexually assaulted, and he used his position as a police officer to commit his crimes. Radon allegedly assaulted a transgender woman before getting a face full of pepper spray, then used his badge to further assault her.

What of Morris? We may never know the whole story. Philadelphia activists and others have spent the better part of a decade pointing out the few facts in this case, noting that Morris was healthy when she got into the police car, yet had severe head trauma a few minutes after getting out. Could a random assault have happened between the few moments she got out and when she was found? Yes – but Occam's razor would suggest otherwise.

In both Nash and Radon's cases, the officers got off with reduced sentences or no charges at all. While there is still the matter of an internal investigation in the latter incident, it's plenty likely it will end up with Radon still wearing the badge he hides behind.

I want to believe the cops are the good guys, but is it even possible when those whose job it is to uphold the law can so flagrantly break it, and not face punishment? I think not.

Gwen Smith longs for the Lone Ranger. You can find her at http://www.gwensmith.com.

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