In the eighteen months between March 2019 and August 2020, at least eight Black women were murdered by the police. Breonna Taylor was one of them. Officer Brett Hankison, one of the three officers who murdered Breonna Taylor, was eventually discharged from the Louisville Police Department. In the memo discharging him, the police chief cited behavior that amounted to an extreme indifference to the value of human life: Hankison blindly fired ten rounds into the home of Ms. Taylor's neighbor. Additionally, in the aftermath of Ms. Taylor's death, two women came forward and accused Hankison of sexually assaulting them while he was in uniform. Breonna Taylor's case highlights the intersection of police violence and sexual violence against Black women. Police who are accused of brutal violence often have histories of misconduct, with numerous complaints from civilians. For many women, the police misconduct is sexual assault. The women don't die, but the assault strips away their dignity and sense of security.
This paper will challenge the belief that police sexual misconduct is an infrequent, hidden crime. In fact, it is a common occurrence and is allowed to continue in most police departments. Both adult women and children are victims of police sexual misconduct. The unwillingness of federal and state authorities to tackle this issue forced researchers and journalists to create their own databases of police officers who commit crimes, including sexual misconduct.
Our nation is primed to tackle the issue of police reform in a way it has not been in recent years.This paper will argue that unless police reform efforts look beyond a narrow, male-centered understanding of police violence, the opportunity to create reform that helps protect Black women from police sexual misconduct will be lost.
Michelle S. Jacobs, Sometimes They Don't Die: Can Criminal Justice Reform Measures Help Halt Police Sexual Assault on Black Women?, 44 Harv. J. L. & Gender 251 (2021)