Group calls for end of NYPD Vice Squad following report exposing alleged sexual misconduct
The Legal Aid Society is calling for the NYPD Vice Squad to be dissolved immediately following an investigative report by ProPublica exposing alleged corruption and sexual misconduct.
The Vice Enforcement Division polices human trafficking, prostitution and internet crimes against children with a focus on victim-based crimes.
The ProPublica report exposes alleged coercion and sexual misconduct within the squad.
The report says undercover officers were incentivized to make as many arrests as possible, resulting in more overtime. It also says some people who were arrested weren't selling sex at all.
The report details an incident when police responded to a claim of sex workers in a Brooklyn apartment.
An undercover officer solicited sex from outside of the apartment door as the woman inside says "no" 12 times, according to the report. It goes on to say she finally agreed to let him in and was arrested. She was charged with prostitution and lost custody of her child for two months, the report says.
ProPublica also obtained records complaining of inappropriate touching or more during the arrests.
"No one is affectively regulating the Vice Squad or monitoring the Vice Squad," said Robert Gangi, the executive director of Police Reform Organizing Project.
According to a ProPublica data analysis, arrests are also racially disproportionate.
Over the last four years, of the 1,800 people charged with prostitution, 89% were not white. And of the 3,000 people accused of trying to buy sex, 93% were not white.
"No one thought that was remotely representative of who's actually buying sex in the city," said Joshua Kaplan, a ProPublica journalist.
In response to the ProPublica report, the Legal Aid Society called for the end of the Vice Squad saying in part, "...It is time for the NYPD to acknowledge that Vice officers engage in unethical and, sometimes, illegal behavior and to ensure that those officers are held accountable for the harm they cause. This unit is beyond repair, and we demand the NYPD dissolve it immediately and terminate undercover policing operations targeted at sex workers."
The NYPD responded in a statement saying in part, "...We have significantly reduced the number of arrests for prostitution itself as we work in every case to connect the victims of human trafficking with the services they need. We have also worked to proactively deter individual buyers of sex. Yet prostitution in all forms remains prohibited by law. The NYPD deploys where crime is reported – in response to community complaints – and we enforce the law without consideration of race or ethnicity."