Some of you might be familiar with the Debra Lafave, a 23-year-old Tampa Middle School teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student in her home, her classroom and her car. Recently her lawyer went to court to have the photos taken by law enforcement of her genitalia sealed. The officers arresting her allegedly ordered the photos taken, they claim, to confirm tattoos, scars, tan line etc. to back up the claims of the student…

If you believe the arresting officers’ reasoning is valid, know also that one of the detectives who investigated the case got arrested shortly thereafter for offering a woman $140 to have sex. His name is John Gillespie, and he is the police officer who signed the search warrant enabling police to take the graphic nude photos of Lafave while she was in stirrups in a jail cell.

Know also this is unfortunately nothing new. Officers have been known to do the same to dancers arrested for violating a confusing municipal ordinance dictating how much of their buttocks can be shown. If enforced, half of the women wearing two piece bathing suits on our beaches or sunning pool side would find themselves under arrest. Yet, officers take pictures of them in their dance outfits or lack of, and don’t allow them to change or offer them any covering while transporting them to jail. For security reasons?…I think not. There are too many cases of officers doing this to women who are not dancers.

Another flagrant example here in Pinellas County occurred some years ago when a couple skinny dipping were arrested and taken to the police station. The man was allowed to get dressed, the woman was forced to sit nude while officers completed their paper work.

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t limited to officers just wanting to indulge their immature voyeuristic appetites. There have been reports of officers having sex with vulnerable women who have been victims of domestic violence and others who are mentally ill. There also have been officers who had sex with underage girls who were members of a teen police explorer group. As in all cases of sexual assault, one has to wonder how many more incidents have gone unreported.

The problem lies with the attitude of some men and some officers perceiving women as objects. Although this attitude is not limited to police or correctional officers it is made worse by the power and trust society bestows upon those who abuse their office. For this reason each incident should be reported and perpetrators punished, not merely asked to resign. These behaviors are criminal and only made worse when those in command choose to look the other way.