Crime victims who call 911 often discover that while the police can’t offer help, they can always make the situation significantly worse – as a single mother from Milwaukee learned when she was raped by one of the cops who responded to her call, then arrested for “assaulting an officer.”
Police Officer Ladmarald Cates was one of two Milwaukee cops who responded to a 911 call from the anxious single mother after someone had pitched a brick through her bathroom window. He arranged to be alone with the woman, then raped her.
As recounted by the Daily Beast:
One [police officer] took her 15-year-old brother outside to speak to him. The other cop, Police Officer Ladmarald Cates, gave her boyfriend $10 and told him to go the store and get some water. She told him that he was welcome to chilled water from her refrigerator.
“I only drink bottled water,” Cates said.
Her boyfriend has a pronounced limp and set off with no promise of returning soon. Cates asked to see the broken window and she led him down a narrow hallway to a bathroom in the back….
She now stood on a floor littered with broken glass and pointed to the brick. The cop she had summoned to protect her instead chose this moment to grab the back of her head by her hair and sodomize her. Then he raped her.
Her revulsion in the aftermath was so visceral that she vomited as she ran outside. The cop’s partner had become concerned when he did not immediately see Cates and called for back-up. Other cops began arriving and saw a woman screaming incoherently about being raped.
Cates, the rapist, hurried out of the house and grabbed the victim by the waist, causing her feet to strike his partner. This gave the officers an excuse to arrest the battered and traumatized woman for “assaulting an officer.” She was taken to jail and held for 12 hours before receiving medical aid. After the hospital visit, she was sent back to jail for four days before being released without charges.
Although the victim’s accusation was substantiated by medical evidence, the DA refused to prosecute. The department’s Internal Affairs section confronted Cates – a repeat offender – with DNA evidence, and arranged to fire him for “idling and loafing” on duty. If the victim hadn’t persisted long enough to see Cates convicted on civil rights charges, he would have found employment in another police department.
It’s important to remember that, in the words of L. Carey Unkelbach, legal counsel to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado, “Law enforcement generally does not have a federal constitutional duty to protect one private person from another. For example, if a drunk driver injures a pedestrian or a drug dealer beats up an informant, agencies and their officers usually would not be liable for those injuries because there was no duty to protect.”
That view has been vindicated in literally dozens of cases by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts. In the 1989 case DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, for instance, the Supreme Court ruled: “Nothing in the language of the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors.”
What this means is that any time a woman calls for police “assistance,” she is inviting the intervention of armed strangers who have no duty to help, and practically unqualified license to harm her.