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“It’s a horrendous breach of public trust,” say her lawyers.
There’s growing momentum in the pushback against non-consensual pornography—with multiple U.S. States banning revenge porn, and the U.K. introducing specific legislation to combat the issue. But one California cop apparently missed the memo, and has been caught stealing intimate photos off a female suspect’s phone.
The Contra Costa Times reports that California Highway Patrol officer Sean Harrington searched a DUI suspect’s cellphone after her arrest, and secretly sent himself copies of the nude photos he found on the device. Harrington attempted to cover his tracks by deleting the sent messages from his alleged victim’s iPhone—but the record of the forwarded explicit photos was synched with her iPad, as she later discovered.
After reporting Harrington’s actions, a search revealed photographs and messages taken from her phone on the officer’s devices.
The unnamed woman’s attorney, Rick Madsen, described the officer’s actions as “a horrendous breach of the public trust.”
“We believe Officer Harrington committed a clandestine and illegal intrusion into her privacy which is unspeakable considering his sworn duty to protect the public,” Madsen added. “My client remains understandably distraught as we await further information about who else may possess the photos and what further investigation may uncover.”
The deputy district attorney would not comment to the Contra Costa Times as to whether “other officers have been implicated in the investigation.”
The woman had reportedly earlier voluntarily surrendered her password to Officer Harrington—but he would not have had legal grounds to search it without a warrant, meaning that if the allegations are true, he would’ve committed an offence even if he had not sent himself the explicit photos.
Harrington is reportedly “assigned to desk duties” while the investigation is underway.
Rob Price is a technology and politics reporter who served as the U.K.-based morning editor for the Daily Dot until 2014. He now works as the news editor for Business Insider, and his work has appeared in Vice, Slate, the Washington Post, and the Independent.