The Austin Police Department is launching an investigation into a dashcam video showing on-duty officers joking about rape.
Austin attorney Drew Gibbs made the video public after acquiring the footage during a routine car crash investigation. The footage, which is from May, shows two police officers, later reported to be Officer Mark Lyttle and Officer Michael Castillo. They appear to be sarcastically discussing what would happen if the police force “rode out” for a week.
After speculating that the crime rate would drop and “the world would be at peace for a week” if the cops did their ride-out, the conversation turns. One officer suggests that they’d simply “turn a blind eye” to crimes being reported. “I want to report a robbery! You probably deserved it,” the first officer jokes.
Then one officer continues, “See my new rape whistle? Let’s see if it works. Look at that girl over there.”
Officer 2: (blows whistle) Go ahead and call the cops. They can’t unrape you. (laughter)
Officer 1: You didn’t turn your camera off, did you?
Officer 2: They can’t unrape you.
The officers worry that the dashcam is still rolling and that they’ve been caught on camera. “Too late, you already said rape now,” says one officer.
The APD told Austin news station KXAN that “the attitude and commentary depicted within this video are not consistent with the level of professionalism we expect of our officers and does not represent the values of the Austin Police Department.” On Friday, the Austin Police Department issued a public statement and apology over the incident:
The Austin Police Department has validated the video/audio publicly released pursuant to the Texas Open Records Act. The officers in the video/audio have been identified as Austin Police officers. Upon learning of the video’s contents, the Department immediately launched an internal investigation. The investigation will include a comprehensive audit of the involved officers’ contacts with victims of sexual assault to ensure the actions taken during the contacts meet the expectations of the Department, the public and most importantly, the victims. Upon conclusion of the investigation, the Department will take appropriate corrective action. APD extends a heartfelt apology to all victims of sexual assault. The comments made by the officers are contrary to the long-standing commitment of the Department to bring compassionate justice to sexual assault victims.
But not everyone took the video as seriously as the statement might imply. According to KXAN, Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent felt that “at the end of the day we all would be embarrassed if everything we said was made public.” He also felt that perhaps sensitivity training for the officers was necessary.
But Gibbs told KXAN he was more concerned that the officers worried about covering up the dashcam record of their comments than the comments themselves. Given the number of instances of police brutality that have been recorded since dashboard cameras began to be standardized in police departments around the country, it’s a valid concern.
H/T KXAN | Photo via Scott Davidson/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)