The Austin Police Department has apologized after confirming the authenticity of a video posted online that depicts two of its officers joking about robbery and rape.
In the video, which was recorded on a police dashboard camera, two unidentified officers can be heard theorizing about what their day would be like if the two worked as partners.
The officers joke that if they worked together, they would likely “turn a blind eye” to crime. The duo wouldn’t investigate robberies because the victim “probably deserved it,” and calling them for help after a rape would be fruitless because the officers “can’t unrape you,” they joked.
The officers made the comments while responding to a traffic accident in May. The video was obtained under an open records request and published by a local attorney who was investigating the accident.
“Those who minimize this violence need to realize that they are further numbing our culture’s perception of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Katie Ray-Jones, a spokeswoman for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said in a statement. “Education on these critical issues is desperately needed, even throughout the ranks of those tasked with keeping the peace.”
Over the weekend, the Austin Police Department acknowledged the authenticity of the video and apologized for the comments.
“Upon learning of the video’s contents, the department immediately launched an internal investigation,” the agency said in a statement. “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.”
Wayne Vincent with the Austin Police Association told NBC affiliate KXAN-TV that the publication of the video was an attempt to embarrass the police department.
“I’m sure the officers will face consequences because of this, but at the end of the day we all would be embarrassed if everything we said was made public,” Vincent said.
Drew Gibbs, the attorney who published the video online, said in a statement his motive for making the video public was an attempt to generate a discussion, not to embarrass the agency.
“The comments on the video struck me as inappropriate, and I chose to allow the court of public opinion to decide if they agreed,” Gibbs said.
Vincent suggests the comments did not truly reflect the thoughts of the officers.
“I don’t doubt for a minute it will push folks’ buttons as to what was said,” Vincent told KXAN, “that is why this is so embarrassing. But does it reflect those officers’ work ethic? I doubt very seriously that it does.”
Vincent said neither officer should be terminated for the comments, and instead suggested both officers be subjected to “sensitivity training.” It is unclear if either officer is still on public duty while the agency investigates the comments.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.