On December 10, 2015, former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of the serial rape of 13 women while on duty, all of them African American. Holtzclaw faced 36 counts, ranging from first degree rape to indecent exposure and sexual battery, and was found guilty of 18. He is currently awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled for next month.
Holtzclaw preyed upon women in one of the poorest areas of Oklahoma City, and routinely turned traffic stops into sexual assaults. Witnesses testified before the court that Holtzclaw promised to drop a drug charge from their criminal records if they did not report his actions. Others still testified that Holtzclaw stalked them, appearing at their homes and forcing them to expose themselves to him. In June of 2014, a woman known only as J.L came forward to report Holtzclaw’s actions, which launched the investigation that led to his arrest.
This case is significant in that the media has refused to pay attention to it. Many people were made aware on social media via Black Lives Matter protesters and independent news sources. An all white jury convicted Holtzclaw (who specified his race as “Asian or Pacific Islander”), consisting of eight men and four women. Critics of the way the legal system treats police officers as a whole were shocked by the jury’s decision. One witness specifically said “I didn't think anyone would believe me, I'm a black female."
This case focuses on the abuse of power and authority by police in the United States, and the way in which women (specifically black women) are targeted. Police Chief William Citty wrote in Holtzclaw’s termination letter that his actions constituted “the greatest abuse of police authority I have witnessed in my 37 years as a member of this agency."
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