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The phenomenon of sexual exploitation is, unfortunately, not new to the global discourse regarding human rights and the related concerns. A recent case involving a police officer sexually abusing a woman whose personal information he found in the police database proves that even the contemporary society with its sharp focus on the needs of vulnerable groups and the promotion of humanism-oriented values is not immune to the described problem.
A detailed analysis of Terryl Smith’s case will allow building a profound understanding of the issue and determining the tools for resolving it. The case is a clear example of the flaws in the legal system and social justice principles since it implies that one may be absolved of accountability for sexual exploitation and disclosure of classified information.
The problem of sexual exploitation and information disclosure has existed in the U.S. setting for a significant time period. In the past 9 years, over 400 charges of sexual assault have been filed against U.S. police officers, which signifies that there is a problem concerning control and integrity in the specified setting (McLaughlin). While the levels of concern regarding the levels of crime within the legal system have been rising among American citizens, very little change has been made so far to counteract this phenomenon (Stinson et al. 667).
Furthermore, the lack of control over decisions made and actions taken by police officers create an additional challenge in addressing the described concern (Donner et al. 421). In addition, it is very difficult to report the instances of sexual abuse or misconduct performed by police officers since these crimes are often covered by fellow police officers for various reasons (Stinson et al. 669). As a result, an honest and thorough analysis of such cases becomes nearly impossible, with a large number of details being lost and an even greater number of cases being unreported (Donner et al. 423).
Exploring the case of Terryl Smith and understanding why he managed to escape legal repercussions will allow addressing similar situations in the future and making sexual offenders in police to confess to their crimes.
Details of the Incident
According to the official statement, the case of Terryl Smith involved sexual exploitation of Celeste Guap, the daughter of a dispatcher. It has been stated that the victim suffered a sexual assault and an attempted forcible sodomy (Debolt). Six officers, including Terryl Smith, were charged with the assault (Debolt). It has also been established that, apart from the sexual misconduct, Terryl Smith and his accomplices shared the information obtained from the police database (Veklerov). The fact that the victim was under age at the time aggravated the situation, making the incident all the more atrocious.
Furthermore, as the case was analyzed, additional details were brought to the public attention. For instance, the victim claimed that she had had intercourse with numerous police officers prior to this incident (Stelzer). The fact that a large number of the members of police had been abusing their power before the incident indicates that the current legal and social systems requires immediate changes. Specifically, the problem of ethics in law enforcement organizations, the issue of victimization, the lack of control within police departments, and the lack of accountability among police officers require close attention.
The way in which the case of Terryl Smith resolved can be seen as the glaring example of why the contemporary justice system and the framework of social justice need immediate change. While Terryl Smith received a sentence, the fact that the rest of the case participants were freed of any charges is appalling (Stelzer). Moreover, the reasons based on which Terryl Smith was accused had little to do with the harm that he caused to the victim and, instead, concerned the disclosure of legal information (Veklerov).
The outcomes of the trial cannot be deemed as satisfactory or fair since they ignore the harm that the victim has sustained and do nothing to prevent similar cases in the future. Specifically, the problem concerning the lack of control of police officers over vulnerable groups has not been handled properly, with little to no effort having been made to manage this concern.
The resolution to the case cannot be considered appropriate since it fails to acknowledge the harm that was done to the plaintiff’s daughter, as well as take notice of the control issues within the Californian police department. While the problem of information disclosure and the unethical behavior of the police officers involved in the case was partially addressed, the shift of the focus from the sexual assault to data disclosure has done a huge disservice to justice. Specifically, by dismissing the charges concerning the sexual assault that has obviously taken place, the jury has created the setting in which further breach of citizens’ rights and abuse by police officers becomes a threat.
It is expected that the outcomes of the described case will have a devastating effect on the local community and the safety of American citizens, in general. Without a rigid control over the decisions made and actions taken by police officers, a vast number of vulnerable groups will be under the consistent threat of their rights being marginalized and violated by the very authority that is supposed to protect them. While it would be unfair to suspect every police officer of being a potential sexual predator, the impossibility of protecting a vast number of American citizens is a reason for a major concern.
Apart from affecting the physical safety of millions of Americans, the current situation and the court decision regarding the Terryl Smith case will also contribute to a rise in the feeling of insecurity among U.S. citizens. With the increase in the mass anxiety, social tensions are likely to occur, affecting the relationships between citizens, as well as reducing the overall quality of their lives. Unless the concern regarding the lack of control over the decisions made by police officers is addressed, the American society is likely to experience dire changes, with the quality of people’s lives and their psychological and physical well-being being reduced drastically (Stinson et al. 671). Therefore, urgent measures have to be taken in order to establish tight control over police departments and officers.
In retrospect, the case of Terryl Smith and its infamous resolution also imply that the methods of gathering and analyzing evidence need to be reconsidered. Indeed, according to the details of the court proceedings, the verdict was justified by the fact that the existing evidence was deemed as insufficient (Stelzer). Therefore, among the effects that the outcomes of the case may have on the American society, changes in the perception of information credibility will occur. With the increase in the levels of threat to innocent citizens, the ways of determining information credibility and the tools for enforcing the efficacy of the justice system will emerge.
With the recent technological breakthrough, information management, including the dissemination of data and its discussion, has improved significantly (Nonet et al. 16). Furthermore, more people have become actively involved in the cultural, economic, and political development of their communities (Nonet et al. 23). Therefore, it is expected that the current legal and social justice principles will be shaped toward promoting safety for vulnerable groups and enhancing accountability and responsibility among police officers, limiting their ability to abuse power.
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Representing the problems in the modern social justice and legal standards, the case of Terryl Smith proves that changes have to be made to the existing system of values, in general, and its aspects such as gender relationships and workplace integrity, in particular. The outcomes of Terryl Smith’s trial show that the significance of basic human decency has dropped in regard to the modern value system, in general, and that the current legal system misaligns with the principles of social justice that should be upheld in the modern society.
The aftermath of Terryl Smith’s trial is likely to reverberate in the global society, hampering the process of promoting humanistic values and the principles of social justice in the global environment. However, discussions of the case as the means of analyzing the mistakes made in the process may help to change the existing legal system and avoid similar miscarriages of justice. Furthermore, it is believed that, with the enhancement of social involvement in the subject matter, more rigid control can be established over the actions of police enforcement officers.
Debolt, David. “Oakland: Cop in Sex Misconduct Case Won’t Face Charges.” East Bay Times. 2016. Web.
Donner, Christopher, et al. “Social Bonds and Police Misconduct.” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 39, no. 2, 2016, pp. 416–431.
McLaughlin, Eliott C. “Police Officers in the US Were Charged with More Than 400 Rapes over a 9-Year Period.” CNN. 2018. Web.
Nonet, Philippe, et al. Law and Society in Transition: Toward Responsive Law. Routledge, 2017.
Stelzer, Andrew. “Sixth Officer Charged in Police Sexual Exploitation Case.” KQED. 2016. Web.
Stinson, Philip Matthew, et al. “Police Sexual Misconduct: A National Scale Study of Arrested Officers.” Criminal Justice Policy Review, vol. 26, no. 7, 2014, pp. 665–690.
Veklerov, Kimberly. “Ex-Oakland Cop Charged with Illegal Use of Crime Database.” SF Gate. 2016. Web.