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Lawsuit filed over alleged rape by officer

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2007/08/22 12:38

A 23-year-old Florida woman who said she was raped last December by an on-duty Inglewood police officer filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, charging that the department's policies contributed directly to the attack.

The suit, which names as defendants the officer, his partner and the department's top brass, alleges that the Inglewood Police Department's hiring, training and retention policies created an "unrestrained, undisciplined and out of control" atmosphere in which some officers thought that they could "get away with anything and everything." It also contends that the woman was sexually assaulted and falsely imprisoned, and that her civil rights were violated.

Her attorney, Dylan Pollard, said the lawsuit comes many frustrating months after he and his client participated in a private meeting about the allegations with the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and Inglewood police.

No charges have been filed in the eight-month criminal investigation.

Inglewood police officials said the sexual assault case was still being investigated. They would not say whether that investigation was connected to a separate departmental inquiry into accusations that department employees, during work hours and off duty, have had sex with female masseuses.

Last month, the department announced that it had fired two officers in connection with the masseuse inquiry. Officials declined to name the officers or describe the scope of the investigation other than to say that an unspecified number of employees received "intent to discipline" notices.

Department officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said it is still investigating the alleged rape.

The 26-page lawsuit graphically describes what the woman calls a terrifying assault on Dec. 15. It says that she was followed by an Inglewood officer to her Econo Lodge motel room, raped and then forced to give the officer oral sex. Although the woman's identity is revealed in the lawsuit, The Times generally does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes without their permission. The lawsuit also gives the last names of two police officers -- the alleged perpetrator and his partner -- but The Times could not confirm their full names.

Recounting allegations that the newspaper first reported late last year, the lawsuit alleges that the woman was stopped by the two officers as she walked to a fast-food restaurant about 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday to get a late dinner. She was in town with her boyfriend, according to the lawsuit, to visit relatives for the holidays.

As she walked along Century Boulevard, a thoroughfare known for the presence of streetwalkers, the officers stopped her and accused her of being a prostitute, according to the lawsuit.

She denied the accusation and was followed back to her motel, where a night manager confirmed that she was a registered guest.

Nevertheless, the suit contends, one officer insisted that the woman take him to her motel room, where he again accused her of being a prostitute and then, with one hand on his handgun, forced her to have sex.

After the alleged attack, the lawsuit says, the officer left with his partner, who had been waiting downstairs in their patrol car.

Pollard said his client later provided a DNA sample from her alleged attacker to a rape treatment center and that the sample was turned over to the FBI.

The suit also names as defendants Capt. Eve Irvine, who heads the department's detective bureau, and former Chief JuliusDavis.

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor, said she was not surprised that authorities are still investigating the case and said it did not indicate whether the allegations will lead to a criminal prosecution.

"These cases take some time to wind their way through the system because there is a constant prioritization of investigations," Levenson said. "On the federal side, the priority is terrorism cases, and in the D.A.'s office they have other types of crimes -- murder, serial violent offender -- that are the priority."

Delaying a resolution of such cases, Levenson said, can "be very frustrating for the victim." But barring more information, she said, it was impossible to know whether authorities are moving slower than they should.

"The fact is, they may be taking it seriously," Levenson said. "We have to remember that [the woman's] statement starts the process . . . it doesn't end the investigation."

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