This is one of a few questions I will ask. I understand that no one can give legally binding advice and I am not asking for it. I am looking primarily for information and terminology I need to better research the actual laws relevant, I don't presume anything told to me is legally binding.

I have a friend, let's call her Alice, who was raped by a police officer, let's call him Bob. She went to the police and made a report, in which she also stated that she wished he was dead out of anger. Alice ultimately did not press charges.

Bob, now states that the officer to whom Alice gave the statement, informed him of her statement in detail. My understanding is that, without charges filed, the officer could not repeat any of the statement to Bob? Is the officer allowed to provide details of this statement to the accused? I know the officer promised the statement would not be repeated at that time.

If she isn't allowed, what sort of legal options are available for Alice to seek to have the breach of privacy punished? Alice was already afraid of making a report, due to fear that police officers would side together. This violation of her privacy is making it far less likely she will trust the legal system enough to file charges for the rape. So, I would like to be able to assure her that she has some means of seeking punishment for this, to show her that the legal system is still on her side and the police can't just collaborate against her. Any idea of what option one might pursue that I can research in more depth?

  • 5
    "less likely...to file charges:" You fundamentally misunderstand the nature of criminal charges. Charges are brought by the state, not the victim; the victim's feelings are taken into consideration, but the district attorney isn't bound by them (if the victim doesn't want to press charges, that doesn't mean no charges are filed).
    – cpast
    Oct 7, 2015 at 2:46
  • So why doesn't the case go forward?
    – user4951
    Feb 1, 2016 at 9:25

2 Answers 2


The misunderstanding

The only person who can chose to prosecute or not to prosecute a criminal case is the state: in the US this is through the office of the relevant District Attorney advised by the police.

When a person makes a complaint to police (or other authorities), the police/DA commence an investigation. In an ideal world all complaints would be investigated rigorously and thoroughly, however, we live in this world. The police/DA will assess the complaint and decide if it warrants the dedication of scarce resources to investigate. One of the factors they will consider is how vigorously the complainant prods them in the ass.

Ultimately, the police/DA will decide if there is enough evidence to place the matter before the courts. The complainant has no say in when or if this will happen.

A complainant cannot "drop the charges"!

The misconduct

For a police officer to disclose to another police officer that they were the subject of a felony (or any) complaint is gross misconduct and a huge betrayal of trust. At best it shows poor judgement, at worst it is corrupt.

Your friend needs professional legal advice right now!

  • 5
    Is it illegal? I mean it's poor judgment. Huge betrayal of trust. Gross misconduct. Is it a crime at all?
    – user4951
    Feb 1, 2016 at 9:27

In general it is the policy of law enforcement organizations to maintain the details of open investigations in confidence. Certainly, disclosing details of an allegation to an accused would be unusual, although some investigatory techniques do depend on strategic revelations.

The disclosure of a detailed complaint to the alleged perpetrator when the perp is a fellow law enforcement officer as described in this question, almost certainly constitutes gross misconduct. As with the initial complaint, when criminal behavior is alleged to have been perpetrated by a law enforcement officer, one need not take one's complaint to the department that employs the officer. It would be reasonable (and I would encourage) in such a situation to make a direct complaint to the District Attorney. One could also complain to an independent law enforcement agency: e.g., the Sheriff or State Police. (Similarly, if one's complaint involves a member of the DA's office one can instead complain to the State Attorney General's office.)

The unfortunate reality is that there often is a "blue line" of police who collaborate to protect each other, including illegally. When the police force is large enough, or when it has demonstrated itself corrupt enough, there will often be an independent "watchdog" agency created just to "police the police." A citizen concerned that her complaints won't be given a fair hearing should take her complaint to these independent agencies until she feels that it has been appropriately dealt with.

The last safety valve that exists is a direct appeal to the courts. This would require the assistance and advice of an attorney. Fortunately, when the violations of one's civil rights reach such a level there are lawyers and entities (e.g., the ACLU) who may advocate on behalf of victims pro bono.

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