Police abuse of trafficking victims weakens fragile help system

Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle

Photo: Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle

***Administrator's note: We know that there are AMAZING men and women in law enforcement who are on the front lines of this issue, who treat victims with respect and dignity and help them out of the life. We work with a lot of them. But in all professions, there are bad examples, and it is important to bring accountability to all professions. Those in positions of authority must not be allowed to exploit those they are tasked with protecting.***

The girls are 16 and 17 years old. Sometimes as young as 10. They’re brought into juvenile hall wearing miniskirts and crop tops in the middle of February. Or they show up at an urgent-care clinic with three different sexually transmitted infections, or for their second pregnancy test in two months.

Stacey Katz, executive director of WestCoast Children’s Clinic in Oakland, knows that they are victims of sex trafficking, even if the girls don’t always say it. Their traffickers are men they call their boyfriends. Their abusers — their so-called clients — may be relatives, school counselors, lawyers. Sometimes, they’re cops.

Last month, when an 18-year-old woman began telling reporters she’d had sex with 29 Bay Area law enforcement officers over the past two years, including Oakland officers she met on the streets, Katz wasn’t surprised.

“That’s not a scandal — it’s something that’s happening all the time,” Katz said. “The problem is systemic.”

To read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/health/article/Police-abuse-of-trafficking-victims-weakens-8382480.php?t=386c2687e0&cmpid=fb-premium