COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) -- A former police officer tracks police officers across the country who abuse the power of the badge including some who have targeted women for sex during traffic stops.
Back in 2014, an Ohio state trooper pleaded guilty to coercing women drivers into sex acts.
In September, a judge sent a former Phillipsburg officer to prison for sex crimes while on the job and just last month, an officer in Maryland was arrested after being accused of a traffic stop rape.
“We’re dealing with violent sexual predators who are preying on the most vulnerable people in society and absolutely abusing the power of authority that comes with the gun, the badge and the police car when they can make traffic stops,” said Bowling Green State University Criminologist, Phil Stinson.
Stinson was a police officer before he made it his life’s work to research and analyze cops who commit crimes both on and off duty.
“Is it crimes of opportunity, is it low self-control,” said Stinson.
Stinson has catalogued nearly 15,000 cases nationwide from drugs and assaults to sex crimes during traffic stops.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as flirting with somebody trying to get their phone number. We’ve had other cases where it actually ends up in a violent rape against the woman or girl who was stopped,” said Stinson.
Former Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Bryan Lee coerced four women into sex acts, some while in handcuffs, during traffic stops in exchange for not filing charges or issuing tickets. Lee admitted to photographing some of the encounters. The crimes played out over three years and Lee remains in federal prison.
“I just remember reading the article and like everything came back,” said Erica.
Erica is talking about a girls’ night out at a Newark bar 8 years ago that ended for her in handcuffs. “I had cut a corner a little short,” said Erica.
An Ohio State Trooper pulled over Erica. She says it was former Trooper Bryan Lee.
“At the time, I had really bad anxiety,” said Erica.
Erica says she had a panic attack as Lee drove her to the Heath police station for a breathalyzer in August 2010.
“It made me think a lot. Had I not been having a panic attack what else could have happened,” said Erica. Lee cited her for OVI and a judge later dismissed her case.
“I don’t really have a lot of trust in them,” said Erica, when asked how she now views officers.
Erica wasn’t sexually assaulted but the experience made her nervous around police. “Overall the fact that they can do whatever they want with their power when nobody else is looking that’s not okay,” said Erica.
Bryan Lee had been in trouble on the job before. He turned his body mic off during a traffic stop of two off-duty officers clocked on I-70 at more than 100 miles per hour on their motorcycles.
“We’re dealing with the fringe. I really hope and don’t think that every law enforcement officer is committing crimes,” said Stinson.
Stinson wants to help improve policing with his research and give victims a voice.
“There has to be mechanisms where victims of police sexual violence can feel safe in coming forward in making complaints,” said Stinson.
Stinson says his research shows a pattern of officers who’ve served honorably throughout their careers get involved in criminal activity right before retirement.