News broke late last week that a Chicago police officer, Nelson Stewart, has been charged with “custodial sexual misconduct, official misconduct and bribery, all felonies” after he solicited a prisoner who had been jailed for prostitution to perform a sex act in exchange for being released.
This abuse of power is unacceptable, and we are encouraged that this police officer is being held accountable. Unfortunately, research has revealed that people in the sex trade are frequently coerced or threatened into having sex with members of law enforcement in similar situations. We call on Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy to implement department-wide orders that expressly prohibit any sexual activity between officers and prostituted people and establish safe, confidential reporting options for prostituted people to report this abuse.
We also call on the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to reconsider their decision to charge the crime victim in this case with felony prostitution. After being exploited by this police officer, we believe that that this survivor deserves help and support, not to be criminally prosecuted. The habitual arrest and re-arrest of people in prostitution is a waste of law enforcement resources and promotes recidivism.
Instead, we propose that people impacted by the sex trade should be offered options and resources; doing so could help end commercial sexual exploitation.
To learn more about the need for comprehensive support for survivors of the sex trade, please read our new proposal from End Demand Illinois.