Two Los Angeles police officers are under investigation for allegedly using blackmail and intimidation to force women to have sex with them while on duty.
Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols, veteran LAPD officers in the Hollywood division, are accused of targeting at least four women, in some cases taking them into an unmarked car to secluded areas. The accusations, if confirmed, will taint the image of a force that has shed much of its reputation for thuggery since the Rodney King riots of 1992.
The LAPD chief, Charlie Beck, said on Thursday that he was saddened by the allegations and that investigations were continuing. “If they are true, it would be horrific,” he said.
Detectives from the department’s internal affairs unit suspect the officers preyed on women whom they had arrested previously or who worked for them as informants, according to a search warrant reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. The pair lured victims into their car and used the threat of jail to coerce sex, the warrant alleges. Four women have made independent accusations.
Detectives intended to confront the officers next week but rushed to do so this week, after one of the women filed a lawsuit. The detectives sequestered the officers and seized their computers and phones. Valenzuela and Nichols were expected to remain off duty pending the investigation’s outcome.
The first accusation was made in January 2010, when a woman who worked as a police informant told a narcotics unit supervisor that the officers, wearing plain clothes, had lured her into a Volkswagen Jetta. One allegedly exposed himself and demanded she touch him.
Another woman subsequently told a supervisor that the two officers ordered her into a Jetta while she walked her dog in Hollywood. They had arrested her in a previous encounter and she said she felt compelled to get in. Valenzuela allegedly got into the back seat with her, unzipped his trousers, forced her head into his lap and demanded oral sex, saying: “Why don’t you cut out that tough girl crap.”