A review of California Highway Patrol (CHP) internal investigations shows that sexual misconduct among officers was almost normalized. Those officers who were found to have engaged in sexual misconduct may have been terminated, but only half were ever investigated criminally or had their cases referred to prosecutors. It also shows that sexual misconduct among the most common types of police misbehavior.
NPR and KQED analyzed 103 California sexual misconduct investigations involving 103 officers from various departments. In 35 such cases, other officers knew of the sexual misconduct but failed to act. Eighty-five officers were disciplined or resigned. Fifteen officers remain on the force.
Hidden From View
Until a 2019 change in the law regarding the privacy of internal police investigations, these records were never available to the public. Although the CHP is among the state’s largest law enforcement agencies, it refused to release recent records until KQED filed suit in 2020.
These records contain evidence, including audiotapes and body camera footage. They show that many women were regarded with suspicion when they came forward to report sexual misconduct.
Most of the sexual assault victims were those under the officer’s authority. That included not only the arrested or jailed but young women interested in future law enforcement careers. Those Police Explorers were also vulnerable.
Officer Frank Meranda admitted to exchanging 1,000 personal emails on his work computer with women he met there through his job manning the front desk at a Contra Costa County CHP office. Many of these emails contained explicit photos he took of himself or requested from the women. Meranda said all contacts were consensual.
One Brentwood woman did not consent. She alleges Meranda stalked her for more than three years after obtaining her contact information from a 2015 towed vehicle form. The harassment began as soon as she left the building. Meranda would call her several times a day, “saying inappropriate and unwanted things about her physical appearance.”
She blocked his number, but he called her from another phone. She changed her number, but he found it and resumed harassing her. He also sent her photos of his penis.
Meranda was fired. The Brentwood woman filed a lawsuit against Meranda and another CHP officer, Keerat Lal. Lal is alleged to have ratified Meranda’s actions and participated in further harassment of the plaintiff and her boyfriend.
21 Women Harassed
21 women accused CHP officer Morgan McGraw of sexual harassment during Vehicle Inspection Number (VIN) verification. His modus operandi included telling women he could not find the VIN on their car, but would pass the vehicle if they would go on a date with him –or to a nearby motel. Two women claimed he sent them text messages asking for sex afterward. Their phone numbers were on the paperwork.
Investigators found two boxes of condoms in McGraw’s work locker. He said they were not connected to his propositioning of women while on the job.
McGraw was fired. He was not prosecuted.
If you or a loved one suffered from sexual assault or harrasment at the hands of prison guards or police, you may be entitled to damages. Visit our inmate abuse information page for more details. Ready to see if you have a case? CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.