It is horrific enough for a woman to be sexually assaulted, but the injury is compounded when those who are charged with protecting the victim and investigating the case, continue the abuse.
In the early morning hours of June 27, 2013, 20-year-old B. Kane was arrested in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania for underage drinking, resisting arrest, and escape. She was released from the local jail that same day.
Kane recalled passing out during a drinking binge. She believed she had been sexually assaulted while “blacked out” because was not wearing pants when arrested and had an unusually large amount of vaginal discharge.
Kane went to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and a rape kit examination. A doctor took photos of injuries to Kane’s arms, shoulders, knees and legs as part of the rape kit examination.
Officer Shawn Barger Begins Prurient Investigation
Coraopolis police officer Shawn Barger went to the hospital to collect the rape kit. The officer interviewed Kane in the presence of her mother and a victim advocate. He then instructed Kane to come to the police station the next day with the clothes she was wearing during the sexual assault.
Accompanied by a friend, C. Combs, Kane went to the Coraopolis Police Station the next day with the requested clothing.
Perverted Cop Abuses Authority, Improperly Photographs Victim
In an August 22, 2018 decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals chronicled the following events that took place between Barger and Kane at the police station:
- Contrary to departmental policy, Barger met with Kane alone in a back room during which time the officer closed the hallway door.
- Again, contrary to departmental policy, Barger used his personal cell phone to photograph Kane’s intimate areas, including her breasts and buttocks.
- Despite being told that her injuries had been photographed at the hospital, Barger asked Kane if he could photograph a bruise on her right buttock, telling her that he had a special app on his personal cell phone for taking photographs.
- After Kane pulled her gym shorts down to expose the right buttock bruise, Barger pulled her shorts down further at which time he touched Kane’s buttocks.
- Barger repeatedly asked Kane about her breasts, vagina and buttocks (paying particular attention to this area of her anatomy) while photographing her.
- Barger photographed Kane between four to eight times.
- During this photographing session, Barger twice asked Kane if she had any injuries to her vagina.
- Barger then told Kane his cell phone did not save the first round of photographs, necessitating the need for a second round of photographing.
- During the second round of photographing, Barger kept inquiring about injuries to Kane’s vagina, prompting her to expose her vagina to the cop.
- At one point during the photographing sessions, Barger asked Kane about a bruise on her chest, pulling her top down to expose her upper chest area.
- Barger had Kane sit on a table so he could photograph a bruise on her inner thigh.
- Barger instructed Kane to pull her shorts up to her bikini line so he could photograph her inner thighs.
When the photographing sessions were over, Barger informed Kane he would continue his investigation into the sexual assault allegation. The investigator did interview a number of “possible witnesses” but failed to document the clothes Kane had given him. Barger said the clothes were given to an “evidence officer to take custody of” but the evidence disappeared.
The Third Circuit said that Kane’s mother reported Barger’s behavior to the Allegheny County Police Department. Detective Michael Kuma met with Kane to get all the information about her photographing sessions with Barger. Detective Kuma then opened an official investigation into Barger’s conduct.
Bad Cop Admits Taking Photographs with Personal Cell Phone
At the outset of the investigation Barger denied that he photographed Kane in the back room of the station, much less using his personal cell phone to take the photographs. In a follow up interview, however, Barger admitted he took the photographs with his personal cell phone.
Detective Kuma filed an official report about the incident. The appeals court underscored the findings of Kuma’s report:
“ … Barger explained that he had lied about photographing Kane because he was worried that his girlfriend might become jealous upon learning he had done so. Kuma further reported that Barger said he took six or seven photographs of Kane’s upper chest, buttocks, inner thighs, and the front and back of her legs.”
Barger ultimately consented to disciplinary action for “serious violations of departmental policy,” including using his personal cell phone instead of department equipment and by interviewing and photographing Kane without a female officer or witness being present. The officer was removed from the investigation into Kane’s alleged sexual assault and was suspended for two weeks.
Thin Blue Line Protects Deviant Behavior
Kane filed a civil rights lawsuit against Barger alleging that the officer violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily integrity during his investigation. As is often the case, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissed the lawsuit, finding that even if Barger’s conduct was unlawful, he was immune from lawsuit through the defense of qualified immunity.
Fortunately, the Third Circuit disagreed with this conclusion. The appeals court found that Kane had presented a reasonable “inference that Barger acted for personal gratification rather than investigative ends” and that the officer’s “conduct shocks the conscience and violated Kane’s right to bodily integrity.”
The issue that disturbs us is that Barger was allowed to keep his job as police officer. Viewing his improper photographing sessions in the best possible light, the mere fact that he used his personal cell phone to take photographs of a sexual assault victim disqualifies him to be a police officer. He is an admitted danger to the community and to females in particular. It defies all logic to believe that a police officer who would take photos of a sexual assault victim for “personal gratification” could possibly protect and serve the community.
Shawn Barger has no business with a gun and a badge.