It didn’t take long for Police Officer Joseph Essig to get into trouble. A little over a year into his career with the New York City Police Department, the rookie cop was busted in Atlantic City, N.J., on a felony charge of criminal sexual misconduct for groping a woman.
But something curious happened. The arrest was downgraded to a health-code violation by New Jersey officials, the New York Daily News reports. Essig pleaded guilty to the violation, paid a $1,000 fine and was ordered to stay away from the woman he groped.
Sources told the Daily News that other probationary officers facing similar charges are typically fired. Not so with Essig—and some suspect that his family ties are to blame.
Essig is a second-generation NYPD officer, the son of NYPD Assistant Chief James Essig. The Daily News story notes that the elder Essig didn’t appear to have called in any favors for his son, but his last name might have been favor enough.
Not surprisingly, the NYPD has been less than transparent about the case. Essig’s arrest wasn’t publicized; nor will the NYPD confirm where Essig is currently assigned or how the department disciplined him for his misconduct. Thanks to a fairly new policy, the Police Department no longer makes summaries of departmental disciplinary proceedings available to the media.
Recently, the NYPD’s Civilian Complaint Review Board voted to investigate claims of sexual misconduct made against the city’s police officers. At this stage, the CCRB will investigate claims made against NYPD cops by civilians for behaviors like lewd comments or gestures, taking photos without consent, or “sexually humiliating or ticketing civilians if they rebuff flirtations,” according to the New York Times. Later, the board hopes to review more serious allegations against officers, like sexual assault and rape.
In outlining the rationale (pdf) for its decision, the CCRB wrote:
Every act of professional misconduct tends to chip away at the public’s trust in its law enforcement officers and, more broadly, in the institution of policing. Perhaps no abuse of authority, however, undermines society’s confidence in the police more than an officer who wields the badge as a tool of sexual intimidation and coercion.