Free Minds & Free Markets

Who's 'the Harvey Weinstein of' Sex Work? The Police

This week has a lot of people wondering "who's the Harvey Weinstein?" of their industry. For sex workers, the answer is all too often a local cop.

Over the past week, woman after woman has come out with allegations against Hollywood studio mogul Harvey Weinstein, everything from advances on colleagues under professional pretenses, to threatening the ruin of actresses who wouldn't sleep with him, to forcible sexual assault.

Fe Ilya/FlickrFe Ilya/FlickrIt's left many people wondering "who's the Harvey Weinstein?" of their respective industries. For sex workers, the answer is all too often a local cop.

Every week brings a new story of police officers abusing their power to extort sex from women, especially women whom they've known to engage in prostitution. Since the start of October, at least five cops and a police dispatcher have made headlines for prostitution offenses, sometimes with underage women. And of course these are only the ones getting caught.

In an Oakland case (which I covered in more detail earlier), multiple cops were accused of coercing a teenager into sexual activity in exchange for warnings about prostitution stings, paying her for sex, and covering up for one another about it. Most were let off the hook, including three officers whose cases were dismissed last week because a judge said there was insufficient evidence that the cops knew she was underage at the time (despite the fact that the girl's mom was an Oakland police dispatcher and other Oakland officers had been involved with her previously).

Then there's an awful example from the Bronx: New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Raul Olmeda was indicted this week for allegedly paying a teen girl to have sex with him on multiple occasions and filming the sexual activity. "The defendant preyed on the vulnerable young woman and videotaped his demeaning and demoralizing acts," Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said in a statement.

Olmeda, who has been with the NYPD since 2014, was charged with third-degree rape, patronizing a minor for prostitution, using a child in a sexual performance, endangering the welfare of a child, promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child, promoting a sexual performance by a child, possessing a sexual performance by a child, third-degree criminal sexual act, third-degree patronizing a person for prostitution, fourth-degree tampering with a witness, official misconduct, and unauthorized use of a computer.

The charges come seven months after authorities raided Olmeda's home and seized his computer, video camera, phone, and hard drives, finding the videotaped sexual encounters. During these months, Olmeda kept his job with the NYPD and "prosecutors claim that Olmeda was able to have sex with the teenager two more times after the raid," as Ed Krayewski noted here Wednesday.

Then there are officers soliciting prostitution. Prostitution between adults should be decriminalized, but until it is offenders not wearing badges face increasingly harsh punishments. There are even nationwide FBI sting operations that primarily pick up sex workers and their customers. Yet many police officers caught paying for sex are barely disciplined internally, let alone held criminally responsible for anything.

Take Denver Police Department (DPD) Cpl. Zachery Phillips, who was recently given a 15-day suspension without pay after admitting to an encounter with a sex worker. "Under typical police disciplinary rules, [he] would have been fired," reports The Denver Post. "But officials decided Phillips deserved a second chance because of his otherwise exemplary career," according to a disciplinary letter obtained by the paper.

The woman Phillips patronized wasn't shown any such consideration: She was picked up in a hotel prostitution sting conducted last February, charged with prostitution and possession of a controlled substance, and booked into the Denver Detention Center for two days before being let out on bond.

She agreed to cooperate with detectives and mentioned that she had been paid for sex by a DPD officer last fall. Phillips later admitted to DPD Internal Affairs that he knew the woman and had paid her "around $40," but said that he had just paid her for a massage and then she wound up spending the night and sleeping in his bed. "The preponderance of the evidence indicates that he paid SJ for a sexual act," investigators found.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Police Supervisor Mark Reilly is back on the job after spending 10 days in jail for paying for sex. "Reilly was allowed to serve his sentence in the Solon jail. That lock-up is much smaller and quieter than the Cleveland jail," reports Fox 8 Cleveland. Reilly plead guilty to five counts of engaging in sexual activity for hire. Four other counts were dropped.

In Vermont, police dispatcher Earl Benway was charged with paying for oral sex and leaking information to the sex worker he paid. Benway told her that federal authorities were monitoring her house as part of an ongoing investigation (for now, there's no information on why the feds were watching this woman) and recording the license plates of her guests. Benway was quickly fired from his job as a dispatcher and has pleaded not guilty to engaging in prostitution and obstruction of justice.

And, finally, Abraham Flores Galvan, a part-time officer in Tunnel Hill, Georgia, who was caught in his own colleagues' sting operation on Thursday. Galvan responded to an online ad posted by undercover police in Fulton County, who pretended to be a teenager under age 18. Galvan was arrested when he went to meet the "girl" in a shopping center and has been charged with obscene internet contact with a child and enticing a child to commit an illegal act.

Cops and other public officials getting caught in the sex stings of neighboring departments ramped up under direction from the federal government has become a regular thing.

If recent sexual assault and harassment allegations in the news have emphasized anything, it's that it's all too easy for powerful men to take advantage of their status and get away with it. With Weinstein and many serial predators it seems to have worked for so long because he picked his targets carefully—women whose careers were wrapped up in his endorsement or women who were too marginal to make a splash.

Sex workers are certainly stigmatized and marginalized, especially the ones who are the easiest for cops to find. This is one of the many reasons why prostitution needs to be decriminalized. Making sex workers' very freedom dependent on the kindness of powerful men sets up a class of women to be abused and exploited with little recourse.

While everyone's focused on high-profile Hollywood villains, "shitty media men," sexual harassment, rape, power differentials, and systemic complicity, let's not leave the most vulnerable victims of sexism and sexual violence out of the conversation. If it's hard for powerful actresses like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow to speak up about such matters, imagine how much harder it is for young women and girls whose abuse comes from armed agents of the government.

Photo Credit: Fe Ilya/Flickr

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I want to know who is the Dark Souls of sex work.

  • Hank Phillips||

    That's easy. Foreign-born freelance sex workers evade recognition by, price-fixing for and tithes payment to True Christian™ pimp cartels. I'd love to wager this is one of the top three reasons God's Own Prohibitionists dirty their drawers when Libertarians talk of "control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat..." but how would we settle the bet?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    What's the point of being powerful if you can't take advantage of the powerless?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    If it's hard for Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow to speak up about such matters, imagine how much harder it is for these women and girls.

    The people being fucked are much weaker than them, and the state is many times more powerful than Weinstein. And those poor girls didn't even do anything wrong...

  • Crusty Juggler||

    "Who's the Harvey Weinstein of sex workers?"

    "You mean who is falsely accused and innocent?"


  • BestUsedCarSales||

    You are the only bad person on this website.

  • Rich||

    Olmeda kept his job with the NYPD and "prosecutors claim that Olmeda was able to have sex with the teenager two more times after the raid,"

    "in addition to innumerable high-fives with his buddies."

  • jmlandry||

    What about those fine folks at the DEA that engaged in acts w/ prostitutes on our dime?

    No fair! I want some of the govt sponsored hoochy.

  • Tony||

    Cops fuck whores to protect us from fucking whores, and to protect the whores from us fucking them. It's called the thin blue line.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    One of the many new condoms coming from ONE.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    One of the smaller sizes, I'd assume.

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    So now we know Tony's dad was a cop

  • Tony||

    It's so funny how one can react in two different ways to an insult to one's mother.

    I could say, what a fucking retarded child you are. "Your mom" jokes? Really?

    Or I could tell you about my Sicilian friends. Talk about my mother again. And sleep tight.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Your mom sucks cocks in hell.

    And tell your Sicilian friends they had better bring Level IV and 7.62 hardcase or they won't even get past the bouncer.

  • Number 7||

    "It's left many people wondering "who's the Harvey Weinstein?" of their respective industries."

    As a part timer, I'll ask the question and leave it for the regulars to answer but who is the Harvey Weinstein of the Reason comment boards?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    damn you!!!

  • Number 7||

    I think the fact that you're asking is an attempt to deflect attention away from yourself. So obviously it's you.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Who's the Harvey Weinstein of the Reason commentariat?

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    Well, it was STEVE SMITH. But I'm starting to think that maybe Shriek is actually Harvey Weinstein's sock. I mean, I know the theory that he's Dave Weigel is pretty popular, but I don't think even DW would defend HW.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Michael Hihn, seemingly.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "demoralizing acts"

    I thought Britain was the one with laws against insulting women's sexual qualities.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Gross indecency is the usual British expression for competing with bribery-protected sex cartels.

  • JeremyR||

    I would have guessed pimps

  • fafalone||

    " including three officers whose cases were dismissed last week because a judge said there was insufficient evidence that the cops knew she was underage at the time"

    In a situation of heavy awfulness all around, this is perhaps the most galling. Never in a million years would "I thought she was 18" fly as a defense against a child sex crime for a non-cop. The girl could show you a perfectly forged driver's license, perfectly forged passport, perfectly forged birth certificate, with her two parents as listed on it present, with their 3 IDs, signing a sworn and notarized affidavit their daughter is 18, and 10 experts on human develop attesting she was physically indistinguishable from an 18 year old, and the prosecutor and judge would *still* tell your child raping ass 'too bad so sad' and slam you with two decades and lifetime SORA.

  • Hank Phillips||

    I'd bet money on exactly that outcome. It underscores one of the differences between the Inner Party and the Outer Party in any altruistic form of government.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Is Elizabeth lowering her standards to appeal to a larger and dumber audience? The police do basically what looter politicians order them to do in their laws. Lobbies, such as the Wizened Christian Temperance Union, now a subsidiary of Muthas Against Individual Rights™, the Church iv Rome, criminal drug cartels and Televangelism™ sway enough spoiler votes to cause Republicans and Democrats to legislate sexual Prohibition. Whenever a cop brutalizes a girl he is doing the bidding of True Christian National Socialism and simply scraping a little off the top for himself. After all, you wouldn't take this altruism thing to extremes, would you?

  • Mr. Dyslexic||

    "or women who were too marginal to make a splash."

    Nice jab ENB!

  • Qsl||

    If it's hard for powerful actresses like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow to speak up about such matters

    Let's be clear here that you are talking about multi-millionaires with unprecedented media reach who kept quiet about this for decades. Whoring apparently pays much better in Hollywood.

    Compare to the admonition against cops who keep the blue line. A beat cop certainly has much more social standing to speak truth to power.

  • Newspaper Directory||

    The major purpose of a web directory is to provide directory users with a categorized list of high quality websites from a chosen field or industry.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online