Lawsuit Suggests Culture of Misogyny and Rape Apologia in Johnson City Police Department

A recent lawsuit shows that police under Chief Karl Turner downplayed rape allegations, made disparaging comments about rape victims and thwarted efforts to bring one rapist to justice. New Socialist Network stands against the Johnson City Police Department’s sexist misconduct and chauvinism!

Johnson City Police and other regional law enforcement arrest a Black Lives Matter protestor in 2020. (Photo from Johnson City Press)

JULY 1 2022 – Former Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kateri Dahl is suing Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner and the city in U.S. District Court, alleging the chief obstructed funding for her job after she pressed local police to investigate a slew of rapes by a felon in their jurisdiction, according to a report this week from Tennessee Lookout.

The lawsuit points to a culture of misogyny within the department, according to information recently leaked to the public showing that Turner and his officers downplayed rape allegations and mocked one victim in the case in question. What’s more, the report said, the offender in the case was said to have been “tipped off” by police about a federal indictment, allowing him to evade arrest.

“Dahl gathered substantial evidence that a well-known individual … had not just been dealing drugs but was credibly accused of raping multiple women and had possibly caused the death of one of his alleged victims,” the lawsuit stated, according to the news report. “Dahl urged Johnson City and its Police Chief Karl Turner to investigate further. But Chief Karl Turner intentionally and recklessly failed to investigate (the felon) despite Dahl’s repeated urging.”

Since the news broke, stories from across the city about working-class women’s run-ins with local police and disparaging comments about rape victims by Turner and his officers have surfaced across social media, consistent with the lawsuit demonstrating a police department culture rife with male chauvinism and rape apologia.

While the news is shocking and appalling, it’s hardly surprising given the department’s culture of reactionary politics and right-wing sympathies. The story fits well with the department’s actions in the past, which included essentially allowing a man to leave the scene of a crime after running over a Black Lives Matter protester, as well as the violent repression of anti-racist demonstrations that took place in the summer of 2020.

It seems that Johnson City police are spending too much time harassing homeless people downtown in order to enforce the local merchant class’ so-called “anti-camping ordinance,” repressing or restricting anti-racist protests, and brutalizing poor and non-white working-class residents in districts like Carver to even pretend to defend the people of the community or to maintain their superficial veneer of progressivism anymore.

While revolutionary socialists throughout generations have long understood the role of police as the muscle of a racist and classist criminal justice system, and as defenders of capitalists over workers time and time again, the department’s culture of misogyny has received relatively little attention in recent years.

As the department’s facade of progressivism erodes, New Socialist Network calls on residents to stand up to sexist police misconduct indicated by the lawsuit and the people of Johnson City.