The recent news surrounding VCU’s police department isn’t easy to discuss. We’re all ashamed and embarrassed by the allegations against James Deford, who is charged with two counts of distributing child pornography. While few of us are directly affected by these charges, we are all left with an incurable feeling of discomfort and insecurity. An individual from a force that we trust with our very lives has betrayed us in the most perverse manner.
For those who don’t know, a similar occurrence happened back in 2009, when former VCU Police Chief Willie Fuller was charged for soliciting sex from a 15-year-old girl in an online sting. One could reasonably dismiss the incidence of a senior member of the VCU police acting in such an inappropriate manner as a random fluke and an abnormality within an otherwise above-the-board unit.
But twice? Unacceptable.
How are we supposed to trust the VCU police force when senior officers are repeatedly accused of such indecencies involving minors?
The appropriate measures that were necessary to assure the VCU community that corrupt officers would not find their way into the police force were not taken. While it’s difficult to predict the behavior of an individual, parents and schools should actively look for signs of sexual abuse and educate children to recognize that they are being abused. The details involving the allegations surrounding Deford are sketchy at the moment, but the best way to prevent the distribution of child pornography is preventing its creation.
Sexual indecencies involving minors are serious; it’s a crime that it happened here once. It’s a crime that it happened again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Nothing positive can be said about this moment, but steps to prevent such occurrences must be implemented in the future. Moreover, VCU officials must use this time as a chance to make the area surrounding VCU a more secure environment by hiring new leadership in the police force, establishing more rigorous background tests and increasing police presence on the outskirts of campus.
This news follows on the heels of the Penn State child sex scandal and news that a Richmond City police officer had taken liberties with a 15 year-old girl. The Penn State scandal was enough. University officials need to restore public and student confidence in the campus police force through dramatic, transparent actions that display a commitment to correcting the mistakes of the past and being proactive in the prevention of new ones.
Every week, it seems as if more stories come out reporting sexual misconduct with minors from teachers, coaches and police officers. In short, persons of authority are exploiting their power and position in order to abuse children.
The issue facing our nation today is bigger than Deford or Sandusky: It’s a matter of knowing our children are safe with the ones we trust. There’s no definitive solution to that problem. It’s discomforting to even discuss the matter. But we must. It’ll require some soul-searching and prompt legislation, but I’m confident that in the coming years, as long as cases of sexual abuse are prioritized, transparent and harshly punished, the incidents that so plague us today will fade away.