A Minnesota state trooper has pleaded guilty to texting himself explicit photos of a woman he arrested last year after she had gotten into a car crash.
The officer, Albert Kuehne, had arrested the woman on suspicion of drunk driving; after the woman made a call in the backseat of Kuehne’s cruiser, he demanded that she relinquish her phone to him. He then proceeded to scroll through her phone and send himself the photos, all of which were either “nude or partially nude,” according to the complaint against Kuehne, as reported by the Washington Post. Two of the photos showed the woman’s exposed breasts.
In court documents, she denied giving the officer access to her phone or to the photos. She didn’t realize the officer had looked through her phone at all until hours later after she was released from custody. According to the Post, her boyfriend was the first to notice mysterious outgoing texts with photo attachments to an unknown number when he was using her MacBook. When she and her boyfriend called the number, Kuehne picked up the phone.
When he entered his plea on Tuesday, Kuehne, who has since been fired from the Minnesota State Patrol, admitted that he had attempted to delete the outgoing messages on the woman’s phone so she wouldn’t know that he’d sent them. In this instance, what is usually a great annoyance to me personally—that deleting messages on an iPhone does not delete them on iMessage for desktop—helped her nab Kuehne. (Laptop records also confirmed Kuehne’s wrongdoing.)
Kuehne was initially charged with two felony counts of harassment with bias, but the Post reports that his charges were changed to misdemeanors after he took a plea deal on Tuesday. He’ll be sentenced later this month.
A spokesperson for the Minnesota State Patrol described Kuehne’s conduct as being “reprehensible and inconsistent with the core values” of the police force. And while that may be technically true (that is, that officers texting nude photos to themselves may be a violation of the department’s official code of conduct) practically speaking, this kind of harassment is in fact a central facet of policing. This exact scenario has even happened before: In 2014, a California Highway Patrol officer confessed to both texting himself nude photos of a woman he arrested and forwarding them to other officers in his department. In one text, he asked a colleague to reciprocate the favor “down the road buddy.”
Misogyny is inextricably bound up in policing in much the same way as racism, which is why it is absurd to suggest that defunding police departments puts women in danger, as some have in the last year. Police put women in danger, too, all of the time.