On January 22, 2019, 53-year-old Wilkes-Barre police officer, Robert M. Collins, was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting four women in his patrol car while on duty. Collins has been an officer of the Wilkes-Barre police department for 12 years. Until recently, Collins also served as the department’s community policing officer.
Court records reveal that Collins is being charged with three counts of rape using forcible compulsion (a felony in the first degree); three counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse using forcible compulsion (a felony in the first degree); four counts of intimidating witnesses/victims (three counts felony in the first degree and one count felony of the second degree); one count of aggravated indecent assault using forcible compulsion (a felony in the second degree); two counts of indecent assault using forcible compulsion (a misdemeanor in the first degree one count of false imprisonment (a misdemeanor in the second degree) four counts of official oppression through arrest and search (a misdemeanor in the second degree) and four counts of obstructing governmental operations (a misdemeanor in the second degree).
According to WGAL, the assaults allegedly happened between August 2013 and December 2014. In three of the cases, the assaults allegedly happened after Collins found drug paraphernalia on the victims during a vehicle stop or street encounter. Collins allegedly put the women in his car where he forced them to perform oral sex on him, threatening them with arrest and further police action. In the fourth case, it is alleged that Collins compelled a young woman walking down Carey Avenue to get into his patrol car where he allegedly locked the doors and sexually assaulted her.
Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, stated that the alleged crimes are reprehensible especially considering the fact that “the perpetrator is a public official, someone who the community entrusted to protect them.” He further stated that his office prosecutes “sexual assault offenders to the fullest extent of the law, no matter who they are.” Senior Deputy Attorney General Barney Anderson will prosecute the case.
The CSE Institute commends the efforts of those involved in the arrest and arraignment of this alleged serial offender. We are pleased to see Attorney General Josh Shapiro, speaking out against these heinous crimes and vowing that they will be prosecuted to the fullest. The CSE Institute also wants to commend the survivors of these detestable crimes for standing up and having the strength to fight back against this public official’s abuse of authority. The prevalence of police misconduct in the United States is revolting – it is estimated that every five days a police officer in America is caught engaging in sexual abuse or misconduct (not considering the amount of victims who are unable to come forward). Additionally, sex-related misconduct generates more citizen complaints than any factor except excessive force. The CSE Institute is committed to raising awareness and helping to combat the number of public officials who prey on women.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.