- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Prince George’s County police officer has been formally accused of taking photos up the skirts of four unsuspecting women, including two who were involved in routine traffic stops and one who was an off-duty police officer from another jurisdiction.

Officer James Sims was indicted Thursday on four counts of visual surveillance with prurient interest. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison.

The Prince George’s County Police Department said additional charges could be filed.

“This is a major violation of privacy,” John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George’s County state’s attorney’s office, said at a Thursday press conference.

He said the charges are “very troubling,” especially because the officer was in a position of authority.

Officer Sims, a six-year veteran of the police department, also is charged with two counts of misconduct in office, for which a conviction would carry an open-ended sentence depending on the crime committed in conjunction with the charge, Mr. Erzen said.

Officer Sims joined the police department in 2010 and has been assigned to District 1 patrol.

“I find the allegations disgusting,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said at Thursday’s press conference. “Anyone who violates trust will be held accountable. Policing is an honorable profession, one of service, one built on trust. If proven true, he will have betrayed the trust of this community.”

Officer Sims is accused of misusing his authority as a police officer to photograph up the skirts of women without their knowledge from May 2015 to June 2016.

Mr. Erzen said investigators have recovered no videos and that more women may be affected.

Officer Sims is accused of taking inappropriate photographs during two traffic stops that he initiated, authorities said. Mr. Erzen said the traffic stops themselves looked to be legitimate. Another incident is reported to have occurred at a Chipotle restaurant in Bowie.

Officer Sims is accused of taking a picture up the skirt of an off-duty police officer from another jurisdiction June 1 at a Sports Authority in Bowie.

The officer, whom Mr. Erzen declined to name, confronted Officer Sims, who also was off duty, and followed him into the parking lot. Officer Sims reportedly got into a marked Prince George’s County police cruiser.

The officer from another jurisdiction filed a report with Prince George’s County Police. Officials initiated an internal investigation and handed over the case to the state’s attorney to file charges.

Officer Sims was placed on administrative leave June 1.

“We applaud the victim who stood up to this officer,” Mr. Erzen said, adding that she stopped additional women from being victimized by Officer Sims.

Asked whether Officer Sims would get special treatment, Mr. Erzen answered with a resounding “no.”

“This will be handled the same way as any other case,” he said. “There’s no difference because he is a police officer.”

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