An Army Sergeant employed at West Point Military Academy has been charged with secretly filming female cadets in the school's showers and locker rooms.
Unlike the other three cases of alleged sexual misconduct by military leadership reported just this month, Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon doesn't appear to have been in charge of a military program specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment, at least. But, McClendon, as a "tactical noncommissioned officer" at the academy, was “responsible for the health, welfare and discipline” of about 125 cadets, according to army documents obtained by the New York Times, who first reported the story. The army is reaching out to around a dozen women who may have been targeted, according to the paper's report.
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McClendon, a combat veteran in Iraq (where he was awarded a Bronze Star), has been transferred out of West Point while the allegations are investigated. It looks like the Sergeant is facing four separate charges for indecent acts, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and violations of good order and discipline. He's worked at the academy since 2009. Here's an apparent photo of McClendon from a 2010 West Point newsletter (still available online here, for now):
The allegations became public only after the Times, based on sources at the academy, began snooping around. West Point hasn't made an official announcement about it yet, but they answered questions for the paper's investigation. It's easy to see why the academy may have wanted to keep the investigation out of the headlines: McClendon is just the latest military man in a leadership position accused of sexual misconduct. And the stories have hit the news cycle just as a Pentagon report revealed that sexual assault in the military has increased 6 percent in the past year, prompting military officials to refer to the sexual assault problem in the military as a "crisis."
As we've explained before, the political center of the military's sexual assault crisis seems to be the massive, ineffective bureaucracy involved in prosecuting reported cases. Particularly egregious instances of commanding officers overturning assault convictions, for example, have prompted lawmakers to consider stripping COs of their power to do so, at least in sexual assault cases. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has also signed an order requiring the retraining and recertification of every person working in a military sexual assault prevention program.
Top: Photo via The U.S. Military Academy At West Point (on Flickr)