The New York Daily News reported on Tuesday that Michael Osgood, the head of the New York Police Department’s Special Victims Division, donated thousands of dollars to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in the weeks after video was released of the president bragging about assault.
The first $500 donation came just four days after the Access Hollywood tape of Trump boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy” was leaked in October 2016. According to the paper, Osgood donated a total of $2,810 to a collection of Trump-aligned groups—including $600 to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and $480 to DJT for President—over the six weeks following the publication of Trump’s comments about sexually assaulting women. Records show the only other donation Osgood had made to a national or local political campaign was $250 to a candidate for Staten Island district attorney, an indication of just how strongly he felt about backing up Trump.
While it’s perfectly legal for cops to donate to political candidates, the discovery that Osgood shoveled money at the Trump camp has thrown his apparently amicable relationship with victims’ advocates and women’s groups into question: relationships that have been instrumental to Osgood’s rise through the NYPD’s ranks.
Toni Van Pelt, the director of the National Organization for Women, asked the Daily News: “How do women rely on the NYPD to protect them when a lead investigator is complicit in the actions of Donald Trump?”
As was relayed in a recent New York Magazine feature about his work with the city, Osgood was instrumental in shielding the department’s 2015 investigation of Harvey Weinstein from the district attorney’s office and the rest of the NYPD—an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to bring justice to Weinstein accuser Ambra Battilana by keeping Weinstein’s notoriously influential and well-connected legal team in the dark. The profile also spent the majority of its word count contrasting Osgood with such known villains as Cy Vance—the Manhattan district attorney who allegedly dropped the Weinstein case under political pressure—and previous iterations of the Special Victims Division, which is characterized as an incoherent and ineffective unit until Osgood and his modern, coalition-building work ethic came along.
After Osgood was tapped from the department’s hate crimes division several years ago, he brought what colleagues described to New York as a bookish, reformist touch to the SVD, cultivating close relationships with victims’ advocates and removing hierarchical boundaries between himself and his subordinates. In 2015, he pioneered a program in which all 144 detectives under his watch were trained in a then-novel questioning technique specifically tailored to the needs of sexual assault victims.
Osgood seemed absolutely thrilled to be considered the NYPD’s official friend of women. As he told the magazine earlier this year:
Harvey Weinstein may be a watershed moment in the country. We’re at a point in our history that it’s time for us to find a way to interdict this behavior. You can’t have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of silent victims out there. I’ve learned the depth of the trespass and the damage this action causes. It’s time for us, as a people, to go out there and mobilize.
This watershed moment, apparently, does not apply to the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of sexual assault, or to the many more silent victims of a department where a celebrated symbol of a new regime talks so freely out of both sides of his mouth. Maybe what Osgood does on his personal time—and with those dollars he earns as taxpayer-funded arbiter of justice—feels to him like his own private business. No matter what weird amalgamation of self-denial and hubris kept Osgood in Trump’s corner, I wish I could say I was surprised.