NEW: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expresses "outrage and disgust" over the allegations
The arrest comes as the Pentagon faces scrutiny over sex assaults in the ranks
The officer was serving as a branch chief but has been removed from duty
Police said a woman accused him of fondling her breasts, buttocks
An Air Force officer who served as a branch chief for the service’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program was arrested and charged with sexual battery over the weekend.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, has been removed from current duty, an Air Force official said Monday. The official declined to be named because it is an ongoing law enforcement matter.
Krusinski was placed in charge of a section of the service’s sexual assault prevention and response program in February, running a five-person office, the Air Force official said.
He was arrested just after midnight Saturday in Arlington, Virginia, and is accused of grabbing a woman’s breasts and buttocks, Arlington County police said. Police said the woman fought off her assailant when he tried to grab her again before she called authorities.
Krusinski was held on a $5,000 bond. Arlington County police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said the woman did not know her attacker.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed the matter Monday with Air Force Michael Donley, according to the Pentagon.
“Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” said George Little, Pentagon press secretary.
Krusinski’s arrest comes as the Pentagon has been under closer scrutiny from Congress over its handling of sexual assault cases in the uniformed services.
“Sexual assault and rape are not about the weakness of the victim, they’re about power and control,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, said at a March hearing on the issue. “In a military context, that becomes an even greater problem.”
The Defense Department reported 3,192 allegations of sexual assault involving service members in 2011. It’s expected to report an increase in 2012, but officials said that it is not clear whether that’s due to an increasing number of incidents or because victims are becoming more comfortable in reporting a crime that is often not reported.
The department has stepped up efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, establishing a “special victims unit” to handle cases, working to improve tracking of reports and speeding transfers for troops who report a sexual assault by a member of their unit.
“Secretary Hagel has been directing the Department’s leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime,” Little said Monday. “Sexual assault has no place in the United States military.”