By Ellen Kirschman
The Best-Kept Secret Shame of Policing
Police officers are required by law to effect an arrest in cases of domestic violence: in which there is evidence to support the abuse. The law does not make exceptions for circumstances in which the abuser is a police officer.
- ... John Feltgen, Police Chief
[Excerpts] Domestic violence in police families occurs more than we think and is rarely talked about until it makes headlines... The frequency or prevalence of domestic abuse among police families is difficult to pin down as so little research has been done on the subject. Getting at the truth is hard because officers and their spouses are unlikely to voluntarily admit, even in a confidential survey, to committing an illegal act that might get them fired. Still, if domestic violence occurs in police families at the same rate it does in the general population, then about 60,000 to 180,000 police households could be affected... A colleague who has devoted decades of her professional life to the study of domestic violence told me she believes cops are the most dangerous of all abusers and their spouses are the most endangered. She says this because cops have guns and will use them; they are accustomed to using verbal and physical force or the threat of it to get citizens to do what they want; and they know how the legal system works and where the battered women's shelters are... Cops want to be in control. They have high expectations for compliance and respect. They work in paramilitary organizations, where they both give and take orders without an explanation. Refusal to comply is considered insubordination as opposed to a difference of opinion. When citizens fail to comply, cops experience this as disrespectful and as a potential prelude to danger. It is their number one task to regain control of the situation. Cops regard physical force and verbal intimidation as tools to get the job done. They may be desensitized to verbal, emotional, and physical violence because these are routine parts of their everyday work life...
[From a woman named Jenny's journal]
"...For years he threatened that if I tried to leave him he would kill me or take the kids and never let me see thein again. I believed he was capable of doing both. Sometimes he'd clean his gun while we argued. He threatened to shoot me and get rid of my body. He told me he knew how to do this. He said he would chop my body up and put it through a wood chipper. He would go into detail. I was always afraid, but I was most afraid of him taking the kids... I could see how this was affecting my children... Once we were sitting in the car, and he hit me. Somebody saw this, took down our license plate, and called the police. Of course the plate came back registered to him. He knew the cops who showed up at the house and told them it was a mistake, that whoever called misread the plate. I was in the bathroom with a bloody nose, but he told them I went out. He knew they wouldn't come in because they didn't have a warrant. So thcy just stood around shooting the breeze. Anyhow, I knew no one would believe he hit me because he's the kind of guy who's always stopping to help someone, and he has the letters of commendation to prove it... I didn't feel like anyone could protect me, especially if we were still living together. Staying safe monopolized my life. All I could think about was how to keep him calm..."