Albuquerque, NM — Frequent readers of the Free Thought Project know that police officers in the United States have an exceedingly higher rate of domestic violence than any other occupation. The average rate of domestic violence among most families in America is around 10%. As the National Center for Women and Policing points out, two studies have found that at least 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence. That is a four-fold increase.
Though many police officers escape accountability for these acts of domestic violence, one officer with the Albuquerque Police Department, Jeffrey Wharton, 31, had beaten his girlfriend so badly, his fellow cops couldn’t look the other way.
Though Wharton was arrested in February, video of that arrest was not released until later. Wharton’s actions were such a disgrace to his fellow officers that when he arrived to work, they handcuffed him, grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the uniform from his body.
According to court documents, Wharton’s girlfriend suffered extreme injuries. She was discovered with her head and face covered gashes and she was rushed to Rust Medical Center where she was diagnosed with a brain bleed and was then immediately transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital.
Officials knew Wharton was behind the beating because it was partly captured on the couple’s ring camera. According to court records, the video showed Wharton dragging the screaming woman back into the home by her neck as she attempted to flee.
When Wharton showed up for duty on February 24, he was served a warrant for his arrest and taken into custody. During the arrest, Wharton’s coworkers were seen smiling after the cuffs were put on. They could’ve also asked him to remove his uniform before putting him in handcuffs. However, the act of cutting the uniform from his body was far more humiliating to this woman-beating cop.
Shortly after his arrest, this senior officer at the APD resigned from his position. He was booked into Sandoval County Detention Center on charges of Kidnapping (First Degree) (NO Intent to Commit Sex Offense), Aggravated Battery (great bodily harm) (household member), Aggravated Battery Against a Household Member (Strangulation or Suffocation), Aggravated Battery (great bodily harm) (household member), Tampering with Evidence (Highest Crime a Capital, First or Second Degree and Negligent Use of a Deadly Weapon (Unsafe Handling).
Due to the severity of his crimes, Judge George Eichwald ruled that he was too dangerous to release on bail and Wharton will be held until his trial which has yet to be determined. The officer now wears a new uniform with stripes, but he no longer carries a gun.
A simple Google search will illustrate how police officers are arrested for domestic violence on a near-weekly basis. It is also estimated that the incident rate for domestic violence is likely far higher than reported as many women stay silent out of fear of retaliation and the fact that their abuser’s brothers in blue will cover for them.
As TFTP has previously noted, a report by a government-appointed watchdog group shows that most of the time, abusive officers who commit these crimes, do so with seeming impunity.
A study conducted by the Domestic Violence Task Force called Domestic Violence in the Los Angeles Police Department: How Well Does the Los Angeles Police Department Police Its Own? revealed that performance evaluations of cops with a history of domestic violence are largely unaffected. The study of the LAPD examined 91 cases in which an allegation of domestic violence was sustained against an officer.
- Over three-fourths of the time, this sustained allegation was not mentioned in the officer’s performance evaluation.
- Twenty-six of these officers (29%) were promoted, including six who were promoted within two years of the incident.
The report concluded that “employees with sustained allegations were neither barred from moving to desired positions nor transferred out of assignments that were inconsistent with the sustained allegation.”
Sadly, it is estimated that many of the abused women never come forward as they know the likely result — which is getting shamed by the department for reporting it and potentially more abuse.
Diane Wetendorf, a specialist on police abuse, points out the most common fears when reporting police domestic abuse in her handbook:
If your abuser is an officer of the law, you may be afraid to:
- Call the police — He is the police.
- Go to a shelter — He knows where the shelters are located.
- Have him arrested — Responding officers may invoke the code of silence.
- Take him to court — It’s your word against that of an officer, and he knows the system.
- Drop the charges — You could lose any future credibility and protection.
- Seek a conviction — He will probably lose his job and retaliate against you.
These fears can make someone feel incredibly trapped and feel like there is no way out. If you or someone you know is a victim of this type of abuse we encourage you to no longer remain silent. As long as people go unpunished for their abuse, they will continue to dole it out. Leave the county, report it to the federal government, and get as far away from them as you can.