Stebbins, AK — A disturbing report out of ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News exposes just how easy it is for criminals — who have been convicted of heinous crimes — to become cops. In one town in Alaska, the "bad apple" excuse goes completely out the window as every single cop on the force has been convicted of domestic violence, with one of the cops being a registered sex offender.
One of these cops is Nimeron Mike, who never thought he'd be hired as a police officer but applied anyway. According to the report, Mike was a registered sex offender and had served six years behind bars in Alaska jails and prisons. He’d been convicted of assault, domestic violence, vehicle theft, groping a woman, hindering prosecution, reckless driving, drunken driving and choking a woman unconscious in an attempted sexual assault. Among other crimes.
Nevertheless, when Mike put in his application, he was hired immediately.
“Am I a cop now?” he remembers thinking. “It’s like, that easy?”
But Mike is only one of seven cops in the town who has a history of beating and raping women. Every other cop on the force, including the current police chief has a criminal record involving abuse of women.
As ProPublica reports:
The seven-man police force has served a combined six years in jails, prisons and halfway houses on dozens of criminal charges. That doesn’t include Mike, who was terminated on March 29, city records show. He says he wasn’t given a reason, but the city administrator said it was because he wasn’t responding to calls and didn’t get along with another officer.
Stebbins is only one town too. According to the report, the problem is widespread.
The first-of-its-kind investigation by the Daily News and ProPublica has found that at least 14 cities in Alaska have employed police officers whose criminal records should have prevented them from being hired under Department of Public Safety regulations. The news organizations identified more than 34 officers who should have been ineligible for these jobs. In all but three cases, the police hires were never reported by the city governments to the state regulatory board, as required.
In eight additional communities, local tribal governments have hired tribal police officers convicted of domestic violence or sex crimes.
All 42 of these tribal and city police officers have rap sheets that would prevent them from being hired by the Anchorage Police Department and its urban peers, as Alaska state troopers or even as private security guards most anywhere else in the United States. Many remain on the job today.
“It’s outrageous that we have a situation where we have a, such a lack of public safety that communities are resorting to hiring people who have the propensity for violence,” said Melanie Bahnke, a board member for the Alaska Federation of Natives, which represents 191 tribes. “And placing them in a position where they have control over people and possibly could victimize the victims further.”
“That’s like a frontier mentality,” said Bahnke.
Indeed, it is. But it's not just Alaska either.
The average rate of families who experience domestic violence in the country is around 10 percent. When we look at police officers families, however, that number quadruples. As the National Center for Women and Policing points out, two studies have found thatat least 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence.
The most recent data on the matter shows that Officer-Involved Domestic Violence or OIDV, is a major problem.
Individuals who are the victims of domestic violence at the hands of police officer-batterers are often in a unique and particularly vulnerable situation. Unlike most victims of domestic violence, where the success of protective efforts depends on the cooperation of law enforcement, those subject to officer-involved domestic violence (OIDV) may, for a variety of reasons, be unable to secure the assistance they seek. This is particularly troublesome in light of increased rates of domestic violence in police officer families.
Even more startling than the fact that 40% of police officer families experiencing domestic violence is the fact that this number is likely far higher as it is estimated that much of it goes unreported.
According to Leigh Goodmark, author of Hands Up at Home: Militarized Masculinity and Police Officers Who Commit Intimate Partner,
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The data on intimate partner abuse by police officers are both dated and potentially flawed, but in ways that make it more likely that abuse is being under—rather than over—reported. Most of the studies rely on self-reporting by police officers to establish prevalence of abuse. Self-reporting is a notoriously unreliable measure; as one study noted, ‘The issue of the reliability of self-reports data is problematic when considering any socially undesirable behavior.'
The problem of police violence often times comes out in full display in the form of violent murder suicides. In December, the nation was shocked to hear about the tragedy that unfolded in Plant City, Florida in which a Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy killed his wife, daughter and granddaughter, then confessed to their murders over his agency radio before killing himself.
Terry L. Strawn, 58, a Sheriff’s Office veteran who was once named Officer of the Year was the perpetrator. It is unclear how much abuse his family suffered before he made the ultimate decision to murder them.
In less serious cases, police have been seen beating their wives or girlfriends—in public, while in uniform.
As TFTP reported last year, officer Ian Ray and his girlfriend attended McGavock Elementary School for a child's graduation when the two got into a verbal argument during the ceremony.
Ray was in uniform at the time and multiple witnesses reported seeing a police officer grab his girlfriend around the neck or hair and brutalize her. During the altercation, witnesses called police who showed up and then arrested the officer.
In that case, the officer was arrested. Sadly, however, many of these abusive cops are protected by their own departments and when an abused spouse or girlfriend attempts to get help, they are ignored and the abuser protected.
As TFTP has previously noted, a report by a government-appointed watchdog group shows that most of the time, the abusive officers commit these crimes 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.