Boston, MA — As TFTP has consistently reported, 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.
This number is likely far higher due to the fact that much of this abuse goes unreported and is covered up. A recent report out of the Boston Globe shows just how bad this problem is.
Last month, two high profile top cops made the news over allegations of domestic violence. According to the Globe:
Last month, newly appointed Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White was abruptly placed on paid leave after details surfaced of a 1999 allegation that he had pushed and threatened to shoot his then-wife, who is also an officer. Just four days earlier, a veteran State Police supervisor, Sergeant Bryan Erickson, was jailed in New Hampshire, accused of choking and headbutting a woman — as well as leading police on a high-speed chase from the scene.
These cases sparked the interest of the Globe who dug deeper and found that they are anything but isolated. But even more worrisome is that in most instances of domestic violence, the officers face no discipline much less criminal charges.
According to the report, “of the dozens of State Police and Boston police officers who have been investigated over the past decade for domestic-abuse-related offenses, more than half have gone entirely undisciplined, records show — while some have remained on the job despite multiple allegations against them.”
But it gets worse, even when female cops complain that their husband cops beat them, this was ignored as well.
The Globe’s investigators contacted Lou Reiter, a policing consultant and former deputy police chief with the Los Angeles Police Department, who confirmed this problem is rife from coast to coast.
“Most departments,” explained Reiter, “want to just shut their eyes and cover their ears.”
According to the Globe:
Since 2010, the BPD’s internal affairs unit has investigated at least 68 cases of alleged domestic violence against officers, according to figures provided by the department. Of those, just 22 — or less than a third — have been sustainedby internal investigators, with nine cases currently pending.
Only two Boston police officers have been fired for domestic-violence-related offenses in the last decade, and one of those was later reinstated through the Civil Service Commission.
As TFTP has previously pointed out, other reports have found similar inaction within other departments. In 2017, a report by a government-appointed watchdog group found that most of the time, abusive officers who commit these crimes, do so with seeming impunity. The above investigation from the Globe is a perfect example of why that is so.
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.
Police possess a skill set that can make them “particularly good abusers,” said Leigh Goodmark, director of the Gender Violence Clinic at Maryland Carey School of Law.
As the Globe points out, “officers are taught how to command, control, restrain, and track people. Their badge grants them credibility and unique access to the criminal justice system, where they have relationships with prosecutors, judges, and social workers — as well as their fellow officers. That stature and implicit power can frighten victims into silence.”
“They’re terrified” of calling the police, said Philip Stinson, a former officer and current criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “Because it’ll be his buddies that come out.”
Diane Wetendorf, a specialist on police abuse, points out, in her handbook, exactly why these victims are terrified.
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.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can seek help at the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or by calling 1-800-799-7233.