9 Officer-Involved Domestic Violence
In the last few chapters, the reader sees the difficulties battered women face when they decide to leave an abusive situation: logistics, housing, income, legal services are just a few of the complications Megan has had to cope with. The story now shifts to address some of the peculiar aspects of her situation, namely that of officer-involved domestic violence.
___________________________________________ “Why haven’t you gotten help?” he pressed.
“Help?” She lifted her head. “From whom? The cops? Really, Nathan.”
“There are secret shelters for battered women–”
“And he knows where all of them are!” ___________________________________________
“Everyone’s hoping he’ll straight out on his own.” Richard shrugged. “He’s in the brotherhood.”
“And she’s a sister!”
Richard sighed. “You know that doesn’t carry as much weight with some.” __________________________________________
This is an important topic because two independent studies have shown that 30-40% of law enforcement families experience domestic violence.
This is TWICE the rate of civilian families. I can verify that there are officers who commit such crimes and are never reported, that their crimes are hidden because of the “brotherhood.” Some departments are worse than others.
These complications are real and dangerous.
Even in writing this book, I was confronted with the danger. I was an active street medic. I needed law enforcement to have my back on dangerous scenes. Yet my book was confronting, crossing, you might say, the “thin blue line.” Yes, this is where the title comes from (in addition to the lines of marital fidelity, loyalty, and the “wire” of military operations). This work does not fall into the ACAB (all cops are bad) camp–that is the importance of Thomas’s role as a positive law enforcement foil to Todd’s negative–but “Crossing the Line” confronts ideas that could, and did, anger some people who do not wish to see OIDV (officer-involved domestic violence) discussed.
For my own personal and career safety, it was decided that the book would be published under the pen name, Caitlyn Armistead. I spoke at meetings and conferences under this name.
Even then, I was found out. A former intelligence officer confronted me. Thankfully, he understood my need for security and kept my secret. It could have been much worse and certainly demonstrated the difficulty these survivors face.
Eventually, I left service, and my need for anonymity faded. When the book went into second edition, I placed my real name on the cover.
For those who want more information on how to help those experiencing OIDV, here is a manual produced by the Battered Women’s Justice Project:
This is an excerpt from that document:
When the Batterer Is an Officer:
10 Things Advocates Must Know
**Use your most experienced advocate. **Providing support and advocacy for a police victim requires an advocate who has worked with a wide range of women, understands the complexities of battering, has solid knowledge of available criminal and civil interventions, and understands the practices and politics of local law enforcement agencies.
**Never underestimate the danger. **Safety planning is even more complicated for police victims than it is for other victims. Police training, access to information, use of firearms, knowledge of the criminal justice system process, and fear of losing employment heighten the complexity and potential danger. There is a high risk for murder, suicide, or both.
**Police have unique access to information. **An officer/abuser knows the locations of local shelters and can readily discover the address of any shelter. By training and profession, police have investigative skills and access to many types of information, making it possible for the abuser to track the victim or obtain and use personal information against the victim and her family or friends.
**Police training can reinforce the tactics of battering. **Specialized training in investigation, surveillance, and use of force reinforce dominance and control and make police officer abusers among the most dangerous.
**Police culture and officer-to-officer relationships can limit the department’s response and victim support. **Responding officers may be reluctant to believe that a working partner or friend is a batterer. They may be less believing of and less sympathetic to the victim, or feel conflicted between upholding the law and protecting their fellow officer’s job.
**A victim’s help-seeking may threaten employment. **The victim of a police officer may believe that any step she takes to protect herself will jeopardize her abuser’s career. The victim will be reluctant to call 911, obtain an Order of Protection, or report the abuse to a supervisor because she fears retaliation from the abuser for tarnishing his reputation and/or interfering with his career.
**Linkages between police and other agencies can limit intervention. **Similar to the effect of working relationships between officers, the dispatcher or the prosecutor or the judge may be reluctant to believe that an officer is a batterer. The prosecutor’s decision whether to proceed against a police batterer relies heavily on police cooperation, reports, investigation, and evidence collection.
**Knowledge of the criminal justice system can be used to manipulate it. **Police officer abusers know where the line is between criminal and non-criminal behavior. They have detailed knowledge about how the criminal justice system works, know the people who work in the system, and know how to use the system against the victim.
**The abuser’s profession confers credibility. **An officer’s professional standing brings with it a high degree of credibility. At the same time, he will do everything in his power to destroy the victim’s credibility. Victims who fight back, who use drugs or alcohol, or who are mentally ill will be particularly vulnerable in comparison to his credibility and position within the criminal justice system.
**When both the victim and the perpetrator are law enforcement officers, complications multiply. **A female officer’s victimization at home may be used as an indication that she is incompetent to perform her official duties. Other officers may ostracize her as a whistle blower. Her career and life are at stake and typical safety remedies will most likely not be viable options. Risks for the victim and others are magnified and the situation requires thoughtfulness and caution.