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AUTHOR: WENDY GITTLESON SEPTEMBER 11, 2015 3:40 PM
One of the biggest problems with police is that simply being a part of the force gives them a PhD level training in how to get away with breaking the law. While the majority of cops are likely honest (I hope), this sort of being above the law can make life very difficult for spouses and domestic partners of police.
Still, almost 70 percent of Americans believe that domestic violence in the NFL is a serious problem. Did you know that it’s actually a bigger problem with police, though? It’s three times worse.
The problems in the NFL are somewhat overrated. There are actually a lot fewer domestic violence arrests among NFL players than there are in the general public, but that could be because police are often fans, which brings us to police. Of all professions, cops are the worst for domestic violence.
In families of police officers, domestic violence is two-to-four times more likely than in the general population — from stalking and harassment to sexual assault and even homicide. As the National Center for Women and Policing notes, two studies have found that at least 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10% of families in the general population.
A 2013 Bowling Green State University study, through news searches, tallied 324 cases of reported officer domestic violence. It is likely that this number is a gross underestimate, because as the National Center for Women and Policing has detailed, officers frequently cover for each other.
“Cops ‘typically handle cases of police family violence informally, often without an official report, investigation, or even check of the victim’s safety,'” the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf writes, quoting a study from the National Center for Women and Policing. “‘Even officers who are found guilty of domestic violence are unlikely to be fired, arrested or referred for prosecution.'”
Unlike in the NFL, police carry a gun for a living, which can make it particularly frightening for domestic partners. Even worse, they know where the battered women’s shelters are, so there is no escape. Even with cops’ reluctance to do anything about their brothers in blue, 40 percent of families of police report domestic violence, as opposed to just 10 percent of the general population.
Aside from having domestic partners of cops wear body cams, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done about the culture of domestic violence and its cover-ups. One woman in Colorado wasn’t wearing a body cam, but she did record the abuse of her daughter and even then, the police department tried covering it up. After the video made state and national news, the county dissolved the police and the sheriff’s office took over.
Jeremy Yachik, the abusive officer in Colorado, was convicted of egregious crimes. According to his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter, he regularly tied her up, slammed her head into walls, beat her with ropes, restricted her food, left her tied up in dark rooms, and force fed her a sauce that’s about 10 times hotter than habanero peppers. His punishment was three years of supervised probation, 30 days in a jail work-release program, and 80 hours of community service. We may have another chance at justice, but only because he was arrested last week for separate charges of sexually abusing a minor.
Featured image via Wikimedia
So that’s a little depressing, to be sure, but it’s not a surprise, is it? After all, force and authority are the job, so it’s not a huge stretch to suggest that some police also believe in those things on a personal level and that some certainly employ them in their personal lives. I know I’m not showing causation, as Ms. Gittleson also did not, but this phenomenon does surely underline a strong correlation between the legitimate force of authority and abuse.
Causation and it’s proof are always hard to find in human affairs, so that will be a tough row to hoe, but let’s state the challenge, say it out loud and see what happens: how do we establish causality between the legal, authorized use of force and punishment and the phenomenon of domestic abuse? To say violence begets violence is a truism to my mind, but hardly a proof of anything, and anyhow, folk wisdom like that in regards to authority, punishment and abuse has a tendency to support the authorities’ positions. It’s something I’ve said before, but I would like to reset the precedence: folksy aphorisms will have to line up on the side of the status quo. But perhaps causation is not really the relationship there; maybe it’s more like one is the other rather than one causes or promotes the other. The analogy might be this, that choice does not cause discrimination; rather choice is discrimination, two sides of a coin. Certainly that is my view of it – punishment and abuse are two sides of a coin, two sides of the same coin.
We should never be surprised when a great number of policemen lose their faith in force and violence and begin to see their role as better served through mercy and discretion, but it should be no great surprise when “legitimate” force and punishment are co-resident with abusiveness either. I imagine that the difference is that some folks can keep force and punishment in the ‘necessary evil’ category while some just come to see it as a good thing always, as long as it’s being dished out by the right people.
I’ve made these points elsewhere, so I’ll leave off with my philosophizing for now. But the other thing about this article, the main thing, is frightening. Woe to those whom the agents of authority have singled out for abuse, for they have no-where to hide. Authority has a tendency to become a social club rather than a regulated organ for what is right and what is wrong; it always seems to be about who’s in and who’s out. In the worst cases, its members can apparently do no wrong.
Sept. 19, 2015