Domestic Violence Perpetrated by Law Enforcement
Domestic violence by police officers is a complex phenomenon and remains a problem to members of law enforcement, the criminal justice system and to the medical and mental health communities. The lack of policies in place in addition to the absence of enforcement of laws and policies within the police agency has made domestic violence among law enforcement difficult to challenge, treat, and resolve.
Solidarity among law enforcement has come to be known as “The Blue Wall” and is not only commonplace among law enforcement, but expected among the profession. The solidarity and a strong sense of loyalty, the lack of monitoring within the law enforcement culture; ultimately results in the police policing themselves.
Domestic violence by police officers is the most lethal form of domestic violence. This may be due to the accessibility of weapons and training. Additionally, police officers work within the very system where the victim will report the abuse and attempt to seek justice. The solidarity reaches far beyond the confines of the police department. It reaches into the judicial system where judges often side with the police officer.
Judicial bias is common among police officers who engage in domestic violence and charged with the crime. It is suggested that working within the same system, the criminal justice arena, members of that system also feel the same sense of loyalty, preventing victims from seeking necessary actions to protect themselves from the abuse; such as obtaining a personal protection order. In addition, judges, attorneys, and other criminal justice personnel work within the very system that the police batterer does. The abusive officer has a significant influence on the outcome of the victims case.
Personal protection orders are often denied by judges as a result of a federal law, The Lautenberg Amendment to the gun control act and family violence act (1968). This law prohibits any person convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms, including a police officer “A law enforcement officer with such a conviction cannot carry a gun” (Adams, Hibler, & Miller 2000). This poses a significant threat to the officer’s position since carrying a gun is part of the tools of the trade of police work. Other professions do not have the same threat of a potential loss of employment when charged with domestic violence. Police culture also influences victim assistance and response to the domestic violence complaint.
Research suggests that it is the lack of cooperation by the police department in prosecuting the police batterer, in addition to covering up domestic violence for that officer, police cultural influence, the police policing themselves, judicial bias, fear of liability within the police department and the Lautenberg amendment to the gun control act are all factors that are considered when charging a police officer with domestic violence. “In one study by Sgambelluri it is suggested that policing encourages and attracts individuals with characteristics associated with authoritarianism and many domestic abusers possess this same trait. Although policing may enhance or influence attitudes and behaviors to abuse, in itself policing does not cause domestic violence. It is the attitudes, behaviors and police training that can further enhance an abuser’s tactics on the victim” (Sgambelluri 2000).
The National Police Domestic Abuse Foundation (NPDAF) has helped numerous victims and other agencies around the country on this very unique sub population of abuse perpetrated by police officers.