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What You Should Know About Police Officers and Domestic Abuse

Posted in Domestic Violence FAQ'S on August 15, 2016

With the recent press surrounding instances of law enforcement abuse of power, one distinct problem in the policing community remains—and many are reluctant to discuss it. Police officers are supposed to protect and serve, but some of them engage in the same criminal behaviors they purportedly fight against. If you were accused of domestic violence and need to speak to a lawyer ASAP, contact our Riverside domestic violence lawyer for a free case evaluation.

What We Know About Officer Involved Domestic Abuse

Unsurprisingly, few reliable statistics exist in 2016 that accurately portray the extent of the problem. According to the most commonly cited statistics, two studies (from the early 1990s) confirm that a minimum of 40% of law enforcement families endure some level of domestic violence. Abuse is more likely in police officer families than in the general public. A study from 2012 evaluated 324 cases of arrests made involving officer-involved domestic violence (OIDV). A third of the victims were spouses and a quarter were children. Some victims also included other police officers. The incidents involved abusive acts including assault, intimidation, rape, and manslaughter.

A 2014 article from The Atlantic highlighted that the problem is worse than the rate of domestic violence incidents in the NFL. The general public hears each high profile story involving the NFL, while stories of police- related domestic violence go unreported. On Facebook, the Police Officer-Involved Domestic Violence Network page has 2,489 likes and features stories of domestic violence and murders involving police officers, firefighters, and other public officials and their spouses. The page showcases the prevalence of the problem in the law enforcement system.

Why the Public Fails to Acknowledge Officer Involved Domestic Violence

Compiling accurate data and taking action against OIDV perpetrators is difficult. Several factors complicate the situation including:

  •  The law enforcement department’s reaction. Some officers get away with a slap on the wrist, and other departments may not address the issue at all. If a law enforcement department fails to accurately report allegations of OIDV, researchers may not have accurate information about the true number of incidents. Policies and procedures surrounding domestic violence vary widely from department to department.
  • A victim’s willingness to reach out for help. When a police officer commits a crime, the victim may not know who to turn to or who to trust. In addition to all of the reasons domestic violence victims fail to take action (fear of making the situation worse, a sense of loyalty to the perpetrator, etc.), victims of OIDV face confronting the offender’s work colleagues and boss.
  • The offending officer’s privileges. An officer has legal access to a deadly weapon at all times and may also know how to manipulate the situation. In addition to these role- related privileges, an officer may also know the location of and people involved in local outreach programs such as a domestic violence shelter. These advantages may prevent a victim from seeking outside support.

Without a process to address OIDV, an offender can go unchallenged for an indefinite period of time. Some officers may continue to behave abusively without reprimand, while others go on to commit more serious acts such as murder or manslaughter.

How Victims of Officer Involved Domestic Violence Can Take Action

If you or someone you love is involved in an act of OIDV, taking action may stop the abuse and prevent others from enduring the same experience. Think outside the box and contact someone who can work on your behalf. An attorney, a trusted officer from another precinct, or a domestic abuse social worker in another county can help you develop a plan of action. Those in crisis can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800- 799-SAFE. Document as much of the incident as you can, and keep a group of friends or relatives around you if possible.

The reality is that officer involved domestic abuse cases exist, but people don’t know much about it. Reach out to someone you trust for help if you’re involved in OIDV as a victim or a wrongly accused defendant.

Graham Donath is an award-winning Riverside criminal defense lawyer Contact him today for a free consultation.