Mimesis Law
17 July 2019

Do Blue Wives Matter?

Jan. 15, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Across the country, a wave of bumper stickers, hashtags, and even the occasional billboard has sprung up, declaring that “Blue Lives Matter,” as though the trend until now has been dumping dead police officers in a ditch behind a gas station.

But despite all the lip service about protecting officers, there’s one group that gets precious little consideration: people who encounter police officers in their civilian life, especially their spouses and children.

Take for instance, Cole Young, a Monticello, Utah officer who had apparently attacked another man and driven away drunk. Young’s wife reported the incident, at which point the dispatcher and the chief (who has now been terminated) laughed about it, saying that they would respond the next day at the earliest.

Ultimately, Young’s wife and her friend were forced to hide in the mountains, rather than risk being hurt or killed by her husband.

Young is not an isolated case. There is an epidemic of crimes committed by police officers against their own families. As The Atlantic reported:

Two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population. A third study of older and more experienced officers found a rate of 24 percent, indicating that domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than American families in general.

And the sort of hands off, boys will be boys attitude that Young benefitted from was not unusual either:

Cases reported to the state are the most serious ones—usually resulting in arrests. Even so, nearly 30 percent of the officers accused of domestic violence were still working in the same agency a year later, compared with 1 percent of those who failed drug tests and 7 percent of those accused of theft.

But hey, maybe the same excuses that so often work in an officer’s professional life work at home. For instance, could it be that many police officers’ wives should expect to be “treated like thugs” if they are going to “act like thugs?” Maybe they’re just not being sufficiently respectful. Maybe, like Eric Garner, they have an unacceptable attitude:

That attitude is a direct result of the lack of respect for law enforcement, resulting from the slanderous, insulting, and unjust manner in which police officers are being portrayed.

As it turns out, the language employed by certain police officers to describe citizens at large and demanding deference, obedience, and respect, comes to sound a lot more sinister when used to describe the people they live with.

Now, of course, the police are under no obligation to protect a citizen from a threat, even when specifically asked for protection. And when the authorities are held to such a lax standard, it can’t be very surprising that families reporting domestic violence often have trouble getting help.

How hard? In one story out of the San Francisco Gate, a reporter had difficulty finding domestic violence victim advocates willing to speak out against an officer accused of beating his wife, for fear that they’d lose access to the police they relied on.

But it’s hard to understand a system where employment consequences are swifter, harsher, and more certain when an officer is caught with marijuana than when he is caught beating a family member.

As the National Center for Women and Policing reports:

  • The most common discipline imposed for a sustained allegation of domestic violence was counseling.
  • Only 19% of the departments indicated that officers would be terminated after a second sustained allegation of domestic violence.
  • A recent study of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department found inconsistent policies and practices for officers accused of domestic violence, regarding arrests, seizure of firearms, and Employee Assistance treatment.10 There is no reason to believe that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department is unique in this; rather, this inconsistency is typical for police agencies responding to domestic violence committed by its own members.

There are several reasons why officers may be committing domestic violence at a higher rate than the rest of the population. It could be that the sort of person who makes a good police officer needs to be able to get angry, and use that anger to defend himself and others.

Or it could be that the job itself is simply very stressful and difficult, and that people who are in such jobs generally are more likely to be prone to substance abuse and domestic violence.

It might even have something to do with the training that officers receive, which sometimes seems to encourage escalation and absolute control over non-violent solutions that might take a bit longer. As one researcher suggested, officers may simply be applying their training at home:

“They start out with command presence and voice to gain and maintain control, and if that doesn’t work, they go up the scale with an increasing amount of force until they get compliance,” Wetendorf said. “Unfortunately, these guys use the same technique with their wives and girlfriends. And some of them go from 0 to 60 right away.”

Whatever the reason, the dramatically higher risk for the wives and families of police officers, plus the unavailability of help, makes this susceptible to the typical rallying cry of the bad idea: “Something must be done.”

After all, in 1996, when Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, it created all kinds of rules making arrests and convictions easier to come by for prosecutors in domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

And it created specialized grants so that local authorities would have the funds to pursue the issue aggressively.

If local law-enforcement isn’t willing to treat these issues seriously, because they don’t want a friend and co-worker to risk losing his job, then there should be a place that people can call to get help and advice. It makes no sense to keep in place a system that treats casual marijuana use more seriously than domestic violence.

Police unions are constantly asking for special protections. Protections from investigation. Added penalties for assaulting law enforcement officers. Maybe the time has come for police unions to put their lobbying efforts behind women and children who might otherwise go without help.

What do you say, Mr. Lynch?

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