Police departments are actually amazing at public relations. Each department often has its own communications director, some have full PR departments, and high-ranking officers interact with the local media more than any other profession in our country. This may explain how police officers are held up as the ethical and moral heroes of our country in spite of the reality that they have a rate of domestic violence 300 percent higher than NFL athletes.
A full 69 percent of Americans believe that the NFL has a widespread domestic violence problem, and 47 percent of Americans believe that NFL athletes should be permanently banned from the league for domestic violence.
The truth is, though, that NFL athletes actually have a domestic violence rate that is 45 percent lower than the national average. The athletes are just so popular and widely covered that it has given the nation a bit of a false impression.
Domestic violence is a problem in general, and NFL athletes are certainly part of that problem.
What isn't being told is that police officers have a higher domestic violence rate than any known profession in the country.
Keep reading for the gory details.
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.
Can you imagine the sheer horror of being abused by a police officer? If it's already complex to report domestic violence on a partner that isn't in law enforcement, imagine how much more difficult it must be to call the police on the police. This thought, combined with the already highly secretive nature of policing, has caused experts to believe that the actual rates of domestic violence by law enforcement are drastically underreported.
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.
A quick search finds officers in Cincinnati
, rural Kentucky
, and cities all over the country have been arrested on domestic violence charges in the past few weeks alone.
On its Police Family Violence Fact Sheet, the National Center for Women and Policing powerfully explains just how vulnerable these domestic violence victims truly are.
Domestic violence is always a terrible crime, but victims of a police officer are particularly vulnerable because the officer who is abusing them:
1. has a gun,
2. knows the location of battered women's shelters, and
3. knows how to manipulate the system to avoid penalty and/or shift blame to the victim.
Victims often fear calling the police, because they know the case will be handled by officers who are colleagues and/or friends of their abuser. Victims of police family violence typically fear that the responding officers will side with their abuser and fail to properly investigate or document the crime.
Violent police officers, whether they are violent at home or violent on the job, are treated with kid gloves. Over 99.5 percent of officers who kill someone never serve a day in jail
If anyone should be immediately terminated for domestic violence, shouldn't it be a police officer? The facts, though, show that officers are rarely held accountable—even when it was fully determined that they are abusive. This might seem like an enormous chunk of text, but this piece below from the National Center for Women and Policing just has to be read in its entirety:
The reality is that even officers who are found guilty of domestic violence are unlikely to be fired, arrested, or referred for prosecution, raising concern that those who are tasked with enforcing the law cannot effectively police themselves. For example:
In 1998-1999, 23 domestic violence complaints were filed against Boston police employees, but none resulted in criminal prosecution.
The San Diego City Attorney typically prosecutes 92% of the domestic violence cases that are referred, but only 42% of the cases involving a police officer as the perpetrator are prosecuted.
Between 1990 and 1997, the Los Angles Police Department investigated 227 cases of alleged domestic violence by officers, of which 91 were sustained. Of these 91 allegations that were sustained by the department, only 4 resulted in a criminal conviction. That means that the LAPD itself determined in 91 cases that an officer had committed domestic violence, but only 4 were convicted on a criminal charge. Moreover, of these 4 officers who were convicted on a criminal charge of domestic violence, one was suspended for only 15 days and another had his conviction expunged.
In fact, an in-depth investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department conducted by the Office of the Inspector General concluded that the discipline imposed on officers found guilty of domestic violence "was exceedingly light when the facts of each incident were examined."
The study of the Los Angeles Police Department further examined the 91 cases in which an allegation of domestic violence was sustained against an officer.
Over three-fourths of the time, this sustained allegation was not mentioned in the officer's performance evaluation.
Twenty-six of these officers (29%) were promoted, including six who were promoted within two years of the incident.
In other words, police officers are fully and completely above the law when it comes to domestic violence, and the system so badly railroads victims that it appears their hesitancy to report it is well-founded. Not only that, but after the police perpetrators of domestic violence are given a pass by the system, the victims are in a drastically more dangerous position than they were before they first reported it. The officers are basically empowered to know the whole damn system works in their favor.
Take the very recent domestic violence case of Officer Chris Hutchison into consideration and see how the entire system, from the prosecutors to his department, worked on his behalf.
A Clovis police officer arrested on domestic violence charges will not face a criminal case. The Fresno County District Attorney's Office has chosen not to file charges against Officer Chris Hutchison.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Hutchison last month after a woman reported abuse. But Clovis police said he had a clean record prior to the arrest -- and the DA's decision could clear the way for him to return to work. But for now, Chief Matt Basgall tells Action News, Hutchison is still on paid leave.
So, he's on paid leave, won't face any charges, and will likely be able to return to the job soon. It's as if the word domestic
before violence means it's no big deal at all.