by Cathy Mendonca
Regardless if an officer is on or off duty. Society must dismantle the popular myth of police as an ally to the domestic violence movement, and embrace the harsh reality that police culture of power and control while maintaining a code of silence, makes the occurrence of domestic violence 2 to 4 times more common in police families than in the general population.
When called, police often do not view domestic violence as criminal behavior. This results in a lack of police intervention, or inappropriate or delayed responses. Failing “to protect the legal rights of” battered women. Domestic Violence was historically considered a “private matter” causing very little police involvement if and when someone is battered or raped by their husband or partner. Regardless of the fact that there are mandatory domestic violence arrest laws, many police officers rarely arrested perpetrators and sometimes have the attitude that domestic violence situations were not considered “real” police work.
The officers code of silence practiced on the job is part of the brotherhood they have with one another in every aspect of their life. As DV Advocate and feminist Diane Wetendorf states, “the officer counts on other officers to cover, giving them a story explaining why they “had to do” whatever they did. Whether or not others personally condone that behavior, it is still rationalized, saying it was stress or pressure, or quite simply, that their only human. The version of the story is then repeated and stuck to, putting themselves on the line for their fellow officer. Whether testifying in court or smoothing things out at home, the rules are simple for them:Say as little as possible, Answer only the question asked.Don’t give details. Deny all accusations. Say “I don’t remember, I didn’t see that, or I don’t know.” This brotherhood entitles the offender to “professional courtesy.” The responding officers usually apologize for the intrusion and any inconvenience, and it’s understood that “nothing happened here.” Wetendorf then goes on to say, ‘Society grants members of law enforcement enormous power over citizens to enable the police to keep the peace and to preserve social order. They are granted a great deal of freedom to use their judgment regarding which laws to enforce, when and against whom. This wide range of options and authority can lead to the abuse of their power. Some police officers come to see themselves not as simply enforcers of the law, but as the law itself.”
Law enforcement are professionally trained to get and keep people and situations under control. When a person challenges police authority, the police have the power to physically restrain, to use force when necessary, and to deprive him/her of personal freedom. Along with physical control, their authoritative presence and investigative capabilities under law, they are uniformed perpetrators of an even more dangerous ‘power and control’ cycle for victims. As an advocate against domestic violence and member of United Against Police Terror, I am speaking out today against the following uniformed perpetrators and state sanctioned violence we know of as law enforcement. To close out this statement, I would like to give the following hard facts These batterers; Always have guns (often many guns and other weapons) and are trained by the state to use them. Know how to inflict pain and leave no marks or bruises. Trained by the state to intimidate by presence alone, and to use their body as a weapon. Let their victims know they have the power in society to harm or kill them and get away with it, or have others do it for them. Tell the victim that IF they call police, the officers (colleagues and friends) will believe the officer over them … and they’re right. Often threatens that if they report to police to ‘cause trouble’, the victim’s life could be in great danger. Have access to surveillance tools like phone taps, police scanners, vehicle tracking devices, and audio and video recording equipment to stalk or monitor the victim’s activities. Will stalk or have fellow officers stalking their victims in the form of “patrolling” their house, work place, children’s school or daycare center. Know the location of battered women’s shelters. Knows the court system, often testifies in court, and knows district attorneys, judges and bailiffs personally.