Tag Archives: crime wave

Police Wife Writes About the “Secret Epidemic” of Police Domestic Violence

This post was originally published at the “Ms. Magazine” blog in October of 2015 by and (who was married to a police officer for 20 years) under the original title “Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence.” (See below for their full biographies.)

Domestic violence takes place in up to a staggering 40 percent of law enforcement families, but police departments mostly ignore the problem or let it slide, write ex-police wife Susanna Hope and award-winning investigative journalist Alex Roslin in their new book, Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence. The following excerpt is adapted from their book, available on Amazon or as an eBook from their website, and is being published as part of the Ms. Blog’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month series.

According to Alex Roslin, “Police Wife” itself has more than 60 pages of appendices giving advice and resources to survivors, family and friends plus recommendations for advocates, police, governments, journalists and researchers.

In order to help survivors and others, they’ve made virtually all of the appendices available for free through their website. Here is the direct link to this extended free excerpt.

The propensity for police to abuse their wives, children, and other family members is, of course, no secret among people who read CopBlock.org. It’s rare that more than a few days go by without a report of a cop having committed domestic violence and several CopBlock Network Contributors have posted about the increased risk that entails marrying or having the bad fortune to be the child of a cop. Obviously, the habitual efforts of Good Cops to cover up the crimes of those Bad Apples, is also a large factor in its commonality.

Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence

In 2009, in Utica, New York, police Investigator Joseph Longo Jr. killed his estranged wife, Kristin Palumbo-Longo, stabbing her more than a dozen times in their home, then stabbed himself to death. One of the couple’s four children discovered the horrifying scene on coming home from school that afternoon.

Police Officer Cop BlockUtica’s then-Police Chief Daniel LaBella said the killing was completely unexpected—an incident “no one could have prevented or predicted.” But Kristin’s family filed a $100-million wrongful-death suit saying city and police officials didn’t do enough about Longo’s troubling behavior before the tragedy.

Kristin had contacted police at least five times in the weeks before she was murdered, saying she feared her husband might kill her and their kids, but police supervisors discouraged her from making reports or seeking a protection order, the lawsuit said. In a preliminary ruling, a federal judge agreed that the police actions may have “enhanced the danger to Kristin and amounted to deliberate indifference.” The city settled the suit in 2013, paying the couple’s children $2 million.

The murder wasn’t an isolated tragedy. It was unusual only because it was so public and so bloody. A staggering amount of domestic violence rages behind the walls of cops’ homes, while most police departments do little about it. In the vast majority of cases, cops who hurt a family member do so in utter secrecy, while their victims live in desperate isolation with very little hope of help. Research shows:

  • An astonishing 40 percent of cops acknowledged in one U.S. survey that they were violent with their spouse or children in the previous six months.
  • A second survey had remarkably similar results—40 percent of officers admitted there was violence in their relationship in the previous year. The abuse rate for cops is up to 15 times higher than among the public.
  • Police discipline is startlingly lax. The LAPD disciplines cops with a sustained domestic violence complaint less strictly than those who lie or get in an off-duty fight. In the Puerto Rico Police Department, 86 percent of cops remained on active duty even after two or more arrests for domestic violence.

It seems incredible that a crime wave of such magnitude and far-reaching social ramifications could be so unknown to the public and yet at the same time an open secret in a mostly indifferent law enforcement community. It is surely one of the most surreal crime epidemics ever—at once disavowed, generalized and virtually unchecked.

Aptly summing up the bizarre disconnect, retired Lieutenant Detective Mark Wynn of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department in Tennessee told PBS in a 2013 story on the issue: “What’s amazing to me is we’re having this conversation at all. I mean, could you imagine us sitting here talking about this and saying, how do you feel about officers using crack before they go to work, or how do you feel about the officer who every once in a while just robs a bank, or every once in a while decides to go in and steal a car from a dealership? We wouldn’t have this conversation. Why is it that we’ve taken violence against women and separated that from other crimes?”

Domestic violence is bad enough for any woman to deal with. Shelters, many of them chronically underfunded, regularly turn away abused women because they’re full, while only about one in four incidents in the wider population ever get reported to police. Hundreds of U.S. communities have adopted “nuisance property” laws that encourage police to pressure landlords to evict tenants who repeatedly call 911 over domestic abuse, further dissuading victims from seeking help.

But abuse at home is far worse for the wife or girlfriend of a cop. Who will she call—911? What if a coworker or friend of her husband responds? Police officers are trained in the use of physical force and know how to hurt someone without leaving a trace. They have guns and often bring them home. And if a cop’s wife runs, where will she hide? He usually knows where the women’s shelters are. Some shelter staff admit they are powerless to protect an abused police spouse. Her abuser may have training and tools to track her web use, phone calls and travels to find out if she is researching how to get help or, if she has fled, where she went.

In the rare case where the woman works up the nerve to complain, the police department and justice system often victimize her again. She must take on the infamous blue wall of silence—the strict unwritten code of cops protecting each other in investigations. The police have a name for it—extending “professional courtesy.” In the words of Anthony Bouza, a one-time commander in the New York Police Department and former police chief of Minneapolis, “The Mafia never enforced its code of blood-sworn omerta with the ferocity, efficacy and enthusiasm the police bring to the Blue Code of Silence.”

It all adds up to the police having a de facto licence to abuse their spouses and children. And it’s a worldwide phenomenon that police families struggle with everywhere from Montreal to Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, the U.K., Australia and South Africa.

The torrent of abuse is virtually unknown to the public, but without realizing it, we all pay a steep price. Domestic violence is the single most common reason the public contacts the police in the U.S., accounting for up to 50 percent of all calls in some areas. Yet, a battered woman who calls 911 may have a two-in-five chance of an abuser coming to her door. Official investigations have found law enforcement departments that tolerate abuse in police homes also mishandle violence against women in other homes.

Abusive cops are also more prone to other forms of misconduct on the job—such as brutality against civilians and violence against fellow officers. We all pay as taxpayers when governments have to settle multi-million-dollar lawsuits with victims of police abuse or negligence. Police domestic violence also has close connections to a host of other problems—police killings of African Americans, sexual harassment of female drivers at traffic stops and women cops, and even more broadly, issues like growing social inequality and subjugation of Native Americans.

And police officers themselves are victims, too. Even though our society calls cops heroes, we give them little support to cope with the pressure of police work. A big part of the job is to wield power to control other people. As a result, policing attracts people who are good at controlling others or may have a craving for that kind of power—and then trains them to use their power better. Control is also the main driver of domestic violence. Is it a surprise then that so many cops are violent at home?

Support the Ms. Magazine Prison and Domestic Violence Shelter Program today and show women fleeing domestic violence that they’re not alone.

Susanna Hope (a pseudonym for security and privacy reasons) is a Canadian professional writer who was married for over 20 years to a police officer. She has two sons and two grandchildren.

Alex Roslin is an award-winning Canadian journalist who was president of the board of the Canadian Centre for Investigative Reporting. His investigative and writing awards include three Canadian Association of Journalists prizes for investigative reporting, a gold prize in the National Magazine Awards and nine nominations for CAJ awards and NMAs.

The Olympia Police Did Nothing Wrong for the 100th Time (Repost)

This was submitted from a post at the “media island internationalblog and was written by Bruce Wilkinson. It discusses yet another instance of a police department (Olympia Washington) investigating itself after some of the officers employed by that department have committed violence against the public, as well as the very predictable outcome of that “investigation.” (Links within the post have been added and were not included in the original version.)

If you have a video and/or description of an interaction you have personally had with the police or courts you would like to submit for a possible blog post on CopBlock.org, you can do so at the Cop Block Submissions page.

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Olympia, Wa. Dec. 2014

Olympia, Wa. – Dec. 2014

The Olympia Police Department did nothing wrong when it comes to Officer Donald shooting two unarmed black youth according to their internal investigation. This is about the 100th time the OPD investigated itself and surprisingly found nothing wrong.

Several years ago I filed a complaint of OPD excessive force to the OPD and the OPD investigation ended with the same result. I then examined police auditor reports of other OPD complaints. The Police Auditor’s reports back then had one amazing detail, they were all statistically anomalous. A few things were very clear, the Police Auditor agreed 100% of the time with the police, meaning he was just a rubber stamp so I’m glad the fiction of his role is gone. The second was that of the 20 or so official complaints of excessive force, none of them were deemed legitimate.

I want you all to understand that these were official complaints, as in the person went back to the police that allegedly hurt them, filed a complaint, and then went through the investigator’s interview. I have to imagine that only a tiny sliver of people who have faced police brutality actually ever file a complaint, right? I mean maybe 1 in 20, 1 in 50 or more actually stand up and file? So these are very serious people who feel very righteous and of them all, zero of these excessive force complaints were deemed legitimate by OPD investigators. ZERO! This is statistically unlikely.

Right now, the City Council, including Stephen Buxbaum and Nathaniel Jones unfortunately aren’t taking real leadership in adequately dealing with this situation. Four years ago the City Council made one very bad mistake, they selected Police Chief Roberts an outsider who had little credentials. They selected this person for all the wrong reasons and Roberts has abused his position. The City Council immediately chose the route of sitting by his side during all of this rather than sitting across as righteous arbiters of a city needing answers from him. It feels as though Chief Roberts and Steve Hall are running the show and one thing should be clear that these men making $150k+ aren’t supposed to be the rulers.

Chief Roberts was responsible for hiring Officer Donald, now the city is facing suits against it because of this one bad decision and yet the city never has publically (sic) questioned this decision. But that isn’t the only bad decision. Chief Roberts was drawn in through a fearful City Council after the Port Militarization Resistance because, as City Manager Steve Hall said at the time, Roberts had experience from Eugene dealing with anarchists. And it is true, Lieutenant Roberts was in charge of investigations that sent 11 people to jail as terrorists during the green scare. He was a Renaissance man for police and FBI coordination and using fear to stifle a population.

Other than that, Chief Roberts had the amazing duty of Police Chief of Redmond Oregon a 98% white small town that has little of the dynamism of Olympia. And I think the racism charge has been leveled pretty strongly in this case against Officer Donald but Chief Roberts hired him and has flown free of any controversies. To this I can only say is his resume has no color to it unless it is on the conviction side.

Here in Oly he set immediately to work in endearing him to the ODA and then seeking more coordination with the Neighborhood Associations. But why did he do this? Was it to the benefit of Olympia? It seems that he had a mission, over exaggerate the crime problem and then gain more of the purse for the police. He immediately set about doing things like making big announcements around a war on drugs right after marijuana was legalized targeting the heroine “epidemic” a scare term not reflecting objective analysis. His crime reports to the neighborhood associations make the mundane minor offenses that have always happened seem like a crime wave. Today this town is safe. It is extremely safe. It is annoyingly obnoxiously safe. It is scary white people who love malls safe. I know most of you all have never lived in a big city so just take my word for it, you live in a bubble of extreme safety of the likes that really no one should be entitled to feel. You will have to think about that.

And he used classic broken windows policing tactics. He targeted youth and homeless focusing on minor problems to drum up fear. Targeting the scapegoats of the city he focused on attacking homeless, with new rules and more harassment. But what did all this really do for the city? Well I would argue not much good and a whole lot bad. The only real positive has been for Chief Roberts, increasing the size of the police department by getting a tax increase past the voters his second year in office. With the Downtown Ambassador program he also got more boots on the street doing psuedo police work. His bloated office consumes, most people don’t realize, a third of the city budget on police and jails.

The City Council should use the power of the purse to remove the excess from the bloated OPD which will help to incentivize less work on public appearances and more on actual real policing. It might help for them to realize that attempted shoplifting for example is no four alarm fire requiring intensive prowling of the area and multiple patrol assignments. If the OPD has that much police personnel to waste on such an issue than it has too much personnel. The City Council’s job is to thoroughly check and hold accountable Chief Roberts, not be his buddy.

Roberts’ decisions in the type of policing he prefers lead to Scott Yoos’ arrest by four cops that were bullying him because they thought he may have been dumpster diving. It’s a broken windows sort of policing and it makes so little sense outside of NYC where it was developed. This city needs a police department that is better than that and chooses that respecting civil liberties and creating a better society means not going after and making more difficult the lives of the most vulnerable.

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