Batterer Intervention

Excuses & Resistance

When an officer is mandated to counseling, it's likely to be framed as a problem of stress, temper, anger management or poor impulse control, rather than battering.

Even when a officer recognizes that he/she has may benefit from some form of counseling, they resist seeking help for fear of losing their jobs, being demoted, or having their personal problems exposed. They don't trust that employee assistance programs are confidential. They know that seeking counseling or treatment could ruin their chances for promotion or preferred assignments. Seeking help raises fears of being placed on administrative or medical leave or being found unfit for duty, and losing their careers.

The attitudes and behaviors of abusive officers filters down into their intimate relationships when they cross the thresholds of their homes with a sense of sense of entitlement to authority. They typically excuse their behavior by blaming the stress and danger of the job, the impact of rotating shifts, and desensitization caused by police work. Other work-related excuses include frustration with policies, supervisors, and the legal system. Their union rep or attorney may also advise against voluntary participation that could later be used as an admission of domestic violence or misconduct.

An abusive officer may be ordered to enter a batterer intervention program as a condition of continued employment or as a condition of sentencing or pre-trial diversion. If he goes to a general counselor or therapist without expertise in domestic violence, the violent behavior and patterns of coercion, control, and entitlement may be not even acknowledged.

A well-facilitated group with other batterers is the most appropriate type of intervention with abusers. But should an officer attend a group exclusively with other police officers, or a general group? Proponents of "police-only" groups emphasize that police officers will resist attending a group with the public. They believe that educational material used in general groups can be tailored to address police culture and dynamics. It may be more possible to challenge job-related excuses for their violence at home when thay are among their own "family." Critics of restricted groups say this only reinforces their sense of entitlement and claims that police officers are different than "ordinary" abusers. Voluntary all-officer groups can avoid naming officer-involved domestic violence as a criminal offense. Groups may also foster collusion rather than accountability.

Focusing on whether or not an officer is in a mixed or police-only group is misleading. In most cities there are not enough officers at any given time to run a group exclusively for police officers. Most batterers would not voluntarily attend counseling, and union contracts may prevent a department from mandating an officer to attend a group. Finally, if counseling is ordered by the court after a conviction, the officer will have already lost his ability to carry a weapon, and will most likely no longer be employed as an officer.

Advocates should stress that even though a victim's partner is in counseling, genuine change — if it occurs at all — takes time and effort. The victim must not let her guard down. It's not safe to base her decision to continue living with the abuser on whether he attends a batterer intervention group. An abusive officer whose job is at risk may become more violent, or turn the table on his victim through more subtle tactics.

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