Crossing the Threshold: Female Officers & Police-Perpetrated Domestic Violence


ISBN 978-1-933556-48-2 Diane Wetendorf, ©2006 All rights reserved. Available through Amazon and PG Direct

Introduction

In this groundbreaking book, Diane boldly exposes the politics and dynamics confronting women in uniform, particularly those in law enforcement. Serving in a male-dominated institution presents challenges not found in civilian life, as the remedies available to many civilian women are simply untenable.

It is always a volatile situation when a police officer is the perpetrator of domestic violence; it is an explosive situation when both the abuser and victim are officers. Fully comprehending the dynamics requires understanding how completely males dominate the profession, and how they have used the institution and culture of policing to preserve and protect male dominance both within the profession and within society. We will explore the institution of policing — its culture and how individuals are indoctrinated, accepted or rejected based on their acceptance of the culture. Though male and female recruits go through the same training and indoctrination, the effects and impact are quite different. Survival in the profession depends on the individual's ability to internalize occupational norms and values. Making a complaint against a fellow officer is a dangerous act, especially when the complainant is herself an officer. Players in the criminal justice system often not only ignore interpersonal violence, but collude with the abuser who can call on his personal and professional network for support and defense against any allegations. A female officer living with domestic violence has to choose between jeopardizing her safety by reporting, or violating policy through her silence. The inexperience or co-optation of community advocates and the lack of standard remedies add to her burden. Female officers are basically left without resources. It depends on all citizens, not just those in law enforcement to effect change.

Chapter Overview

Introduction: It is always a volatile situation when a police officer is the perpetrator of domestic violence; it is an explosive situation when both the abuser and victim are officers. Fully understanding the dynamics requires learning how men have used the institution to preserve and protect male dominance both within policing and within society.

Historical, Social and Cultural Context: The history of policing in any country reflects the social values of those in power. How do we resolve our ambivalence about acting as agents of social control over others, and enforcing the laws of the white male-dominated criminal justice system?

The Police Culture: Though male and female recruits go through the same training and indoctrination into police culture, the effects and impact are quite different. Survival in the profession depends on an individual officer's ability to internalize occupational norms and values.

Police Domestic Violence on the Radar: A female officer who lives with domestic violence fears people will question how she can protect others if she can't protect herself. She has to choose between jeopardizing her safety by reporting, or possibly violating department policy by remaining silent.

He's the "Victim": An on-duty officer who perceives a threat doesn't wait until he is under attack to protect himself; an officer who batters doesn't wait until his victim reports him to take action.

Network of Power: Making a complaint against a police officer is a dangerous act, especially when the complainant is herself an officer. Her abuser can call on his personal and professional network for support and defense against any allegations.

Advocates in the Network: Cooperation between advocates and police can be beneficial to both parties and to many civilian victims, but it presents complex problems when the alleged perpetrator or victim is a police officer.

Crossing the Threshold: Can police agencies or the public rely on an officer who batters to hold civilian batterers accountable or to protect victims of intimate partner violence? We should be paying attention to the way male police officers treat female officers both on the job and in their intimate relationships.

Because of the insularity of the police culture and the unique demands of the profession,female officers tend to date and marry male officers. These dual career couples live under a double mandate for privacy — that within their personal relationship and that within the police family. We have no way of knowing how many female officers are victims of male officers, but current domestic violence statistics estimate 30% of women in the general population will experience domestic violence; and research on police families reports the incidence to be as high as 40%. At current staffing levels, this means 23,000 to 30,000 female officers may be domestic violence victims. Because of the insular nature of the culture, its masculine-identified values, and the power that the institution of policing wields, these victims have little or no protection from their abusers. To whom can an officer-victim appeal if the very institution to which she belongs colludes with her batterer?

Although it is true that not all men and not all male police officers perpetrate or condone violence against women, it is also true that the vast majority of men do little or nothing to stop those who do. If the majority of male cops do not condone other male cops' use of violence against women, why don't they stop them? Why don't police officials who direct the activities and priorities of law enforcement make police-perpetrated domestic violence a top priority? Why don't male police officers hold each other accountable and ostracize those officers who use violence against women just as they ostracize police officers who violate other cultural norms? Why do so many men in power accept male violence against women as if it is as natural and inevitable as the weather?

Women do not have the power to stop men's violence. Only men, including policemen, have that power. Males, especially male police officers, frequently complain that they resent being included in the group of men who use violence against women. They accuse those of us who hold men responsible for domestic violence of reverse sexism and they are quick to point out that women are violent too. Domestic violence advocates and victims try so hard to avoid these accusations that we find ourselves not being able to speak candidly about the issue. The issue is male violence. If we must speak about violence against women in apolitical — mistakenly referred to as politically correct — terms, we cannot honestly speak about it at all.

Read the Excerpt.

Wow! Finally, a book that nails the dirtiest secret in policing. This is the best-researched book on the police spousal abuse issue I have ever read. Wake up criminal justice leaders—now the public knows what really goes on.

Available through Amazon and PG Direct

Reviewers say...

Validates the experiences of every woman battered by a police officer. We wish it were mandatory reading for all judges, those working in the courts, the police hierarchy and Internal Affairs. — Joan Zorza, Esq. Editor, Domestic Violence Report

This book is a cold, hard look at police spousal abuse. As a 31-year police officer, it's hard for me to read a book which paints such an unfavorable picture of my profession. My sincere belief is the majority of police officers are honorable people. For those in the minority who abuse their authority, I hope the badge you hide behind is taken so you have nowhere to hide. — Commander, Internal Affairs

Women police officers face a unique set of challenges that their male colleagues never have to confront. A must-read for anyone looking to gain a greater understanding of this difficult issue. — Sheriff Frank G. Cousins, Jr., Essex County Sheriff's Dept.

Diane Wetendorf has been the pioneer in dealing with the problem of violence in law enforcement families. Women across the nation have turned to Diane for help when the entire criminal justice system turned its back. She has bravely documented the extraordinary challenges these victims face. Every police chief and sheriff should read this book. — Chief Penny E. Harrington, Founding Director, National Center for Women & Policing

Captures the mentality of abusive men with incredible accuracy, and illustrates the critical role abusive cops' allies play in enabling the abuser to manipulate the victim and maneuver the criminal justice system. — Lundy Bancroft, Author/Trainer

Speaks to the heart of the pain, frustration, agony and loss experienced by victims of domestic violence. Though the book centers on victims who are police officers, it speaks to all victims who encounter abusers of power. — Debra K. Hannula, Washington State Attorney at Law

Many people are considered experts in the domestic violence arena, but few can claim expertise in the dynamics of police-perpetrated domestic violence. Diane Wetendorf is such an authority. Her book provides a clear and accurate picture of the dynamics in this male-dominated career, and the insurmountable walls facing female officers as victims. A must read for all first-line supervisors, commanders, and Office of Professional Standards investigators. — Dottie L. Davis, Deputy Chief

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