Standards of Conduct

Double Standards

Police and firefighters know the standards of conduct in their departments. They know what behaviors and activities will or will not be tolerated. They know that the standards of conduct used for ordinary citizens do not apply to them. Intimate partners of firefighters and police officers are often shocked at departments' double standards regarding domestic violence. In some departments it is very clear that domestic violence is a crime only when the perpetrator is a civilian. For instance,

Chiefs Set Standards

Police and fire chiefs have ultimate authority and responsibility for the conduct of their officers. The chief determines the values and standards of behavior in the department. If you decide to go to the department and report your abuse, your safety greatly depends on the chief's attitude. Many chiefs and supervisors refuse to admit that officer-involved domestic violence ever happens. When a victim or a victim's advocate informs the chief of a case involving one of his officers, he dismisses it as a "he said, she said." He points out that there is no proof, only the victim's allegations. Instead of listening to the victim's story, the chief offers his analysis of the situation, which generally goes something like this:

Speaking for the abuser,

"Cops come from the general population. We are only human and make mistakes like everyone else. Everyone has marital spats and family problems. Sometimes the situation just gets out of hand. Cops have a right to a private life. If it doesn't interfere with how he does his job, it's nobody's business. And besides, give the poor guy a break. He's a good cop and he could lose his job over this thing. It's just not fair to him."

As for the victim,

"From what I know, she's no angel. She needs to behave herself. She won't leave him alone. She won't get off his case. There are two sides to every story, and he may be the real victim here. They're in the middle of a messy divorce and she's holding the job over him. The guy's career is at stake because she's vindictive and wants him fired."

Misbehavior or Misconduct?

There is a difference between personal and professional misconduct. When an officer's behavior starts getting out of line, the chief usually attempts to deal with it in-house. But when the officer's activities embarrass higher-ups, risk criminal prosecutions, or become public knowledge, he then becomes a political — and legal — liability. How his supervisors or chief react to you depends on many factors. Domestic violence is a crime in the United States. You are entitled to police protection whether or not your abuser is a law enforcement officer, public official, or the military.

Back to top


Training, attitudes and values affect how individuals and departments respond to OIDV.

Our books are available through:

SmashWords (e-book)
Victim Handbook
PG Direct (print)
Hijacked by the Right
Crossing the Threshold
Amazon (print)
Hijacked by the Right
Crossing the Threshold
Crossing the Threshold by Diane Wetendorf