Article: Victims in the Police Profession

©2007 Diane Wetendorf. All Rights Reserved. Original publication: "Female Officers Surviving Police-Perpetrated Domestic Violence." Written for the Battered Women's Justice Project
The purpose of this article is to increase advocates' knowledge of how the expectations and values of the female officer's profession and workplace culture influence her behavior, safety, and decisions regarding her abusive relationship. Victims in the police profession are particularly vulnerable because they must rely on the integrity of their fellow officers and supervisors to provide protection of the law. [N.B. Readers are advised that statistics are from the original date of publication.]

Advocates, police, and other professionals can be stymied when working with a victim whose batterer is a police officer. The situation is even more baffling when the victim is also in law enforcement. Such situations require understanding why the standard remedies we rely on may not be useful with this population of victims. The purpose of this article is to increase advocates' knowledge of how the expectations and values of the female officer's profession and workplace culture influence her behavior and decisions regarding her abusive relationship. We will discuss some of the ways the police culture can contribute to the isolation of its female members and condition them to tolerate and even accept men's disrespect, negative attitudes, and potentially, domestic abuse. We will look at some of the ways that the police culture serves to mirror and reinforce the dynamics of the abusive relationship. Though the same can be said of many other male-dominated workplace cultures, what makes victims in the police profession particularly vulnerable is that they must rely on the integrity of their own colleagues and supervisors to provide the intervention and protection of the law.

Because so few female officers seek formal assistance, most advocates and professionals, including police supervisors, have little exposure to the problem and few resources to draw from. There has been relatively little research on officer-involved domestic violence and no officially sanctioned statistics. In 2003, the International Association of Chiefs of Police recognized the rate of officer-involved domestic violence to be at least as common as that of the general population. Current domestic violence statistics estimate 30% of women in the general population will experience domestic violence; research on police families reports the incidence to be as high as 40%. This means that at current staffing levels 27,000 to 36,000 female officers may be domestic violence victims.

Some of the seemingly obscure reasons that female officers resist reporting the abuse to authorities become glaringly obvious when we see them in the larger context, as do the reasons that the standard legal remedies may be of little use to this population of victims.

Formal and informal police culture

As in any organization, there exists both a formal and informal culture in every police agency, and a tension exists between the two. The formal culture is that of rules and regulations, the informal that of group norms and daily interactions. The informal culture exerts tremendous peer pressure upon officers to conform to prescribed standards and proscribed actions.

While many police agencies actively recruit female officers, the profession remains an overwhelmingly male-dominated one. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that females number only 11.3% of local full-time sworn officers, 12.9% of sheriffs and 16.1% of Federal officers. The informal (peer) culture does not readily welcome female officers requiring them to assimilate into the male culture. Women officers report that they resent being under constant surveillance and scrutiny by male officers. They say they must repeatedly prove themselves and are monitored more closely than are the men. Male officers tend to exaggerate any mistakes made by a female recruit and uses them as proof that women are incompetent to do the job, generalizing one recruit's mistakes to all female officers.

Men's opposition to women in their ranks stems from a perceived threat to their definitions of the work, occupational culture, social status, and self-image as "men's men." Male officers trust that men will maintain the solidarity of the brotherhood, including the code of silence, but do not trust women to do the same. They fear that women will not be loyal to the group when such loyalty requires betrayal of their own values and conscience. Their fear may be well-founded, as female officers report experiencing and witnessing intense ambivalence regarding adherence to the code, especially in the face of police misconduct, harassment, discrimination, and brutality.

Society gives police officers the authority to enforce the law and to maintain social order. Research shows that women and men possess and exercise different styles of policing and that female officers rely more on communication and less on the use of force than do male officers. Female officers excel in de-escalating violent and volatile situations, but many of their male co-workers view this as a weakness rather than a strength; they do not consider this to be the behavior of a "real cop." A female officer thus faces a conundrum: she can act like a man and achieve control through aggression and fighting, or 'act like a woman' and achieve control without using threats or violence. She finds that she cannot act as both an officer and as a woman within the culture.

In addition to the requirement to act like a man, a female officer must also 'think like a man' to be respected by her male colleagues. Society gives police officers tremendous discretionary power, granting them a great deal of latitude in assessing or defining a situation within the boundaries of policy and protocol. Because male and female officers are likely to perceive and define situations differently, they may make different decisions and take different actions when responding to a situation. A woman's decision whether to enforce the law in a particular situation (such as arresting a domestic violence perpetrator) may be laden with social and political implications and consequences which are contrary to men's way of doing business. Male officers or supervisors may judge female officers as being biased toward women, too sensitive, too lenient — in short, acting and thinking like a woman instead of like a (male) cop. Male resistance to women on the police force is more than gender bias; it's the core belief that only men are entitled to social control and law enforcement. Women do not belong in a profession whose mission is to enforce social order.

One way men seek to maintain control of the workplace is by trivializing the females and sexualizing the environment through their language, behavior, and attitudes. They require a female officer to act and think like a man, but they also require that she look like a woman. The hyper-masculine culture fosters the image of the ideal woman with emphasis on her appearance — her size, weight, shape, hair, clothes, and makeup should all be in keeping with the latest feminine style. The female officer knows that by accentuating her feminine appearance she simultaneously compromises or undermines her professional image. She is forced to balance the disparate roles of being a police officer, a female officer, and a woman.

Many female recruits are taken off-guard by the sexually charged atmosphere of the workplace, and there may be few female officers willing or able to help her navigate the waters. A new officer may not realize the extent to which she is likely to be the target of speculation, innuendo, gossip, and sexual advances. She finds herself in a Catch-22: if she consistently rejects the men's sexual advances, they may label her a bitch or a lesbian; if she is receptive of their advances, they may label her a slut. A female officer may seek a monogamous relationship with a male officer to stave off other predatory officers and/or to break through her social isolation. Some female officers have felt pressured into having sex with male officers to dispel perceptions or rumors that they are lesbians.

Survival on the police force requires a female officer to go along to get along, which often means having to deny, minimize, excuse, and tolerate controlling and offensive behaviors from her male supervisors and peers. This behavior typically includes the denigration of female officers through sexist language, cruel teasing, gender-related stereotypes, criticism, intimidation, and humiliation.

Survival in a hostile work environment of both overt and subtle sexual harassment and discrimination requires female officers to develop coping techniques and strategies. If a female officer confronts and names the men's behavior as abusive, they will probably deny that they meant any insult or harm and accuse her of being too sensitive. If she reports the situation to a supervisor, he/she may reiterate the men's assessment of the situation and even label her a troublemaker. As a result, she learns to overlook, minimize, deny, and joke about what is actually offensive and demoralizing to her.

Workplace desensitization

The workplace dynamics that require her to tolerate men's abusive behavior make her especially vulnerable to verbal, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse in her intimate relationship. The hierarchical structure of the police profession requires unquestioning obedience and submission to authority (typically male authority) and requires female officers to remain conscious of their place in the organization. Insubordination is a serious offense, one that is sure to prompt swift and certain discipline. An abuser may also demand unquestioning obedience and submission to his authority. He is likely to remind her that though she may wield the professional authority of a police officer on the job, she has no such status in their relationship. He feels justified in punishing her accordingly if she refuses to submit to his control.

The abuser works to keep her in a state of constant anxiety, ensuring that she is too emotionally upset and distracted to function effectively on the job. He can sabotage her work performance by chipping away at her self-confidence, wearing her down emotionally and physically with arguments, interrogation, and manipulation. He might deprive her of sleep, force her to call in sick or report late for duty. He might damage or hide her uniform or equipment. And, if his abuse includes physical force, he can inflict injures that don't show but which affect her ability to work effectively. He can also intentionally inflict visible injures that prevent her from going to work, thus threatening her career.

An officer victim feels intense pressure to hide her victimization, which increases her vulnerability to the abuser's continued manipulation, coercion, and violence. As he destroys her confidence and self-esteem, her job performance may decline. She may become hyperaware of how others behave around her. Fellow officers may react differently to her, causing her to act differently, to withdraw, or to be argumentative. She may begin self-medicating her injuries and stress to be able to function at work and maintain her fa├žade that everything is fine. This can lead to accusations that she is lying if she finally reports the abuse. Her success at concealing the abuse works against her when the abuser denies her accusations and supervisors and fellow officers say they saw no signs of her suffering.

Law enforcement agencies are heavily invested in projecting a positive image to the community and in promoting public trust. Any issues that occur within the department are to be kept within the confines of the department and there are dire consequences for anyone who publicly discloses potentially embarrassing information. Likewise, any problems that occur within officers' personal lives are to be kept private. A female officer is under intense pressure to conceal any trouble in her personal life, especially domestic violence.

The victim is aware of the strong cultural stigma against an officer being a victim, and that she cannot afford to be labeled a battered woman. She is likely to be stunned by her own situation as she may have believed that she, a police officer, could never be in such a vulnerable position. This vulnerability contradicts her self-image and undermines her self-confidence, both as a woman and as a police officer.

If the victim is in a lesbian relationship, she faces another layer of barriers to seeking assistance. Most communities have few or any resources for lesbian victims of battering. Where they exist, the abuser may contact the advocacy organization before the victim does and convince staff that she is the victim. Officers responding to a 911 call or other professionals may label the incident as mutual combat, assuming both parties have equal power in the relationship as lesbians and as officers. The threat to out the victim is also a powerful control tactic if she is not already open with her co-workers and others. If she is married or has children, disclosing her sexual orientation may affect a divorce or custody action. Supervisors, fellow officers, family, and friends may reject her, or feel betrayed because she did not inform them of her lesbian relationship. There is also the risk that the department will find her guilty of "failure to keep her personal life unsullied" and at the very least expect her to terminate her relationship with her abuser.

The victim may question, and anticipate that others will question, whether she can protect others if she cannot protect herself. In addition, she may question her judgment for allowing herself to be in such a position, and suspect that colleagues and supervisors will also question her judgment. Should her commanders determine that her personal life reflects on her ability to perform her duties, their determination will have a negative impact on future assignments and promotions. Considering all this, she may feel compelled to risk her personal safety rather than risk her reputation, her career, or the potential consequences of leaving the abuser.

To avoid identifying herself as a victim, she may hold herself responsible for the abuser's violence, convincing herself that she provoked it, deserved it, or gave him no choice. She may use the stress of the job as a superficial excuse for his behavior. Shame or embarrassment may lead her to believe that she should know how to handle her personal problems without outside intervention, and she may fear that fellow officers will see her as a traitor if she reports the abuse. She comes to realize that she is in a significantly different, more dangerous, and more vulnerable situation than if she were a civilian woman. She realizes that of all victims of domestic violence, she may be the least likely to receive police protection.

Abuser's preemptive strategies

If the abuser senses that his victim is going to tell someone about the abuse, he is likely to take preemptive action. For example, he may alert a supervisor that there is trouble at home and that he is concerned that his intimate partner might come forward with false abuse allegations. He may state that she is the aggressor and that he is the victim. Initiating the report gives the abuser control over the situation and he has the advantage of telling his version of the story first. It also gives him the opportunity to discredit the victim by claiming or insinuating that she is mentally or emotionally unstable, jealous, or vindictive. He can state that though he regrets any unintentional impact on her reputation or career, she has forced him to protect his reputation and career. He may even go so far as to seek out the advice or legal services of local advocates, thereby effectively precluding the victim from accessing victim services.

The abuser may call 911 for assistance, knowing that his fellow officers will feel the pressure of the brotherhood to abide by the code of silence and cover up the incident. He may convince them to not write a report, or to write and submit an inaccurate report. The abuser may assure the responding officers that "there is no problem, just a little misunderstanding" and that he has "everything under control." Another tactic might be to convince them that the alleged victim was the aggressor and that they have an obligation to arrest her. Fellow officers may be sympathetic to him because they, too, feel vulnerable to allegations of domestic violence that could potentially damage or destroy their careers.

An abuser may go to court and ask the judge for a protective order giving him possession of the house and temporary custody of the children. The judge may be sympathetic to his situation because the officer's livelihood is in jeopardy. Many judges believe that if a male police officer claims to be a victim of abuse it must be true; they feel it would be too humiliating and embarrassing for a male officer to claim to be a victim unless he had no other choice.

Understanding response to abuse

In addition to the female officer's own struggle to understand what is happening to her, she bears the burden of having to explain the complexities of her situation to others. This includes her friends and family, co-workers, supervisors, internal affairs investigators, advocates, attorneys, psychological evaluators, prosecutors, and judges. If there are divorce and custody issues involved, she may also need to educate child psychologists and custody evaluators, the children's attorney, and child protective services. She may have to educate them about the unique complexities and dynamics of domestic violence when both the perpetrator and the victim are police officers.

It is often difficult for supervisors and other people in the victim's life to understand her behavior and response to the abuse. People are likely to focus on what the victim didn't do rather than what she did do, and misinterpret her survival strategies as demonstration of passive, irrational, and self-defeating behaviors. Many people, both inside and outside the profession of law enforcement, find it difficult to believe that a female police officer can be a victim of domestic violence. Because she has received the same training as the male officer, they expect she can defend herself against his assault. Their argument is that since she can defend herself, she does not qualify as a victim. On the other hand, they question her ability to protect others in her official capacity if she does not defend herself by fighting back.

Many people also believe that female officers enjoy the same personal and professional network, power, status, and credibility that male officers enjoy, and are skeptical of the claim that male officers are routinely able to manipulate the police and the courts against female officers. The more other people in her life believe in the integrity of the police agency or the police profession, the more difficult it is for them to understand why the victim, a member of the police profession, was reluctant or refused to call upon her fellow officers for protection.

Why she doesn't tell friends and/or family

The officer may not be willing to put friends or family members at risk by telling them about the abuse. She may not want to tarnish their image of herself, the abuser, or the police profession. She may fear that someone will confront the abuser and thereby put themselves at risk.

Why she doesn't fight back

Though the female officer is trained in defense tactics and has police authority, she knows better than to compete with her abuser on strength or skill. She knows that his ego demands that he maintains control and power over her and that he will escalate the level of force if she resists or fights back. She may fear that he may goad her into using defense tactics, perhaps even drawing her weapon, so that he can claim she initiated the violence and that he was acting in self-defense. She may be afraid that the department will determine that the incident was one of mutual combat and hold her equally responsible and accountable.

Why she doesn't tell co-workers and/or supervisors

She may wish that she could talk to someone in the agency about what is happening to her, but she may not know where to turn. Female officers report that they receive subtle or blatant messages that supervisors expect them to keep their personal problems out of the workplace. Many supervisors let it be known that they will take disciplinary action detrimental to both the victim's and the abuser's careers if they acquire knowledge of domestic problems.

A policy of zero tolerance for domestic violence can be a strong deterrent to reporting, especially when they mandate that any officer must report knowledge of another officer's misconduct. The victim may not want to compromise a fellow officer's integrity by revealing her secret — if a fellow officer complies with the policy and reports, he or she betrays her trust; if the abuse comes to light and the department learns that the officer had knowledge, he/she is at risk of discipline. The victim may decide that it is worth protecting other officers through her own silence.

Sometimes the marginalization of female officers results in their working against one another so it is possible that she fears another female officer may violate her trust to gain an advantage over her. She may also fear that any confidant could confront her abuser to protect her, or to warn him. Revealing her abuse risks retaliation from both her abuser and officers who are sympathetic to him. Women testify that officers and supervisors punished them with ostracization and shunning, harassment, interference with radio calls, changing assignments and shifts, transfers, and failure to provide backup. Such retaliation takes a tremendous physical and emotional toll.

Her supervisors may not understand or give credence to the coercion and control dynamics of domestic violence. They may view each incident as isolated incidents rather than part of a larger pattern of abuse. They may categorize any physical confrontations as mutual combat if she fought back. Her commanders may believe that she is equally responsible for her domestic situation and that she should be able to handle her problems without involving the department.

Why she doesn't call the police

The female officer has a multitude of reasons for wanting to avoid calling the police to her residence. She knows that the responding officers would be in an extremely uncomfortable position that presents conflicts of loyalty among all parties. A policy and protocol on officer-involved domestic violence can considerably reduce the responding officers' power of discretion, but this has the potential to make things worse for the victim. A 911 call will trigger a police report, internal investigation and perhaps a criminal investigation, and there is no turning back. The agency can require the victim to cooperate with the investigation into her personal life, which is potentially dangerous, embarrassing, and humiliating. An investigation could lead to discipline, or even termination of one or both.

If a female officer reports being battered by a civilian perpetrator, the department may receive her complaint as a legitimate complaint of a crime against an officer. She may be confident that her fellow officers would protect her. But, if she reports being battered by a male officer, they may not be as receptive to her complaint. The department and her fellow officers may respond to her as if she is the perpetrator instead of the victim and/or will suspect that she is lying. No matter what the outcome of her complaint, making a complaint has the potential to extensively damage her career, reputation, and her relationships within the department.

Why she doesn't fully cooperate with the investigation

An investigation opens the door to the department's scrutiny of their private lives. The victim may be placed on leave and mandated for a psychological evaluation to determine whether she is fit for duty. Supervisors may question her reliability, physical, emotional, or mental competence to perform her duties.

As a condition of continued employment the department can order that she cooperate with the internal investigation. This means that she must answer any questions the investigator asks related to the abuse. She may be forced to reveal details that she prefers to remain private. Whatever she tells the investigator is not confidential; the accused officer will receive a copy of her statement. She must choose between her personal safety or following orders. She fears what the abuser will do to her if she cooperates with the investigation and what the department will do to her if she does not cooperate.

Many victims initially withhold certain information from investigators because they fear the abuser's retaliation, disciplinary action, or personal embarrassment. A victim can be disciplined, even terminated, for not fully cooperating with the investigation if she or someone else later discloses the withheld information. Investigators may point out that if she concealed the abuse while it was going on, she was, in essence, lying. Because many officers presume that women commonly lie about domestic violence, they may accuse her of making false or exaggerated allegations. They may question her credibility, blame her for allowing the abuse, and/or question why she did not report earlier than she did.

Why she doesn't get a protective order

A female officer may question the benefit of getting a protective order if she believes that the abuser feels that he is above the law and will not take a protective order seriously. She may fear that he can prevent fellow officers from enforcing the order and from holding him accountable should he violate the order.

The victim may anticipate that the abuser will perceive her getting a protective order as an act of aggression and a threat to his career. He may react to the threat defensively and use it as justification to take whatever action is necessary to protect his career — such as denying the abuse, saying she is crazy, blaming her for his use of violence, or saying that she is the predominant aggressor and he is the victim.

If the department is aware of the protective order, they may reassign her, change her shift, or put her on administrative or medical leave pending the investigation. These actions may humiliate her, draw attention from other officers and supervisors, and create other hardships in her life.

Why she doesn't go to a local domestic violence agency

There are many reasons why a female officer may be reluctant to seek assistance from domestic violence advocates. If the police and advocates in the community have a good working relationship, she may not want to tarnish the reputation of the police or undermine the advocates' trust in the police. She may not want to undermine their confidence that the police are receptive to battered women's complaints and that they will protect victims.

Sadly, many female officers don't seek assistance from domestic violence advocates because they don't trust them. Based on their own experience on the job, they know that advocates and police work closely on cases and often informally share confidential information. They may reasonably expect that advocates will be ambivalent about getting involved and fear that the advocates' allegiance to or fear of the police they work with will prove to be stronger than their ability or willingness to assist.

If the abuser works with the advocates, the victim may fear he will be able to manipulate his personal and professional relationships to gain the advocates' sympathy. He can set the stage by telling the advocates that he and his intimate partner have been having problems and warn them that she might contact them. He can even receive advocacy services from the agency by claiming to be the true victim, thereby blocking her access to services.

Why she doesn't leave

The victim may believe that if she leaves the abuser before he is ready to let her go, he will do whatever it takes to coerce her to return. He may have told her that he will decide when the relationship is over and threatened to kill her if she attempted escape. She knows from previous experience with him or from working domestic violence cases that abuse often escalates rather than ends when a victim tries to separate from the abuser. She may predict that if she were to leave him, he would stalk her. She may also fear that he will harass and threaten her family and friends in his attempt to locate her. He might pressure them with threats to kill them or kill her, their children, and/or himself.

If he and the victim are married, he can drain her emotionally, physically, and financially through a lengthy divorce in which he threatens to end up with most of their marital assets. If they have children in common, he can crush her with a lengthy custody battle at the end of which he has a good chance of being awarded custody of their children.

The abuser is likely to extend his power and control over the victim far beyond the boundaries of their relationship by enlisting the support of their family, friends, neighbors, fellow officers, and supervisors. He will deny the abuse and use his deadliest weapon — the word of an accused male officer over that of an accusing female officer — to bring others over to his side. Everyone who accepts his word as true and believes his denials, justifications, and rationalizations becomes his ally.

How advocates might assist victims

It may be rare that advocates receive a request for assistance from a female officer. When they do, however, they should see this as an indication that the abuse has escalated to an extremely volatile point, as many officer victims would approach an advocate only as a last resort. Advocates can support the victim by relaying sound information about how to approach the department and what to expect regarding the department's response. It is a good idea to obtain a copy of the local police agency's policy before being involved with a case and to have the domestic violence agency's board of directors and staff members discuss the implications of this type of case and agree on an agency protocol. It may be necessary to make exceptions to standard intake procedures to accommodate the needs of a victim of police-perpetrated domestic violence. Agencies might want to consult legal counsel for information on confidentiality laws in their state and protection of clients' records from subpoenas.

When exploring her options, the advocate can encourage the victim to consider what she already knows about her employing department. This might help her predict how the department will respond if she reports the abuse, help her decide what steps she is willing to take, and prepare for potential outcomes of her actions. The advocate can help her in determining what she can do to best protect herself from potential consequences of her decisions. Questions and areas to explore include:

  • What is the department's policy on officer-involved domestic violence?
  • Does the department usually follow its policies?
  • What does the victim know about how the department has handled other officer-involved complaints?
  • Does she think that the department is likely to be receptive or dismissive of her complaint?
  • What is the make-up of the agency — the number of women and minorities in the agency and the number of women and minorities in command positions?
  • What is the general attitude toward female officers in the department?
  • What is the general attitude toward responding to 911 domestic violence calls?
  • What does the victim know about the department's handling of sexual harassment or sexual discrimination complaints?
  • How long has her abuser been with the department?
  • Does he have family members within the department?
  • What is his rank?
  • Has he had special training and assignments?
  • What is the abuser's reputation in the department? (with supervisors/peers)
  • Does he have union support? Police organization support?
  • How long has she been on the department?
  • What is her rank?
  • Has she had special training and assignments?
  • What is her reputation in the department? (with supervisors/peers)
  • Does she have union support? Police organization support?
  • Has she made any previous complaints against the abuser or against another male officer? What was the outcome?
  • Who in the department knows about her situation? (employee assistance program, chaplain, supervisors, fellow officers) What do they know?
  • Who outside of the department knows about her situation? What do they know?
  • Has the abuser been talking about her to other officers/supervisors?
  • What does she think he has been telling them?
  • Has she been talking about him to other officers/supervisors?
  • What impact would reassignment, administrative leave, fitness-for-duty evaluation have on her personal life/professional life?
  • What does she predict the abuser will do to her if he is reassigned, put on leave, or terminated?
  • What will she do if she is terminated? (financial, emotional, other options for employment, dependence on salary, benefits, pension)

If the victim determines that she wants to proceed with a complaint, the advocate can help the victim prepare a clear statement of what she would like to have happen based on her complaint, and link desired steps or actions to department standards of conduct for officers. Whether or not she wants the department to initiate an investigation, it is important to talk about what she plans to disclose in an internal investigation when or if it occurs. She must consider that though she may not feel ready to disclose every detail of her abuse, there are serious consequences for lying or withholding information during the investigation. Her credibility is her greatest asset and lying or withholding information will damage it. Many officer victims have been terminated for not being forthcoming with all the information from the beginning of the investigation.

If she wants the prosecutor to pursue criminal charges, she must consider that the Garrity Rule can potentially shield the abuser from criminal prosecution. Under Garrity, the department can order an officer, under condition of further employment, to honestly answer the investigator's questions. Information the officer gives under coercion of Garrity cannot be handed over by the department to the prosecutor for use in criminal proceedings.

Possible departmental interventions

How a department responds when an employee or employees are involved in police-perpetrated domestic violence defines the integrity, philosophy, and policy of the agency. Possible actions and intervening measures include:

  • Developing an on-duty safety plan for the victim, including a risk and lethality assessment.
  • Allowing the victim to take a leave of absence without loss of pay or seniority or unnecessary inconvenience or hardship.
  • Separating the victim and abuser on the job.
  • Issuing an administrative protective order.
  • Transferring the abuser to a different shift or assignment.
  • Assigning another officer to ride with the victim and/or the abuser while on duty to prevent intimidation or stalking.
  • Allowing the victim to get counseling at the local domestic violence agency instead of through an Employee Assistance Program, department counselor, or department chaplain.
  • Documenting incidents, collecting and keeping any evidence of the abuser's attempts to contact her, such as phone messages, caller-ID numbers, e-mails, letters, and cards.
  • Informing the victim of all disciplinary action taken against the abuser, including service of an administrative protective order.
  • Keeping information as confidential as possible, and sharing information within the ranks strictly on a need-to-know basis.
  • Making every effort to prevent the abuser or anyone who may collude with him from having access to documentation, evidence, or investigative reports.
  • Ensuring that no one in the department knows the specifics of her safety plan or where she is staying.

While this article is by no means an exhaustive review of the perils and challenges facing both victims and their advocates, it hopefully provides enough information to enable advocates to effectively intervene in a crisis. Advocates are strongly advised to contact the Battered Women's Justice Project for technical assistance. Readers who would like more extensive information about police-perpetrated domestic violence can read When the Batterer Is a Law Enforcement Officer: A Guide for Advocates. The Guide is available on the Battered Women's Justice Project website [or on this website]. Another resource specifically addressing female officers as victims is Crossing the Threshold: Female Officers and Police-Perpetrated Domestic Violence. This book and other materials on officer-involved domestic violence are available on the Abuse of Power website.


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  • U.S. Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2006). "Law management and administrative statistics: Local police departments, 2003." Available at
  • Wetendorf, D. (2006). "Abusive police officers: Police-perpetrated domestic violence", 2006.
  • Wetendorf, D. & Davis, D.L. (2005). "Advocate and officer dialogues: Police-perpetrated domestic violence."
  • Wetendorf, D. (2006). Crossing the Threshold: Female Officers and Police-Perpetrated Domestic Violence. Arlington Heights IL: Diane Wetendorf, Inc.
  • Wetendorf, D. (2006). Police Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Victims. Arlington Heights IL: Diane Wetendorf, Inc.
  • Wetendorf, D. (2004). When the Batterer Is a Law Enforcement Officer: A Guide for Advocates. Minneapolis: Battered Women's Justice Project.
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