Checklist: Early Warning Signs of an Abusive Officer

©2003 Diane Wetendorf & Dottie Davis. All Rights Reserved.

Police chiefs, supervisors, fellow officers, and department spokespeople frequently claim that they had no indication that a particular officer was abusive to his intimate partner. The reality is that many abusive officers do engage in behaviors on the job that serve as warning signs if only those around them identified them as such. Often these behaviors go unrecognized simply because they blend in with the hypermasculine police culture.

The presence of one or more of the following warrants closer observation of an officer:

  • Tells people his spouse/intimate partner is mentally unstable or crazy.
  • Complains about spouse's sexual failings, poor housekeeping, or lack of parenting skills.
  • Brags about affairs and sexual conquests.
  • Talks excessively about problems at home, intimate partner always at fault.
  • Uses derogatory language when talking about spouse/intimate partner.
  • Expects/requires intimate partner to check-in on scheduled basis.
  • Often out of district/jurisdiction doing "safety check" on home or spouse.
  • Poor response times to dispatch calls because of being out of district
  • Frequently contacts intimate partner via phone, texts, or drive-bys.
  • Requires spouse to check in frequently via via phone, texts.
  • Requests other officers to stop vehicles of spouse's family/friends or to do drive-bys.
  • Increase in alcohol/drug use, other addictive behaviors (gambling, prostitution, etc.)
  • Rarely brings spouse/intimate partner to department social functions; partner is extremely quiet/submissive in public.
  • Has unexplained scratches/injuries on hands, arms, or face.
  • Calls 911 on spouse/intimate partner.
  • Obtains protective order against spouse/intimate partner.
  • Demonstrates poor judgment or investigative skills at domestic violence calls.
  • Violates department arrest policies: frequent dual arrests, arrests alleged female victim, ignores mandatory arrest procedures when probable cause is present.
  • Condones alleged abuser's actions when at domestic violence calls, says things like, "If she were my wife, I'd hit her too."
  • Last minute requests for time off alleging emergencies at home.
  • Numerous citizen complaints for excessive force or improper conduct.
  • Easily angered; exhibits poor coping skills under stress.
  • Moves all of his personal firearms to his locker or police vehicle trunk. (This may indicate the violence has escalated and he wants to limit access to weapons for either himself or partner.)
  • Seeks assignments that have little supervision, involve high risk, or provide ready access to narcotics, weapons.
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