Purple Berets


When the Batterer
is a Cop

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Domestic Violence in Police Families

Officer Curt Lubiszewski is not an anomaly. Hundreds of women, partners of police officers, are beaten every year. Just this April, Crystal Brame was killed by her estranged husband, the police chief of Tacoma, Washington. Here are some facts on cops as batterers.

  • Domestic violence is 2 to 4 times more common in police families than in the general population. In two separate studies, 40% of police officers self-report that they have used violence against their domestic partners within the last year. In the general population, it's estimated that domestic violence occurs in about 10% of families.
  • In a nationwide survey of 123 police departments, 45% had no specific policy for dealing with officer-involved domestic violence.
  • In that same survey, the most common discipline imposed for a sustained allegation of domestic violence was counseling. Only 19% of departments indicated that officers would be terminated after a second sustained allegation of domestic violence.
  • In San Diego, a national model in domestic violence prosecution, the City Attorney typically prosecutes 92% of referred domestic violence cases, but only 42% of cases where the batterer is a cop.

Cartoon depicting police domestic violence

Special Problems for Victims

  • Her batterer always has a gun (often many guns and other weapons) and is trained to use it.
  • He knows how to inflict pain and leave no marks or bruises.
  • He's trained to intimidate by his presence alone, and to use his body as a weapon.
  • He lets her know he has the power to harm or kill her and get away with it, or have others do it for him.
  • How can she call the police? He is the police!
  • He tells her that if she does call police, the officers (his colleagues and friends) will believe him and not her ... and he's right.
  • He often threatens that if she reports to police he'll lose his job, and if that happens, she's dead.
  • He has access to surveillance tools like phone taps, police scanners, vehicle tracking devices, and audio and video recording equipment to stalk or monitor the victim's activities.
  • The batterer or his fellow officers will often "patrol" the victim's house, work place, children's school or daycare center.
  • Friends, family and service providers are afraid of the batterer and thus afraid to get involved.
  • Domestic violence advocates may share her information with the police. (Other than Purple Berets and Women's Justice Center, all domestic violence advocates in Sonoma County work for either the police or district attorney's office.)
  • He knows the location of battered women's shelters.
  • He knows the court system, often testifies in court, and knows district attorneys, judges and bailiffs personally.
  • Jurors assume police officers would not lie in court.

If Your Batterer is a Cop

Even more than other battered women, when you decide to leave or prosecute you need to move strategically and get good advice from the outset.

  • Find an advocate who is independent from police agencies and experienced in working with police officer violence.
  • Make a comprehensive safety plan: put money aside he doesn't know about, identify where you can flee with your children, etc. Domestic violence shelters can help you with this anonymously.
  • While the tendency is to take "baby steps" so as not to enrage him, once you make your move, the more power you can muster, the more likely you can stand up to the power you'll be up against. Report to police or district attorney, get a restraining order and report to his police agency all at once.
  • If police and DAs are unresponsive, go to the press.
  • Contact Purple Berets for "Police Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Victims."

(This information was gathered from the National Center for Women and Policing, Life Span, and Abuse of Power.

For a recent media report on domestic violence by police, click here.

June 2003


© Tanya Brannan, Purple Berets
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Copyright © 2001 Purple Berets

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