Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

When the man who abuses you is also a cop

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The practice of the Blue Code of Silence, in which cops ignore misconduct by other cops, has high social costs, but it seems to be a permanent fixture of police culture. Melissa Jeltsen and Dana Liebelson write in Huffington Post:

All Sarah Loiselle wanted was a carefree summer. There was no particular reason she was feeling restless, but she’d been single for about a year and her job working with cardiac patients in upstate New York could be intense. So when she learned that a Delaware hospital needed temporary nurses, she leapt at the chance to spend a summer by the beach. In June 2011, the tall, bubbly 32-year-old drove her Jeep into the sleepy coastal town of Lewes. She and her poodle, Aries, moved into a rustic apartment above a curiosity shop that once housed the town jail. The place was so close to the bay that she could go sunbathing on her days off. It didn’t bother Loiselle that she’d be away from her friends and family for a while: She felt like she’d put her real life on hold, that she was blissfully free of all her responsibilities.

And then she met a guy. She’d never dated online before, but an acquaintance convinced her to try a site called PlentyOfFish. Loiselle, who has a slender face framed by auburn hair, soon found herself messaging with 36-year-old Andrel Martinez, a muscular Delaware state trooper. She was intrigued enough to drive an hour with him to Ocean City, Maryland, for what she thought was a great date: They had dinner, strolled along the beach and danced at a waterfront club. Right away she noticed Martinez’s height (he is more than 6 feet tall) and the way he carried himself, with a confidence she would come to associate with cops. Loiselle was hardly a meek person, but his presence made her feel safe. She thought it was it sweet when he reached back through a crowd to take her hand.

They started seeing each other regularly. And as the summer went by, Loiselle began to feel like she could really trust him. One night over dinner, she talked about her family. Loiselle had left home young, after she’d become pregnant at 18. She’d placed her baby up for adoption—but she was proud that she was still in touch with her daughter, whose birthday was tattooed on her hip. That night, Loiselle said, Martinez got choked up and said he loved her and wanted to be with her so they could turn their lives “into something beautiful.” When her contract was up at the end of the summer, Loiselle found a new job and stayed in Delaware.

They moved in together, talked about having a child. But as the months grew colder, doubts crept in. Some of Loiselle’s new friends found Martinez overbearing. Stephanie Botti, whom she met through work, went to a club with the new couple and recalled Martinez “getting all weird about these guys who want nothing to do with us,” inserting himself between them with “aggressive body language.” Loiselle noticed that he seemed to be constantly questioning her or telling her what to do—probably a cop thing, she figured. And she didn’t like it when, she said, Martinez would talk disparagingly about her daughter’s adoption. By the winter, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to break up with him. But she thought it might be a good idea to check out a few apartments, just in case.

She was on her way to look at a place when Martinez called. Loiselle came up with some cover story, but when she got home, she said, his police car was parked in the driveway. That surprised her, because she’d thought he was supposed to be at work. When she walked into the darkened kitchen, she said, she found Martinez standing there, his hands resting on his gun belt. “Where were you?” he asked. Before she could answer, she said, he made a comment about the very building she’d just visited. He said he’d just happened to see her there. That was when she realized that leaving him might be harder than she’d anticipated.

When Loiselle discovered she was pregnant, in January 2012, she decided to try to make the relationship work. But Martinez “had this expectation of the woman of the house,” she said. “He wanted me to be super fun and hot and sexy and meet all of his needs. I was pregnant and felt like crap.” At one point, she said, Martinez gave her a self-help book for police wives. The message seemed pretty obvious to her: She needed to get in line, to be more supportive of her man.

In September they had a daughter, whom we’ll call Jasmine. But after the birth, Loiselle and Martinez fought a lot. Martinez has said that Loiselle would belittle him and call him worthless. Loiselle’s friends, meanwhile, thought he was controlling. She “needed to do what he wanted her to do,” Botti observed. “Otherwise he was going to escalate.” Another friend, Danielle Gilbert, said, “If Sarah was somewhere with me, he would have to know where she was, or if she didn’t tell him, he would find out, which I found really odd. I was like, ‘Does he have somebody spying on you? Is he spying on you?’”

Loiselle was increasingly unnerved by how quickly Martinez could swing from sweet and loving to angry and sullen. On one occasion, she said, he held her down and dug his fingers into her neck to demonstrate pressure points. When she started crying and asked him to stop, he laughed, saying he was just playing around, she recalled. He called her a “motherfucking cunt” or a “bitch,” she said, and would stand and stare at her, using what she called his “interrogation voice.” She believed he knew precisely how much pressure, mental or physical, he needed to exert to make her do exactly what he wanted. And she had a gnawing fear of what might happen if she didn’t comply.

If domestic abuse is one of the most underreported crimes, domestic abuse by police officers is virtually an invisible one. It is frighteningly difficult to track or prevent—and it has escaped America’s most recent awakening to the many ways in which some police misuse their considerable powers. Very few people in the United States understand what really happens when an officer is accused of harassing, stalking, or assaulting a partner. One person who knows more than most is a 62-year-old retired cop named Mark Wynn.

Wynn decided to be a police officer when he was about 5 years old because he wanted to put his stepfather in prison. Alvin Griffin was a violent alcoholic who terrorized Wynn’s mother, a waitress and supermarket butcher. Looking back, Wynn compares his childhood in Dallas to living inside a crime scene. “There was always blood in my house,” he said.

The cops sometimes showed up, usually after a neighbor called to complain about the screaming, but they didn’t do much. Wynn doesn’t remember them ever talking to him or his four siblings. He does remember clinging to his mother while a police officer threatened to arrest her if they had to come back to the house again. “There was no one to help us,” he said. “We were completely isolated.” Wynn has often spoken of the time he tried to kill his stepfather when he was 7—how he and his brother emptied out the Mad Dog wine on Griffin’s bedside dresser and replaced it with Black Flag bug spray. A few hours later, Griffin downed the bottle as the boys waited in the living room. Griffin didn’t seem to notice anything wrong with the wine. But he didn’t die, either.

Years later, when Wynn was around 13 and all but one of his siblings had left home, he was watching television when he heard a loud crack that sounded like a gunshot. He found his mother splayed on the floor of their tiny kitchen, blood pooling around her face. Griffin had knocked her out with a punch to the head. Wynn watched as Griffin stepped over her, opened the fridge, pulled out a can of beer and drank it. That night, Griffin got locked up for public drunkenness and Wynn, his sister and his mother finally got out, driving to Tennessee with a few belongings. Griffin never found them.

Wynn became a police officer in the late 1970s and after a few years, he wound up in Nashville. Then as now, domestic complaints tended to be one of the most common calls fielded by police. And Wynn was disturbed to find that he was expected to handle them in much the same way as the cops from his childhood had—treat it as a family matter, don’t get involved. He remembers that officers would write cursory summaries on 3 by 5 inch “miscellaneous incident” cards rather than full reports. To fit what he regarded as essential details in the tiny space provided, Wynn would print “really, really small,” he said. “The officers I worked with used to get pissed off at me,” he added. They couldn’t understand why he bothered.

But Wynn had entered the force at a pivotal moment. In the late 1970s, women’s groups had turned domestic violence into a major national cause, and abused women successfully sued police departments for failing to protect them. Over the next decade, states passed legislation empowering police to make arrests in domestic incidents and to enforce protective orders. Wynn eagerly embraced these changes and in the late 1980s, the Department of Justice asked him to train police chiefs on best practices. He went on to lead one of the country’s first specialized investigative units for family violence. By the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which poured more than $1 billion into shelters and law enforcement training, the U.S. was finally starting to treat domestic violence as a crime. “It was like stepping out of the Dark Ages,” Wynn said.

And yet when officers themselves were the accused, cases tended to be handled in the old way. Wynn would hear stories around his station, like an assailant who received a quiet talk from a colleague instead of being arrested. “Officers thought they were taking care of their fellow officer,” said David Thomas, a former police officer and a consultant for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). “But what they were doing was colluding with a criminal.”

It is nearly impossible to calculate the frequency of domestic crimes committed by police—not least because victims are often reluctant to seek help from their abuser’s colleagues. Another complication is the 1996 Lautenberg Amendment, a federal law that prohibits anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse from owning a gun. The amendment is a valuable protection for most women. But a police officer who can’t use a gun can’t work—and so reporting him may risk the family’s livelihood as well as the abuser’s anger. . .

Continue reading.

Later:

. . . In 1991, a researcher at Arizona State University testified to a congressional committee about a survey she’d conducted of more than 700 police officers. Forty percent admitted that they had “behaved violently against their spouse and children” in the past six months (although the study didn’t define “violence.”) In a 1992 survey of 385 male officers, 28 percent admitted to acts of physical aggression against a spouse in the last year—including pushing, kicking, hitting, strangling and using a knife or gun. Both studies cautioned that the real numbers could be even higher; there has been startlingly little research since.

Even counting arrests of officers for domestic crimes is no simple undertaking, because there are no government statistics. Jonathan Blanks, a Cato Institute researcher who publishes a daily roundup of police misconduct, said that in the thousands of news reports he has compiled, domestic violence is “the most common violent crime for which police officers are arrested.” And yet most of the arrested officers appear to keep their jobs. . .

There’s a lot more. Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 June 2017 at 2:25 pm

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