by William B. Scott
A media firestorm erupted, after hotel security video showed a National Football League star, Ray Rice, slugging his then-fiancee in the head, knocking her out. Rice then dragged her from an elevator.
That despicable act of violence prompted NFL officials to suspend Rice indefinitely, effectively banishing him from playing pro football. However, the prattling class demanded more than Rice’s firing; they also called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hide. Outraged media talking heads claimed Goodell and other NFL leaders routinely downplayed domestic violence among players, and “should have done something” to eradicate it from the league.
All cases of domestic violence, whether within the ranks of pro football players or among the general population, are cause for serious investigation and legal action. But one “protected class” of Americans routinely gets a bye, when it comes to spousal and child abuse: Police officers.
Numerous studies have determined that about 25 percent of American women suffer domestic abuse. That figure jumps to at least 40 percent in police officer families, according to Diane Wetendorf, author of Police Domestic Violence: Handbook for Victims. Put another way, if you’re the wife of a cop, you have almost a one-in-two chance of being beaten by your spouse. In fact, according to The Advocates for Human Rights Organization, police families are two-to-four times more likely to be subjected to domestic violence than average citizens. And these figures are probably ultra-low, because wives, in particular, are very reluctant to report domestic abuse to their local police department, when their abuser typically works there. Who’s going to believe her? Even if they do, what are the chances the department will go after one of their own?
And abuses endured by police officers’ spouses and kids, girlfriends and others in the home rarely, if ever, make the evening news. Where’s the national and local media outrage over thousands of police domestic violence cases? Why aren’t the well-coiffed and -powdered media stars of CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. screaming for the heads of wife-beater cops and seemingly clueless police chiefs?
For whatever reason, reporters, anchors and pundits look the other way, when cops routinely pummel, kick, verbally abuse and generally foist violence on their own families. Typically, media types simply don’t want to believe the same cops with whom reporters often work, or rely upon for news tips, are capable of beating wives and abusing children. That image of Officer Friendly–despite being a buffed-up, arrogant skin-head— just doesn’t comport with a young, idealistic reporter’s worldview.
Sociologists and investigators have identified a number of reasons why roughly half of today’s police officers have a proclivity for domestic abuse:
• “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Attributed to Lord Acton, that quote captures a perennial problem with cops: They have considerable power, and many let it go to their heads. They believe they have a right to treat others any way they please, and they know there’s a 99-percent chance that they’ll get away with abusing mere “civilians.” That corrupt, corrosive, above-the-law attitude of anything-goes brutality is often taken home to mom and the kids.
• Sociopathic personalities are attracted to jobs and positions, where they can exercise authority over others. Consequently, police forces are populated by an unusually high number of sociopaths.
• The nature of law enforcement tends to breed cynicism, mistrust, a lack of empathy, and an us-versus-them attitude among officers, who may have a better-than-others sense of self-esteem in the first place. Put power in those cops’ hands and the potential for abuse on the job and at home is huge.
Apologists are quick to point out that police work is tough, most cops are good people and the majority exercise their duties in a professional manner. In most departments, that’s true. A few big-city forces, though, have allowed their ranks of outlaws and rogues to swell and now encompass 25-30 percent of the department. How many of those thugs and killers take their maniacal tendencies home?
There’s a massive disparity between how self-righteous media talking heads treat cops versus other groups. The media tends to ignore or downplay chronic, disgusting abuse, outright brutality and heavy-handed measures routinely dished out by police officers, but are quick to criticize sports, celebrity and political figures for raising a hand against a spouse or child. It’s time all Americans—particularly naive media types—recognize that domestic violence is a scourge that must be stamped out everywhere. That includes taking down the “Untouchables”—brutal police officers.