Guns + Domestic Violence Offenders: Deadly Combination for Police

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Forty-two police officers around the U.S. were killed while responding to domestic disturbance calls in the first decade of the century.

While many police officers know that domestic violence calls are dangerous, few civilians are aware of the link between domestic violence offenders and the murder of law enforcement officials.

The link should not be ignored.

Here are some recent tragic examples.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer Rod Bradway was killed last week (Sept 20) while responding to a domestic disturbance. Bradway, a five-year veteran of the force, was shot after he forced his way into an apartment after hearing a woman scream for help.

Herbert Proffitt, who retired last year after a 50-year law enforcement career serving as Chief of Police in Tompkinsville, Kentuckly—and later as Monroe County, KY Sheriff, was gunned down in the driveway of his own home by a convicted felon who, at the time of the shooting, possessed the original domestic violence citation issued by Proffitt for which the shooter had served prison time some 40 years earlier.

Sgt. Steven Kenner, a 32-year veteran of the Bismarck, North Dakota police department was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call in July 2011.

And last month, Sgt. Mike Wilson of the Charlotte County, Florida Sheriff's Office was killed by a shooter who ambushed him as he approached a domestic violence scene.

The killer was waiting for him as he walked up the stairs.

A deeper look at the “unrecognized lethality” of domestic violence offenders reveals that many law enforcement officers are murdered who are performing other routine duties such as traffic stops, serving papers in court cases, or checking on suspicious vehicles.

In 2011 and 2012, a total of 114 law enforcement officers were shot and killed in the line of duty—many of those fatalities at the hand of an offender with a history of domestic violence.

The impact of the lethality associated with domestic violence is not limited to the members of the family involved or the officers who have contact with the offenders who commit it.

It is an issue for the entire community.

This was demonstrated last October in Brookfield, WI and Casselberry, FL—where mass shootings took the lives of six people, including five victims who were killed for having the misfortune of being at the same location as the estranged partner being targeted.

Law enforcement has come a long way over the past decade in learning how to respond to domestic violence.

But complacency in the face of the risks facing officers who investigate these misdemeanors can be fatal.

Prosecutors need to be provided with the necessary tools to successfully pursue convictions.

Domestic violence offenders, including first-time offenders, must be held accountable in courtrooms across the country by prosecutors and judges through aggressive prosecution, strict sentencing and post-release monitoring.

Too often, these cases are treated as routine. Little attention is paid to the danger that these offenders pose to the victims, law enforcement and to the community as a whole.

We must aggressively enforce federal firearms laws, including one that precludes any individual who has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime from owning a firearm, and another that subjects offenders with domestic violence protection orders to prosecution for possessing a firearm.

These laws, which carry a sentence of up to ten years in prison, take domestic violence offenders off the streets, and they protect our communities and the law enforcement officials who serve them from the threat these offenders pose.

If we want to save the lives of more officers, it's time to enforce them more aggressively.

David LaBahn is president of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. Michael LaRiviere is a Massachusetts police officer and national domestic violence response trainer. They welcome comments from readers.

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