Every year, hundreds of domestic violence restraining orders are granted in Milwaukee County’s courts. Hearings in many cases take only a few minutes, but in the case against Milwaukee police officer Mark Lelinski, hearings stretched over more than eight hours on four different days, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The two officers who initially responded to a 911 call from Lelinski’s wife didn’t write reports. An assistant city attorney fought the woman’s attempts to get evidence of abuse into court. Judge Mary Kuhnmuench ultimately found in the woman’s favor and granted the restraining order against Lelinski, but he didn’t have to give up his gun. Lelinski denied mistreating his wife.
While domestic violence affects families of all kinds, those who accuse police officers face unique challenges. Police officers have the advantage of knowing the players and the system. Unlike most people, they need guns to do their jobs, and an exception written into state law allows them to keep their weapons in most cases. “At the most basic level, victims perceive that the system that they should be able to turn to for help is actually on the side of the abuser because the abuser is part of that system,” said Tony Gibart of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “There should be systems set up that protect the objectivity and impartiality of the decision-makers, whether it be the officers that respond to an incident or individuals in the court system.”