Domestic Violence by Cops Underreported for Fear of Retaliation


Law enforcement officers beat their wives or girlfriends at nearly double the rate of the rest of the population, and trying to control that is not only difficult for the victims but potentially deadly, experts tell the San Francisco Chronicle. The trouble lies in the nature of police work. One of the hallmarks of a good cop is to radiate authority and control. In the wrong hands, those characteristics can be misused, domestic violence counselors say. When that happens, it’s hard to report it because the victim has to go up against a man – and it is almost always a man – and his agency, both seen by society as paragons of protection.

Ross Mirkarimi, the San Francisco sheriff charged Friday with three misdemeanor counts connected with accusations that he abused his wife, graduated from the city police academy in 1996 and spent nine years as an armed investigator for the district attorney’s office. “The biggest problem for a woman reporting that she’s been abused by her police officer husband or boyfriend is that nobody believes you,” said Diane Wetendorf of Chicago, who wrote a nationally used victim handbook, “Police Domestic Violence.” “If you do speak up, the police are very good at turning the accusations around. “The women get terrified, too, so the crime is very under-reported. There is a legitimate fear of retaliation.”

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