By Robert D. Cubby
05 March 2014

We all pretty much know the prevalence of domestic violence in this country and most of us know the training and routine that the police have to follow when responding to a domestic violence incident. The police will try to ascertain the extent of the incident and the extent of injuries.They will separate the parties allegedly involved and try to ascertain what had happened. Weapons will be seized and inventoried, being turned over to the prosecutor’s office for review. (NJ Attorney General’s Guidelines section 3.17.2).

The procedures change to a certain extent for law enforcement personnel involved in domestic violence situations. Again they are pretty straight forward. The NJ Attorney General’s Guidelines section 3.17.4 A state” when a law enforcement officer is involved in an act of domestic violence the seizure of the weapons shall be covered by the Attorney Generals’ Directives 2000-3 and 2000-4. The key term for this discussion is “involved”. It doesn’t say accused or charged, it says involved. This seizure involves his/her duty weapon and any weapon present “that the responding officer reasonably believes that the weapon would expose the victim to a risk of serious bodily injury.” Again the prosecutor makes the determination of the return of weapons. He/she has 45 days to make that determination ( NJ AG Guidelines 3.17.2).

We are so attuned and accustomed to the male being the perpetrator that the response is almost rote and automatic on every domestic violence call. Including that of a police officer being the perpetrator. Jennifer Ammons in “Batterers with Badges: Officer Involved Domestic Violence” cited that 22%-41% or 2-4 times the general population are the sad statistics of police involved domestic violence. This was backed by Alex Restin in “ Batterer in Blue” that cited 41% of the 385 male officers surveyed stated that they had a violent confrontation with their domestic partner in a domestic dispute.

It was curious that no female officers were surveyed. The results would have been enlightening . For example Gary Bathel in “Domestic Violence- Career Terminator” found that “ just like their male counter parts . Female soldiers and female cops are significantly more likely to be charged with domestic violence against a husband or boyfriend.” In a study done in Arizona (Men’s Rights Group of Arizona-Discrimination in Domestic Violence Cases. Abused Men Lose, Violent Women Win-Hub Pages) numerous studies were cited that all concluded that 36% of all domestic violence cases victims are male. One contributor stated that the probability of a male victim could be as high as 50%.

Studies done by the CDC cited in “Men: The Overlooked Victims of Domestic Violence” indicated that 40% of victims of domestic violence are male. Men are more likely to be the victims of attacks with a deadly weapon at the rate of 63%.

So we know the statistics and yet when police respond to domestic violence incidents they focus on the male almost automatically. When it’s a police officer involved, then a weapon enters into the discussion and its possible role, although legal, that may have played out in this scenario. The normal course of action where in fact the perpetrator was a police officer follows the general guidelines set forth. The officer is placed under arrest, his/her weapon seized and turned over to the prosecutor. Necessary aid to the victim and paperwork made out. The hard feelings between the responding police officers and the perpetrator officer smoothed out as he/she knows they are just doing their job.

But what if the scenario shifted 180 degrees and the wife or girlfriend was the perpetrator and the officer was the victim? We know she gets arrested and charged. But there is a weapon involved and an officer was involved in a domestic violence incident. The Guidelines are very clear, but unfair to the victim officer. The guidelines mandate that although the officer was the victim of the domestic violence, if the responding officers reasonably believe that the weapon poses a risk, that weapon is to be seized. We have a victim police officer now further victimized by a law that doesn’t take certain criteria into consideration. A police officer cannot be a police officer without a gun. Consequently they must be either suspended from duty as they cannot serve or put on modified duty, awaiting the 45 days for the prosecutor to review whether he/she should have his/her weapon returned.

Now if the wife /girlfriend is arrested and incarcerated, and there are children involved, then the male officer is burdened with child care duties, trying to get his weapon back and trying to salvage his career. Taking all this into consideration, is it any wonder that male police officers who are victims of domestic violence are hesitant to report such incidents. Failure to report doesn’t make it go away. It only emboldens the abuser to escalate the abuse and attacks. This has been well documented in domestic violence studies. Or it escalates to the point that the male officer has to defend himself and then, inevitably, becomes the perpetrator falling into the statistical abyss of males blamed for every domestic violence incident.

Training for police has to take into consideration all aspects of a domestic violence situation. Officers cannot automatically assume that the male is the cause and that the removal of the male would balance the scales of justice. Our laws are based on “ …and justice for all.” Males clearly are not getting the justice deserved in many cases and male police officers are among the most underserved. The law at present is still so skewed against the male that it’s no wonder that the male is arrested. There is the Violence Against Women Act but where is the Violence Against Men Act?

Robert D. Cubby is a retired police captain having served 38 years in the Jersey City Police Department. 

Source: Mens E-News