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Besides playing a sport, what do Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have in common? Both NFL players abused their loved ones and had their stories widely publicized by the media. Ray Rice was caught on camera dragging his then girlfriend out of an elevator after punching her causing her to fall unconscious. Adrian Peterson beat his four-year-old son with a tree branch and photos were later leaked.
It may come as a shock that the rate of domestic violence is higher with police officers than NFL players, but why have we never heard of this? As a society, it seems that we value entertainment over education. By this I mean that we are addicted to the drama and exposure of famous athletes wrong-doings and fail to report on the same police crimes.
National Averages for Police Officers vs. NFL Players
The Nation Center for Women and Policing studies states, “Two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population. A third study of older and more experienced officers found a rate of 24 percent, indicating that domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than American families in general.” This study states that domestic violence in police families is about 30% higher than the national average whereas NFL players have a domestic violence rate that is 45% below the national average. Although both NFL players and police officers are clearly strong contributors to domestic violence, why is it that we tend to hear more about NFL violence?
This study went on to explain that police officers typically handle in-home domestic violence incidents informally, meaning that they are directly contradicting their police duties to protect others when they are the ones causing the harm. Additionally, there is rarely an investigation, an official report written up, or an effort to check the victim’s stability and health after the incident. Although police officers are trained to treat domestic violence situations as high-priority and as life threatening situations, police officers who engage in harming their significant other typically ignore these taught guidelines.
It appears that as a society we are exposed to more domestic violence cases when it involves our favorite athlete instead of being educated about police domestic violence. Why is that? After all, the police are the ones we call to protect us against this type of behavior.
Are Police Officers Who Beat Their Loved Ones Held Accountable?
Police officers who harm their loved ones are aware of the law and the proper procedure following a domestic violence incident, yet their cases are not handled in the same manner as a common citizen. There are mandatory arrests in 21 states following a domestic violence allegation yet, 30% of police officers accused of domestic violence continue to work at the same agency a year later. However, if you fail a drug test as an officer, only 1% will remain employed at their agency and 7% of officers remain after committing theft. The New York Times reported in a 2013 investigation that, “In many departments, an officer will automatically be fired for a positive marijuana test, but can stay on the job after abusing or battering a spouse.” How is domestic violence excused more often than getting caught for having marijuana in your bloodstream?
One example of a study indicating police officers are not held accountable for their domestic violence actions show that between 1990 and 1997 the LAPD investigated 227 domestic violence cases that were reported. Ninety-one of these cases were further investigated. Out of those 91 allegations, only 4 resulted in jail time for the convicted officer. Out of the four officers who received a criminal charge for their battery, only one was suspended from the force for 15 days and later had his conviction erased from his record. From this same investigation, 75% of the time these domestic violence incidents took place, it did not show up on the officer’s evaluation. Out of those 91 officers arrested, 29% of them were promoted in the two years following their convictions. Police officers and NFL players tend to have a similar punishment for domestic violence – a short time away from their profession and then quickly returning to their career.
For a common citizen, the conviction of a domestic violence charge usually results in a mandatory arrest at the scene with an investigation to follow. Furthermore, according to a domestic violence lawyer, if you are convicted of domestic violence, usually a judge will impose a 30-day jail sentence for a misdemeanor domestic crime conviction. Police officers are rarely punished to the full degree when convicted in domestic violence cases– 9 out of 10 domestic violence allegations made against police offices are ever punished.
What are some concerns for reporting domestic violence from a police officer?
- Call the police – your abuser IS the police
- If you take him/her to court, that will likely work out against you because the abuser knows the judicial system better.
- If you convict him/her of a domestic violence crime, there could be retaliation against you and/or your family
- If you drop the charges/stay quiet, you are now unprotected against your abuser and could experience future abuse
Could these reasons factor into the lack of media coverage on domestic abuse of police officers?
What are we valuing as a society as far as protection?
The job of an NFL football player is to love their team, give their best athletic performance, and encourage their team members to play their best game. The job of a police officer is to protect their community, serve justice, and to make others feel safe in their presence. Domestic violence is a real and severe issue that affects men and women worldwide. Why does the media favor uncovering NFL player’s crime stories over police officer’s domestic violence crimes? Why don’t we focus on the people who signed up to keep our communities safe yet have a higher rate of domestic violence in their homes?