Are Police Officers More Likely to Be Abusive?

By Carr, Amy | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

Are Police Officers More Likely to Be Abusive?


Carr, Amy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Amy Carr Daily Herald Staff Writer

Are police officers, by the sheer nature of their jobs, more likely to become abusers?

To an extent, it depends on who you ask.

Though domestic violence involving police officers currently is receiving a great deal of attention, it has been largely ignored for years. As a result, there really have been no truly conclusive studies on the subject and only a handful of small surveys.

What research has been done, however, has shown police seem to have a far greater propensity toward abuse than members of the general population.

In the mid-1980s, Arizona State University asked 728 officers in two East Coast departments whether they had been violent with their spouse or children in the previous six months. The survey did not define violence.

A whopping 40 percent of officers said they had.

Three psychologists followed up that study by surveying 425 officers in the Southwest. The anonymous survey asked how often in the past year the officers used violence in marital conflicts. That survey defined violence as anything from pushing to using a gun.

Again, about 40 percent acknowledged violent behavior. This compares with a rate of 16 percent of couples in the general population, according to studies.

The studies provide a perspective experts say isn't reflected in police reports and court records. The actual number of convictions, they argue, doesn't give an accurate picture because many officers are never brought up on charges.

"None of them get convicted," said Diane Wetendorf, director of counseling for Life Span, a Des Plaines domestic violence advocacy agency. "It's like saying that because none of them have been convicted of DUI that they don't go out drinking after work. It's ridiculous."

Admittedly, accurate statistics are hard to come by, said John Firman, director of research for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. …

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