Special Reports

Police abuse victims feel there's no way out

CHICAGO - Victims abused by police officers have unique problems, according to domestic violence experts:

•They often believe there's no point in calling 911 to report an abusive officer, because the officer's friends will handle the call.

•Police officers believe that as law enforcers, they're supposed to have sterling reputations. If an officer's wife or girlfriend calls 911 because of their actions, the professional embarrassment is excruciating.

Often, victims don't wish that on their husbands or boyfriends, Chicago victims' advocate Jan Russell said. And some victims are sure their abusers would punish them for calling 911, she said.

•If the officer is arrested, or if the spouse or girlfriend files a protection order against him, a departmental investigation might result in the officer losing his job. Often, a victim needs her abuser to stay employed because the officer supports the victim and their children.

"It's the money. That's why I stayed with him," one Tacoma-area woman said of her abusive law enforcement spouse. "I don't want to run off in the middle of the night and have nothing because of him."

•A strict federal law passed in 1996, the Lautenberg Amendment, forbids people convicted of domestic violence crimes from carrying a weapon. Cops need to be able to carry a gun, so convicted officers lose their jobs.

An abuser who loses his job is likely to be angry about it. Protection orders don't always help.

"There was one woman (not in Chicago) who was actually clutching her order of protection to her chest, and he stabbed her through her protection order," Russell said.

•Women who need help often have few friends outside the tight police social circle, and they could lose all those friends if they file for divorce.

•They get their information about how the department handles domestic violence from their abuser.

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658