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ROBIN ABCARIAN

Some Face Police Brutality at Home

May 21, 1997|ROBIN ABCARIAN

I never tire of praising police, prosecutors and anyone else in officialdom for the improved handling of issues arising from domestic violence. But just when you think a corner has been turned. . . .

Here's a post-Fuhrman, Men Against Women news flash: It is not unknown, nor is it even rare, for male cops to threaten, stalk and even beat the female cops they "love."

This, at any rate, is what a handful of L.A.'s finest have told me, as they recounted in interviews over the past few days how their department has glossed over or minimized incidents involving cop-on-cop domestic violence. I had not intended to write about the problem, mostly because I did not know it existed.

Instead, I planned to write about a federal, class-action lawsuit filed recently by the ACLU on behalf of female LAPD officers. The suit demands an end to the gender and race discrimination it claims pervades the department.

As I began talking to cops, however, I was struck that many of them recounted incidents--almost as asides--about violence in intradepartmental marriages and relationships.

Rarely is a police officer prosecuted for domestic violence. And you can imagine, given the anti-woman atmosphere of the Los Angeles Police Department--as documented by the Christopher Commission and the just-concluded, 17-month investigation into the sordid claims of former Det. Mark Fuhrman--that women cops would be unwilling to report being abused by husbands and boyfriends who happen to be cops as well.

"Most of these women go out of their way not to report," says one detective. "It's embarrassing because you're a cop, you're supposed to be tough. You'd rather be dead than tell anyone. Then it gets to a point where you might actually end up dead and you have to report it."

Says another: "Our conditioning is that you don't roll over on someone, especially if it's in your own home."

Also, the husbands usually outrank the wives. As one ex-wife put it: "He is probably one of the most respected sergeants on the job. The department thinks the world of him. And I am just a generic employee, one of the masses."

Inspector General Katherine Mader, the department's civilian watchdog, announced last week that she will investigate charges that cops accused of wife-beating have received lenient treatment by the department, and said she will issue a report in 30 to 60 days.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that she will be kept very busy.

*

How pervasive is the problem of cop-on-cop domestic violence? Who knows. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about it in coming months. A number of incidents were recounted to me by LAPD officers. Each incident was investigated internally, according to these officers. Some resulted in suspensions without pay; none resulted in criminal charges, the officers say.

Among the stories the officers reported:

* A much-decorated officer was accused of giving his officer wife (now ex-wife) a serious whiplash with a well-placed elbow to her forehead. He has also been accused of bugging his ex-wife's telephone and of choking his teenage son unconscious. No criminal charges have been brought against him.

* A police officer made threats of physical violence against his ex-wife, a detective. The officer's partner called the ex-wife to warn her that her ex was on his way to her house, that he was armed and that she should bolt her doors.

* One male cop told his ex-wife cop that her new husband, a detective, should watch his back because "friendly fire happens."

* A male detective was accused of pounding on the window of a patrol car in which his ex-wife was riding with her partner, then followed her all the way to Parker Center, and right into the Internal Affairs office, where she had gone directly to report the assault.

* A female detective reported that her ex-husband's captain asked her not to allow her children to tell department investigators that they had seen their father hit their mother. "As a mother," the captain is said to have cajoled, "do you really think it's best to have your kids interviewed?"

* A motorcycle cop forced his way into the home of his officer ex-girlfriend on the day she had an abortion and sat on her until she began to hemorrhage. In another incident, he was accused of fracturing her neck. He was briefly suspended. And a battery charge was sustained against her by the department because he accused her of kicking him during one of the assaults.

*

At the end of a long conversation about how she was victimized by her cop ex-husband, I ask a 16-year LAPD veteran whether she is proud to be a member of the force. She has just finished telling me about a supervisor who told her that "women are good for only two things, f------ and beating." (She complained; he eventually received a one-day suspension.)

She puts her palms together and looks at the ceiling, almost as if in prayer and sighs. "I used to be," she says. "Not anymore. Women in this department are second-class citizens. And after a while, you just give up hope that it'll get any better."

* Robin Abcarian co-hosts a morning talk show on radio station KTZN-AM (710). Her column appears on Wednesdays. Her e-mail address is rabcarian@aol.com.

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