Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sheriff Charged in Domestic Violence Case

I have written here before about the problems with firearms and domestic violence that are unique to the families and romantic partners of law enforcement officers. Because of the esprit de corps of our LEOs there appears to be a pattern of less assistance and less protection by the law when it is the LEOs who are the bad abusers.

The figure that has previously been cited here that 40% of the families of law enforcement officers are victims of domestic violence, in contrast to 10% of the families of the rest of our population.

Too often those victims in the families of law enforcement don't receive the support and action they should, because of the problems of loyalty to their fellow officers.

The source above notes:

Unique Vulnerability

Domestic violence is always a terrible crime, but victims of a police officer are particularly vulnerable because the officer who is abusing them:
  • has a gun,
  • knows the location of battered women's shelters, and
  • knows how to manipulate the system to avoid penalty and/or shift blame to the victim.5, 6
Victims often fear calling the police, because they know the case will be handled by officers who are colleagues and/or friends of their abuser. Victims of police family violence typically fear that the responding officers will side with their abuser and fail to properly investigate or document the crime.5, 7
Based on the following - again quoting studies from the above source, but which is supported by other sources - I rather doubt that this was the first, or only, instance of this man allegedly engaging in domestic abuse.  Domestic abuse tends to be a pattern of behavior, not an isolated act.  I would also direct the attention of our readers to the importance noted of the officers having firearms, as a factor.

Failure of Departmental Policies

These suspicions are well founded, as most departments across the country typically handle cases of police family violence informally, often without an official report, investigation, or even check of the victim's safety.5, 8, 9 This "informal" method is often in direct contradiction to legislative mandates and departmental policies regarding the appropriate response to domestic violence crimes. Moreover, a 1994 nationwide survey of 123 police departments documented that almost half (45%) had no specific policy for dealing with officer-involved domestic violence. In that same study:
  • The most common discipline imposed for a sustained allegation of domestic violence was counseling.
  • Only 19% of the departments indicated that officers would be terminated after a second sustained allegation of domestic violence.9
  • A recent study of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department found inconsistent policies and practices for officers accused of domestic violence, regarding arrests, seizure of firearms, and Employee Assistance treatment.10 There is no reason to believe that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department is unique in this; rather, this inconsistency is typical for police agencies responding to domestic violence committed by its own members.
Although the International Association of Chiefs of Police have prepared a model policy on police officer-involved domestic violence, there is no evidence that police departments across the country are doing anything other than simply including the policy in their manuals.

Violent Police Officers Receive "Exceedingly Light Discipline"

The reality is that even officers who are found guilty of domestic violence are unlikely to be fired, arrested, or referred for prosecution, raising concern that those who are tasked with enforcing the law cannot effectively police themselves.5, 6, 7 For example:
  • In 1998-1999, 23 domestic violence complaints were filed against Boston police employees, but none resulted in criminal prosecution.6
  • The San Diego City Attorney typically prosecutes 92% of the domestic violence cases that are referred, but only 42% of the cases involving a police officer as the perpetrator are prosecuted.11
  • Between 1990 and 1997, the Los Angles Police Department investigated 227 cases of alleged domestic violence by officers, of which 91 were sustained. Of these 91 allegations that were sustained by the department, only 4 resulted in a criminal conviction. That means that the LAPD itself determined in 91 cases that an officer had committed domestic violence, but only 4 were convicted on a criminal charge. Moreover, of these 4 officers who were convicted on a criminal charge of domestic violence, one was suspended for only 15 days and another had his conviction expunged.12
In fact, an in-depth investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department conducted by the Office of the Inspector General concluded that the discipline imposed on officers found guilty of domestic violence "was exceedingly light when the facts of each incident were examined" (p. i).12

Performance Evaluations Not Affected; Violent Officers Often Promoted

The study of the Los Angeles Police Department further examined the 91 cases in which an allegation of domestic violence was sustained against an officer.

  • Over three-fourths of the time, this sustained allegation was not mentioned in the officer's performance evaluation.
  • Twenty-six of these officers (29%) were promoted, including six who were promoted within two years of the incident.
The report concluded that "employees with sustained allegations were neither barred from moving to desired positions nor transferred out of assignments that were inconsistent with the sustained allegation" (p. iii).12

Firearms as weapons are a factor, the impulsiveness with which firearms are used is a factor as well, in domestic violence and often in the murder suicides which result as domestic violence carried to the ultimate extension.  We would still have domestic violence without firearms, but it would be very different domestic violence, and I would argue, less extreme violence, violence which resulted in far fewer fatalities.

From MSNBC and the wire services:

New SF sheriff charged with domestic violence

updated 1/14/2012 4:10:00 AM ET
San Francisco's new sheriff is vowing to fight domestic violence and other misdemeanor charges that prosecutors allege are related to a New Year's Eve incident with his wife.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi faces one count each of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said Friday.

Mirkarimi was booked at San Francisco County Jail, said San Francisco police Sgt. Michael Andraychak. He was released on $35,000 bail. A police mugshot showed Mirkarimi with his eyes closed.

The sheriff, 50, vowed to remain in office while he fights the charges. He told reporters outside his office Friday afternoon the he denies the allegations.

"The charges are very unfounded," he said calmly. "We will fight the charges."

"We are cooperating," he said.

Gascon said the basis for the child endangerment charge was that the couple's son saw the alleged incident occur. Gascon declined to explain the allegation that Mirkarimi influenced a witness.

"While I do not relish having to bring charges against a San Francisco elected official, I have taken an oath to uphold the laws of the state of California," Gascon said. "Whether this was the elected sheriff or any other San Francisco resident, this type of behavior is inexcusable, criminal and will be prosecuted."
Gascon said prosecutors have also requested an emergency protective order prohibiting Mirkarimi from having contact with his wife and son. He is also ordered to stay away from his home while police investigate other possible domestic violence incidents involving Mirkarimi and Lopez, Gascon said.
Mirkarimi could be arraigned as early as Tuesday, Gascon said.
His wife spoke briefly but with emotion.
"This is unbelievable," she said. "I don't have any complaint against my husband. This is unbelievable."
A neighbor reported that Mirkarimi grabbed and bruised Eliana Lopez's arm during a heated argument at their home, according to a police affidavit.
The injury was shown on a video recorded by the neighbor, and a text message conversation between Lopez and the neighbor included details of the incident, according to the affidavit requesting a search warrant to obtain the video camera and phone.
Lopez, a former Venezuelan telenovela star, defended her husband in a written statement, saying the episode was "completely taken out of context."
The couple was married after having their first child in 2009.
Controversy swirled around the investigation from the start.
Days after the alleged dispute, Mirkarimi was sworn in as San Francisco sheriff, but a judge had declined to perform the ceremony to avoid a potential conflict if Mirkarimi were charged.
Mirkarimi appeared at the ceremony with his wife and son. Asked about the incident, he called it a "private matter, a family matter."

But the case prompted newspaper commentary and protests by anti-domestic violence groups. A coalition of them on Thursday urged Mirkarimi to take a leave from his post until the case is resolved.
San Francisco's sheriff does not have broad law enforcement powers as sheriffs do in other jurisdictions. The position mostly entails overseeing an organization of more than 800 sworn officers and a civilian staff of about 100.
Mirkarimi was elected sheriff in November after serving seven years as one of the city's more liberal supervisors.
If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, Mirkarimi would have to give up his department-issued firearm and possibly be subjected to searches as conditions of probation.
Under state law, Mirkarimi could only be automatically removed from office if convicted of a felony.
Mayor Ed Lee has the authority to charge Mirkarimi with official misconduct and suspend him from office, according to John St. Croix, executive director of the city's Ethics Commission.
Lee issued a statement Friday evening terming the charges "extremely serious and troubling," but did not indicate what actions, if any, he would take.
"As mayor, I must now review the facts and options available to me under the city charter, but I must also ensure that we do not take steps that undermine the integrity of the criminal justice proceedings," the statement said.
After possible hearings, the commission could make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors about whether to reinstate him or permanently remove him from office.
Associated Press writers Beth Duff-Brown and Paul Elias contributed to this report.


  1. Once again, the cops, the people who are among the privileged classes that have a reason to possess firearms, cannot be trusted with firearms. Or with anything else, if we draw the obvious conclusion from this report.

    Dog Gone, your practice here is to snipe at gun owners of all kinds, but I have yet to see a basic statement of principles from you. Why don't you put together one article that lays it all out--who, in your ideal world, would get to have guns, how should they be used, etc.?

  2. Once again, the cops, the people who are among the privileged classes that have a reason to possess firearms, cannot be trusted with firearms. Or with anything else, if we draw the obvious conclusion from this report.

    Wrong conclusion.

    The cops have a reason to possess firearms while on duty, where they have accountability and supervision.

    It is less clear that they do well with firearms OFF duty.

    But if one postulates they DO additionally need firearms off duty, then they should be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard, of conduct with them.

    If they engage in domestic violence, they should either be retrained, or risk losing their jobs - and any future firearm ownership - if they re-offend .

    Much the way we would want a cop on drugs to get help, but if he didn't get off drugs, he'd be fired and lose his weapons.

    It is about being consistent, when it comes to the conduct of people with guns.

    but I have yet to see a basic statement of principles from you

    I've made such a statement more than once here; I don't know how you cold miss it.

  3. Dog Gone,

    You make lists. You tell us group after group that shouldn't have firearms. Why don't you tell us who, in your perfect world, would be able to own them and carry them? If you do that, then you can tell us the right way to go about doing so, since you claim to know it.

    The chief problem that I have with you is your belief in your superior knowledge and wisdom, combined with your unwillingness to share with the plebians

    Of course, I don't believe that you actually have any knowledge or wisdom beyond what many of us have. I think that you're all an act, probably to hide your own terror about a world that you can't control.

    With regard to cops that break the law, I want them held to a higher standard as well. They claim to be enforcers of the law. If they break it, they deserve a much more severe punishment.

  4. Cops are no different than civilian gun owners. They're all inadequately trained and insufficiently screened.