Updated: Mar 12
Seriously, police partners are as big a risk for women as are biker gang hubbies
A Newark, New Jersey police officer was found guilty in early October of murdering his estranged wife in 2019 along with the attempted murder of her boyfriend. He leaves two now-motherless children and a shameful father in jail.
John Formisano didn't deny shooting them but claims he 'blacked out' from a 'mental defect' that made him incapable of wanting to shoot the wife he was divorcing.
But it didn't stop him.
There was something faintly OJ-ish about the crime, like he borrowed the idea of returning forgotten glasses to his wife a la Ron Goldman, late at night. Prosecutors alleged it was a pretext to get her to come downstairs. He parked on a different street and loitered outside her bedroom window before entering the house. It was hard for Formisano to argue it wasn't premeditated as he fired at both parties a total of fifteen times.
Look, I get it: There's something deeply attractive about a big, strong man in a blue uniform.
A few years ago I stood on the sidewalk against a building watching the Toronto Pride Parade. Standing next to me was a burly helmeted cop in sunglasses doing his policeman thing in a large crowd: Looking powerfully badass in case anyone's thinking of pulling some shit.
It's a pretty effective established practice for a parade begun in 1981. Our Pride Parade has never suffered a single death, although there are the usual pre-parade threats. The cop next to me was sexy, no doubt about it. I let myself imagine what it must feel like to be protected by someone that strong, if I was his domestic partner.
Then I wondered if he beat the crap out of his wife with impunity.
Big strong masculine he-men are a giant red flag. Especially those in violent professions. Cops have a 40% higher domestic violence rate than other professions.
They often blame stress for their violent actions, but it ain't stress. The domestic violence rate is considerably lower for other high-stress professions like doctors and paramedics.
It's, rather, a desire to control others, a critical skill for cops, which attracts the sort of man who already believes he possesses the right to control others--primarily women.
While we debate whether men with domestic violence histories should be allowed to buy and own guns, maybe now's a good time to address another class of Men Who Are Too Violent To Have Guns: A fair number of policemen.
Not all cops, of course. Only the ones with a domestic violence record. Which is rather a lot of them.
This naturally begs the question: Why are these guys allowed to be cops? Black Lives Matter has been asking the question for years, since police have a long and documented history of using violence against black people, often without provocation. Training surely has something to do with it, but plenty are already violent, and it may not be immediately obvious during the job application process. He might be an abuser but without a record; and once he's a cop, any domestic violence complaints will be utterly ignored at best.
If you think the justice system is unresponsive and unsympathetic to women abused by their partners, just look at what doesn't happen when the abuser wears a blue uniform. Or harasses a fellow female officer, which is fairly common in big-city police departments.
A cop will sooner lose his job smoking dope than he will beating the snot out of his wife or raping a fellow police officer. In California blue abusers plead down to violent misdemeanors which allow them to keep their guns. In a seventeen-year period in Chicago, 5,280 domestic violence complaints were filed against Chicago police--that's 310 per year!--and resulted in 'no real discipline at all'. Police in Australia don't give a crap if any of their own are terrorizing their wives; and Canada, along with other countries, may be arguably 'in the Stone Age' when it comes to confronting the police domestic violence problem--in Montreal and Halifax, less than one percent of blue abusers may face a criminal charge, versus 6% in the U.S.
Women who report domestic violence by one of those entrusted with keeping the populace safe from harm encounter the infamous 'blue wall of silence' whereby the police protect their abusers with the loyalty of the Vatican to its own abusers. A Canadian journalist came to explore the problem of blue abusers when a friend working with domestic violence survivors told her the majority of her clients came from women married to policemen, and biker gang members.
Let's be 100% clear on this: Falling in love with a cop greatly increases one's risk of becoming a victim of horrendous domestic violence, and it's unofficially perfectly acceptable to the rest of the police force.
Good cop/bad cop
We, as women, need to think about and challenge more the appeal of the 'bad boy', i.e., the violent male. In popular media, he's portrayed, if the producer hopes to attract a female audience, as a violent, protective, 'traditional' male but who never whacks around his wife, girlfriend, or burgeoning love interest.
Contrast this with movies that regularly portrayed abuse of women as normal, especially in a romantic setting, decades ago.
Brigitte Bardot got smacked around a lot by hot guys back in the '60s.
Movie partner abuse by bad boys became less common later, perpetuating the mythology, tailored for women's fantasies: He's violent with everyone except her.
I recently re-watched Sylvester Stallone's Marion Cobretti ride off into the sunrise with Brigid Nielsen clinging to him on his motorcycle as the end credits roll in the 1986 movie Cobra and I wonder, what happens after that?
He's the most violent cop on the force, famous for 'catching bad guys' as his partner tells Nielsen's character, a beautiful supermodel pursued by a vaguely evil cult after having witnessed one of their murders. After Cobra commits ridiculous amounts of city property damage with his car (a vintage 1950 Ford Mercury, at that), his lady fair watches him take the law into his own hands by catching the bad guy, impossibly hanging him on a hook through his back and then pulleying him into a furnace. The next morning Bridgey rides off with her new boyfriend and, what, they live happily ever after? He never hits her or threatens her or shoots her entire family? She never wonders what he might do if he ever became displeased with her? Like if he began to suspect she was screwing other men, however wrongly?
Where I differ from other women is wishing I could meet a guy like Cobra, even if I could get past the horrifying and 100% illegal bad guy execution. I know Cobra is a fantasy. Men similar to that character, cops or not, rarely confine their violence to 'bad guys'. They take it out on their families. They especially take it out on women, who can't fight back.
If I saw a guy like Stallone in a bar I'd watch and lust from afar--and keep it that way. I wouldn't want to talk to him. Just looking at someone like that in real life makes me want to run for the ladies' room if he turns his gaze toward me.
Reform, not defund
After the 2020 George Floyd protests swept America, the harsh spotlight on the cops revealed a widespread tolerance of violence against blacks. Even if the number of white cops killing unarmed black men turned out to be far less than realized, the stats showed they did target blacks for higher levels of non-fatal violence.
It's not just a requirement, it's a job perk!
Ridiculous calls to 'defund the police' come from those quarters privileged enough not to have to deal with crime on a daily basis, and roundly rejected by those who do, i.e., poor, primarily black communities.
Cooler heads call for reforming the police.
The debate needs to include a frank discussion of the tolerance of domestic violence in the blue line.
Reform won't happen quickly, and not quickly enough for those wives and children tethered to abusive husbands and fathers against whom there will be near-zero recourse to protect against his abuse, or his desire to kill any of them.
Police brutality discussions center almost exclusively around violence against people of color, which is only a percentage of police violence. For every famously violent encounter between black men and white cops that ends badly for the former, there is a near-equivalent story of a white man who fared as poorly.
It's not a game of Who Is The Most Abused, but tallying how much we all need to deal with one of the most violent professions, whose threat extends far beyond people who may be committing criminal acts, or people arrested, abused, and murdered for existing while black.
Not just black men. Or black women. Cop violence affects everyone.
The best way to persuade people to join your social cause is to show them What's in it for me?
As selfish as that sounds, it's universally human. We're more likely to fight injustice if it is for, or includes, our own group. You won't get black people to jump on board by talking about how unarmed white men are killed more often by cops than black men, and they are, but by defining What's in it for me?
Which is why I want women to be aware of cops' high domestic violence rate, before they fall for Mr. Big Strong & Manly.
It's on us as women to take responsibility for making good partner choices. Not all cops are abusers but how does one tell until after you're married to him or have moved in with him?
Hollywood sells us the fantasies we want to believe in, which is why Disney princesses and Harry Potter are so popular with children, locked in seemingly dull middle-class families dreaming of finding out they're actually special little princesses or wizards. After little girls grow up, we're sold the fantasy of desperately sexy hypermasculine men, but we're not told the full truth - that as violent as he is, he often doesn't hold back for the weaker sex.
It's incumbent on us to stop believing the lie, and to warn others.
As we debate how to reduce the unnecessary use of force in police work, for everybody aggressed against by police who may or may not be doing their job, we women need to analyze the hypermasculine fantasy when we confront the hypermasculine reality.
Because in the real world, the beautiful supermodel might find herself on the business end of a lethal weapon when her ex- or soon-to-be-ex-husband Cobra shows up seeking vengeance for her audacity in leaving him because she's not sure she'll survive another beating.
Not that her ex-husband needs to be a cop for that. But it sure increases the odds.
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