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Police Departments Tackle Domestic Violence Among Officers

January 2, 1996

DETROIT (AP) _ When his wife received flowers, the Detroit police officer struck her, grabbed her throat, threw her down on the floor and bit her upper lip.

The 10-year department veteran was suspended without pay for five days after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence.

Another Detroit officer was suspended for nine months and ordered to undergo counseling after he broke his wife’s collarbone during a domestic dispute. He was told he would be dismissed if disciplined again in the next two years.

Twenty-eight percent of 123 police departments that serve populations of 100,000 or more across the country reported increases in the past year in domestic violence cases involving officers, a Texas-based study found.

The Detroit Police Department recorded 41 domestic violence complaints against its 4,000 officers in 1993 and 54 in 1994, according to Detroit Police Chief Isaiah McKinnon. There were 17 through May 1995, the latest month for which figures were available.

``I was shocked that we had that number,″ McKinnon said. ``First of all, one is too many.″

The Texas-based study, conducted by the Arlington, Texas, Police Department and the Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute in Richardson, Texas, found that nearly half the departments cited had no specific policy for dealing with domestic abuse. The study was released last year.

But now, a heightened awareness over domestic violence has prompted police departments nationwide to initiate counseling, education and prevention programs.

``They’re not going to wait until there’s an episode that makes the front page,″ said Kevin Love, professor of management at Central Michigan University and a police expert. ``They’re more interested in doing a program to help the officers, to avoid the negative publicity all together.″

One of the factors contributing to domestic violence among police officers is their work: Many find it hard to let go of the aggressive behavior often required on the job once they get home, said Detroit Police Commander John Courie.

Some officers agreed.

``Dealing with this job and coming home and trying to deal with a family _ something’s got to give somewhere,″ said Officer Ronnie McDade.

Most Detroit police officers arrested for domestic violence lose 30 days of pay, the same penalty given to those arrested for using marijuana for the first time, said Louis Feurino, an attorney at the department’s discipline unit. Three officers involved in more serious cases during the past year were dismissed.

``We’re not going to put up with it,″ he said.

Across the nation, police departments are offering specialized training on anger management and problem-solving skills, said Stephen Curran, a police psychologist and chairman of the Police Psychology Section of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Detroit Police Department is setting up special counseling for batterers and has begun a computer-assisted investigation of the entire department to identify officers who may be at risk for the behavior.

``We’re looking in terms of No. 1, education. Education for all officers,″ said Norde James, the department’s director of personnel.

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