The data is adapted from information in my book Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence. See the book for complete references.
Domestic violence in police families
- Percentage of 728 officers who admitted to Arizona State University sociologist Leanor Johnson in a study that they had “gotten out of control and behaved violently” toward their spouse or children in the previous six months: 40
- Percentage of 385 male cops who admitted to Arizona police Detective Albert Seng and his study co-authors that they were violent toward their spouse at least once in the previous year: 28
- Percentage of 115 female police spouses of male cops who told Seng their husband had been violent to them in the prior year: 25
- Percentage of cops in their 20s who reported domestic violence: 64
- Percentage of divorced or legally separated cops who reported domestic violence: 66
- Percentage of U.S. and Canadian women who reported physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner in the previous year: 1.5 to 4
Police discipline in the U.S.
- Out of 227 investigations of LAPD officers for domestic violence from 1990 to 1997, number of upheld abuse complaints, according to a 1997 inspector general's investigation: 91
- Number that led to a criminal charge: 18
- Number that led to a conviction: 4
- Number of cops who were fired: 1
- Most common discipline: suspension of one to four days or admonishment
- Portion of abusive cops who had no mention of the sustained complaint in their performance records: over three-quarters
- Percentage who got a promotion after a sustained complaint: 29
- Out of 123 U.S. police departments responding to a 1995 survey about discipline for domestic violence, percentage that normally terminated an officer for a first sustained domestic violence incident: under 6
- Percentage that said termination was appropriate after a second sustained incident: 19
- Percentage of U.S. cops convicted of misdemeanour domestic assault who lost their job, according to a 2013 study: 32
- Number of officers in the Puerto Rico Police Department still on active duty after two or more domestic violence arrests, according to a 2011 U.S. Department of Justice investigation: 84 out of 98 (or 86 percent)
- Number still on active duty after three or more domestic violence arrests: 11 out of 17 (or 65 percent)
- Percentage of U.S. cops charged with a criminal offence who were convicted, according to a 2011 report: 33
- Percentage of the U.S. general public charged with a criminal offence who were convicted: 68
- Percentage of U.S. cops convicted of a criminal charge who were incarcerated: 36
- Percentage of the U.S. general public convicted of a criminal charge who were incarcerated: 70
Police discipline in Canada
- Percentage of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers disciplined for domestic violence who were dismissed or ordered to resign (2008-2013): 0
- Percentage of RCMP officers disciplined for making a false statement who were dismissed or ordered to resign: 11
- Percentage of RCMP officers disciplined for theft who were dismissed or ordered to resign: 50
- Average number of days of docked pay for Mounties disciplined for domestic violence: 6.8
- Average days of docked pay for Mounties who made a false statement: 7.9
- Average days of docked pay for Mounties disciplined for theft: 8.5
- Percentage of officers at four large Canadian police forces who were terminated from their job after being convicted of domestic violence or disciplined for assaulting a domestic partner: 0
- Percentage of Canadian cops convicted of domestic violence who were sentenced to prison, according to a 2015 study: 7
- Percentage of the Canadian general public convicted of comparable domestic violence offences who were sentenced to prison: 49
Police response around the world
The U.S. still has far to go to improve policies and discipline on officer-involved domestic violence, but Canada and other countries lag even further behind.
The data in the table below is from a survey I sent in 2015 to 178 police forces in 10 countries: the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Australia, South Africa, the Bahamas, Ireland, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Only four of 52 police forces contacted outside North America responded to the survey. The “international” column’s figures are weighted equally by responding country and include the data for the U.S. and Canada. (See more detailed results in Police Wife.)
Read more about the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) model policy on domestic violence by officers.
Policing: a man's world
- Percentage of U.S. cops who are women: 12
- Percentage of U.S. cops who said they’d be equally comfortable with a female or male boss, according to a 2008 study: 7.2
- Percentage of U.S. cops who agreed that “women are just as capable of thinking logically as men”: 7.1
- Percentage of Canadian cops who are women: 21
Police officer health
- Portion of police spouses who wanted departments to offer cops and families alcoholism treatment and stress reduction programs, according to sociologist Leanor Johnson's study: over three-quarters
- Percentage of cops who said they felt worried or guilty about excessive alcohol use: 36
- Percentage who reported suicidal thoughts: 30
- Divorce rate of cops in large U.S. cities, according to the FBI's report Domestic Violence by Police Officers: nearly 75 percent
- Life expectancy of U.S. while male cops compared to the American white male average, according to a 2013 study: 21.9 years lower
- How long a U.S. white male cop can expect to live after the average police retirement age of 57: six years
- How long the average U.S. white male can expect to live after age 57: 31 years
The role of police
The role of police in society is closely connected to domestic violence in police homes. The abuse is rooted in the tremendous power we bestow on officers, the impunity they enjoy and derogatory male officer attitudes to women. Many of these same issues are at the core of today’s debates about policing in our society, including police shootings of African Americans and police sexual harassment of women officers and female drivers at traffic stops.
These same issues are also connected to broader social issues, such as growing inequality in our society and the militarization of police. Police officers are often the ones who must deal with the consequences of inequality, such as homelessness and unemployment. As the job burden on police officers grows, their families and health often pay the price. Below are correlations—all statistically significant—between the number of police officers per capita and measures of inequality.* The more inequality, the more police we tend to find.
In 22 developed countries
Correlation of police per capita with total unemployment: 58 percent
… with youth unemployment: 63 percent
… with women’s participation in the labour force: negative 46 percent
In the U.S.
Correlation with income inequality in each state: 38 percent
… with the ratio of black to white unemployment: 42 percent
… with the ratio of black male to total white unemployment: 55 percent
Correlation with Aboriginal youth unemployment in Canadian cities: 69 percent
… with Aboriginal male youth unemployment: 76 percent
* A correlation shows how much two sets of data fluctuate together. It doesn’t prove one thing causes the other, but it can point to predictive relationships worthy of attention. When a correlation is statistically significant, it’s very unlikely to be a random coincidence.
- Find Police Wife on Amazon.
- Read the Top 9 Frequently Asked Questions About Police Officer-Involved Domestic Violence.
- Get a free extended excerpt of Police Wife.