What if Your Abusive Husband is a Cop
January 9, 2020 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Police departments have become more attentive to officers’ use of excessive force on the job, but that concern rarely extends to the home. (cw: abuse, domestic violence)

Jessica Lester’s friends persuaded her to date Matthew Boynton, a boy in the eleventh grade, by saying, “If you don’t like him, you can always break up.” He was the grandson of the sheriff of Spalding County, where they lived, an hour south of Atlanta, and his friends were football players and cheerleaders. Jessica thought that Matthew, who was baby-faced but muscular, looked rich; he wore Ralph Lauren boots and collared shirts from Hollister. Jessica, who was in tenth grade, was less popular. She wore hand-me-downs and liked to take nature photographs. Her parents had abandoned her when she was three, along with her sister and brother, and she grew up on a farm with her mother’s adoptive parents. “I guess she felt like ‘Matthew could have picked anybody, and for some reason he picked me,’ ” her sister, Dusty, said.

posted by poffin boffin (60 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
just a bad apple. in a whole bunch of bad apples. i mean, i don't want to say acab, but reading this, it's hard not to think acab.
posted by anem0ne at 1:04 PM on January 9 [25 favorites]


This is one of those stories that I read a while ago and found it really stayed with me. It's about more than cops, though - it's about the whole phenomenon of a patriarchal culture conspiring to close its jaws around an inconvenient woman. It's chilling.
posted by Miko at 1:23 PM on January 9 [13 favorites]


Reveal did a very good episode on this called "The Secret List of Convicted Cops," although trigger and content warnings everywhere if you want to listen to it.
posted by yueliang at 1:30 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I was fidgeting with a plastic spoon while I was reading that, and after a paragraph of stats in this middle of this story about a man who definitely tried to kill his wife I looked down and realized I'd snapped it in half.

i mean, i don't want to say acab, but reading this, it's hard not to think acab.

THIS.
posted by epersonae at 1:53 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I have a relative I'm estranged from who's a former cop and he's always been a jerk. I really don't know if he ever was abusive to his ex-wife, but I've always wondered. He had to have been unpleasant to her at the very least, I'd guess. It sounds like a special hell to try to divorce someone like this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:05 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


My own perspective on this--cops? ugh!
I grew up in Brooklyn, at 730 E 46 Street.
The Bakers lived at 726, the second house north. They had four children, all more-or-less my friends.
I do not remember ever seeing their father, but he was a local terror object.
He was a policeman who was injured on a motorcycle around 1950, and had restricted duty.
But he was protected by his force brethren.
This describes what happened better than my disjointed memories:
Decision
Especially the comments.
posted by hexatron at 2:07 PM on January 9 [8 favorites]


They say one-fourth of all cops abuse their domestic partners.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:12 PM on January 9


Others say it's even higher

(cw abuse)
posted by Reyturner at 2:15 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


most people i know know well enough to never associate in any way with cops, but i have a friend who once briefly dated a guy in a major metropolitan police force (my friend had just come out, was figuring himself and the queer community out, and had... uhhh... uneven taste for a little while, let’s say).

when my friend broke up with the cop, the cop stole his dog. cop was like “lol no, my dog now, feel free to report it to the police if you want, lololol” when my friend demanded his dog back.

don’t associate with cops. it’s not safe. 1312.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:44 PM on January 9 [35 favorites]


just a bad apple. in a whole bunch of bad apples

Here's the thing about bad apples. A bruised or decaying apple emits ethylene, an enzyme that speeds ripening and also decay. So one bad apple causes the apples next to it to go bad, and then you have the orginal apple and its neighbors emitting ethylene, causing a whole cascade effect. "Don't let one apple spoil the bunch" does not mean "Don't judge a whole group because you find one bad individual" -- it means "if you find one bad individual in your group, remove them immediately, or pretty soon you're going to be made up of nothing else." This is what happened with the police. There's a rule to protect rather than remove problem individuals and predicably, you wind up with an acab situation.
posted by Karmakaze at 2:46 PM on January 9 [83 favorites]


see but also it’s not so much that bad apples in the barrel have made the other apples go bad. instead, the barrel itself was rotten to start with, and corrupts everything you put in it. it’s a barrel that never should have existed. and that should be abolished.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:51 PM on January 9 [16 favorites]


(real quick, i love this writer and i'm always happy to see her name and go, oh, of course.)

absolutely horrifying in every aspect, and i know this could happen anywhere in the country, but felt very georgia where it already seems like people can do whatever the fuck they want and law be damned before you even get to the cops there. and fuck, god bless her, jessica is only two years younger than me. to think that all the men involved here will just continue somewhere else basically unimpeded unless citizens keep putting themselves in danger to try to get them held accountable. fuck.
posted by gaybobbie at 3:06 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


upon finishing reading the article: my. god. every single cop anywhere near that matthew monster knew. they all knew.

does anyone here know cops personally? do you have cops among your friends? do you have cops among your family? do you socialize with them? if so, how do you justify it to yourself?
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:08 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Having heard a number of cops talk about flouting the traffic laws to people they think are like-minded, none of this surprises me.

If I were looking for love on one of those dating services that lets you filter people, "law enforcement officer" is not a risk I would want to take.
posted by elizilla at 3:11 PM on January 9 [8 favorites]


does anyone here know cops personally?

I have an old friend who is a cop in rural Queensland. I have been bombarding him with lefty propaganda and recently had what I feel is something of a minor breakthrough (re: the mining oligarchy, our present politicians, and politicians in general), but there's still a long way to go yet, and of course he's still a cop (because there are no other jobs in the place he's at).

I have a nephew who's a cop. I bump into him very infrequently as he lives and works around my neck of the woods, but I don't go out of my way to socialise with him. Like the fifth-last time I saw him he took his Glock clip out of his belt and showed me the hollow-point rounds. I was like "Uhhh...are you even allowed to do this?"
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:21 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


You know, after that parade of horrors (that kept going on!) it’s weird that what really got me is that asshole didn’t even wrote a believable suicidal note . Like, bad grammar and cliched metaphors about mirrors that ring false no matter what—he didn’t even care about her enough, know her well enough, to write a little note in her voice. Respected her so little to have grammatical errors she’s offended by after having a TBI.
I guess that’s thanks to great editing (obviously the author felt it was as striking as I do) but it’s just so telling of those little parts of abuse, that disregard for the person, that lead to physical danger. It’s all the same impetus.
posted by zinful at 3:22 PM on January 9 [17 favorites]


They say one-fourth of all cops abuse their domestic partners.

40%.

40% of cops are self-reported domestic abusers. When you include those that do it, but don't admit it when asked, it's gonna be a lot higher. And that's not counting the ones that knowingly cover for their brothers in blue.

All cops are bastards. It's a saying for a reason.
posted by kafziel at 3:32 PM on January 9 [37 favorites]


does anyone here know cops personally?

My dad was California CHP (rolled into CA state PD in the '60s) and he's absolutely the reason I don't trust cops. ::spits::
posted by zenzicube at 3:52 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


My SIL's dad was a cop for a while when she was a kid. She's a Trumpist and an "All Live Matter" supporter because of that, I'm sure.

He was a lovely man whenn I knew him later in life, he was a lovely man. But it was a long time after he was a cop. I have no reason to expect he was any better than any other.
posted by Archer25 at 4:39 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I was talking w/my friend about how an old classmate who's a deputy. His dad was a deputy. The most I remember is the racism of the classmate when I worked with him in a kitchen.

So when I mentioned this friend by name only, my friend literally was like "oh god, his DAD was such a pieces of shit racist..." I didn't even PROMPT that. It just blurted out of his own accord when mentioning the son's name.

Point being, there is a horrible culture of violence, misogyny and racism and abuse of power that's clear...

In Madison their touting all the female recruits, which yay, i guess. If your liberal goal is an equally tokenist police state and you don't actually modify your policies, your just making more women oppressors, not actually reducing oppression.
posted by symbioid at 4:47 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


wrt women who are cops, one of the pieces of graffiti that shows up all over chile right now reads (iirc) “la paca no es sorora la paca es enemiga, asesina y opresora!”

(“paco” is chilean slang for cop; paca is a female paco)

posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:06 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


In Madison their touting all the female recruits, which yay, i guess.

Yeah.

"Minorities are still getting shot dead in the street for no reason, but, hey, at least women are getting the opportunity to do it for a change!"
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:18 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


does anyone here know cops personally? ... if so, how do you justify it to yourself?

What an... odd... question. I know a handful, because it's a relatively common profession and I met them through other avenues (sometimes long before they started this career). I've also known people in other sectors (finance, oil+gas, ad tech) with a less-than-stellar reputation. None of them were caricatures of the evils of their industry.

If you're concerned about the norms that can develop in a somewhat insular profession, forbidding contact with those people seems counterproductive.
posted by ripley_ at 5:35 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


If I were looking for love on one of those dating services that lets you filter people, "law enforcement officer" is not a risk I would want to take.

The EMTs I used to work with would matter-of-factly say, "Firefighters are cheaters, but cops are wife-beaters." It always gave me pause that one group of people who are called to run toward dangerous situations to help strangers would say that about their sometimes-colleagues in public safety.

The culture of policing in the U.S. -- racist, gleefully nasty toward the indigent and utterly determined to make sure no policeman is held accountable for their actions -- lets a certain type of personality thrive. A type of personality that may have actually targeted law enforcement as a career because then they have more opportunity to control other people with impunity.

U.S. policing is a failure of leadership at every level of policing and governance.
posted by sobell at 6:10 PM on January 9 [21 favorites]


> If you're concerned about the norms that can develop in a somewhat insular profession, forbidding contact with those people seems counterproductive.

the profession shouldn’t exist and people who enter into it are revealing that they possess a deep moral flaw. it is tantamount to being a trumpist.

do you think you can deprogram your cop acquaintances by your contact with them?
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:35 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


> None of them were caricatures of the evils of their industry.

but see they made the choice to do the thing they’re doing for a living. presumably no one forced them. they could leave the life if they wanted to. but they don’t. they may not be “caricatures of the evils of their industry,” but they spend their days actually carrying out the evils of their industry.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:37 PM on January 9 [8 favorites]


> the profession shouldn’t exist

...do you realize how "we should have zero police officers" sounds as a starting point for discussion? Like, to people who aren't immersed in your particular theory about law enforcement alternatives?

This is probably not going to be a productive conversation, have a good night.
posted by ripley_ at 7:08 PM on January 9 [13 favorites]


None of them were caricatures of the evils of their industry.

Isn't that the nature of caricatures, though?
posted by Gatyr at 7:17 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


[Please bring it back to this article and domestic violence, which is an actual topic worth attention unto itself.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:42 PM on January 9 [12 favorites]


The sherriff / small town cop system needs to go, it's a huge part of the problem. Most first world countries have centralized police oversight and they don't post police in the neighborhood they grew up in, or let them work under family members for a damn good reason. If a cop loses a certification or is fired, they can't just go to the next county and get a new job. A few families shouldn't be able to run the justice system in a whole area, there shouls be at least state level oversight.
posted by fshgrl at 9:44 PM on January 9 [23 favorites]


My former neighbor has been married to a cop for 20 years and is afraid to leave him.

He always seemed like the nicest guy. Even tempered, very helpful to us to in a neighborly way (my family is not white - the only non-whites on the street), jovial, a properly involved dad to his children i.e. doing all the work rather than just leave it to his wife, and so gentle with my own children. It was a shock to me, when I got divorced, to hear his wife tell me in private that she wished she could leave him. Has wished it for ten years. Said he "has a scary temper" - he would never lay a hand on her, she says, but when he loses control, the whites of his eyes and the rasp of his voice are enough to give her nightmares.

And he's a cop.

She feels she has nowhere to turn.
posted by MiraK at 5:12 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


the profession shouldn’t exist and people who enter into it are revealing that they possess a deep moral flaw. it is tantamount to being a trumpist.

My uncle is a policeman. And he's a moral, law abiding man. Of course, I'm dutch and we have a proper police force here.
posted by Pendragon at 5:50 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


does anyone here know cops personally?

My father was a guard in a maximum security prison, the kind of guard that detectives and beat cops don't cross because of the favors owed him by criminals.

There is NOTHING in this world more dangerous than a man with a badge and power over you.

He's retired and still inspires terror wherever he goes.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:59 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


All cops are bastards.

I'm sure you will all hate me for this, but I have to say it. The cops who came when I called, when my husband was holding me against my will in my apartment, threatening to kill me... They were the nicest guys. One took two hours to write up his report making sure it was perfectly done, leaving no detail out, and he came back days later and interviewed the neighbors when they came forward. Another one spent time sitting outside with me while they took my husband out and he said, "no one should ever do this to someone," and I could tell he meant it. They treated me kindly, they believed me, and they helped me. They may have been unicorns, but I am so grateful to them to this day, that I am willing to take the massive flame attack I know will follow this comment. They were good cops.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:11 PM on January 10 [12 favorites]


And also, gosh, it must be nice to be a person in a position of such power that you can call for the elimination of the profession without ever worrying that one day you might need to call them.

And YES, I understand that a lot of people who need the cops can't call them because the cops won't protect them and will likely put them in more danger. I'm not saying the system isnt broken, but let's fix it so there are more people like me who feel like a cop saved their life.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:19 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


One very small step I've taken: I don't watch cop shows, even well-acted and scripted shows like Brooklyn 99, because they normalize and glorify an industry which is rotten to its core. Just like all war movies glorify war, all cop shows glorify cops.
posted by maxwelton at 1:20 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Here's the thing about bad apples. A bruised or decaying apple emits ethylene, an enzyme that speeds ripening and also decay. So one bad apple causes the apples next to it to go bad, and then you have the orginal apple and its neighbors emitting ethylene, causing a whole cascade effect. "Don't let one apple spoil the bunch" does not mean "Don't judge a whole group because you find one bad individual" -- it means "if you find one bad individual in your group, remove them immediately, or pretty soon you're going to be made up of nothing else." This is what happened with the police.

well aware of this, thanks, which is why i used that phrase. but thanks for pretty much rewriting my terse comment with a lot more words.
posted by anem0ne at 2:16 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


it doesn't help that the small town/sheriff thing, particularly in the south, derives from slave patrols.

and going back to what i said here: i mean, i don't want to say acab, but reading this, it's hard not to think acab.

i know there might be some good cops out there. there are always "good" people in organizations that are geared towards maintaining "order" with the threat of force, but good lord i don't know how to tell them apart from the bad ones, and being a part of a group historically mistreated by them, i generally want to avoid seeing them whatsoever.
posted by anem0ne at 2:21 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Surprised not to see the word "gun" in this thread. Convicted domestic abusers can't own guns, which means that cops convicted of domestic abuse can't be cops.

That's how it should be, of course.
posted by mhoye at 4:53 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


While I can’t speak to the quality of the Dutch police, this isn’t an issue unique to the US - in the UK, the Centre for Women’s Justice is launching a super-complaint against a number of police forces for failing to properly handle domestic abuse by male officers as a result of a pervasive ‘boys’ club’ culture:

The data, from three-quarters of forces, showed that police employees accused of domestic abuse are a third less likely to be convicted than are the general public. Fewer than a quarter of complaints resulted in disciplinary action.

Those conviction rates are a pretty disgraceful 3.9% and 6.2% for police and civilians respectively. I don’t have a great deal of faith in the super-complaints process, but it’s a (small) step in the right direction.

I'm sure you will all hate me for this

Fortunately most MeFites are capable of nuance.
posted by inire at 6:16 PM on January 10


I'm not saying the system isnt broken, but let's fix it so there are more people like me who feel like a cop saved their life."

Thanks for sharing your story, WalkerWestridge. I hope you're in a better place now.

I have a family member in law enforcement. I understand very well the problems with the institution and I wish they had chosen a different career path, but I also have confidence that they are one of those good cops that are needed so badly if we are going to fix policing in this country. It's tough to read these stories and to see the corrupting influence of the system, but I try to provide support to help them maintain a healthy perspective.
posted by maurice at 5:51 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


They were good cops.

My first cousin twice removed married an SS officer. My grandmother always said he was a lovely man, never a harsh word, wouldn't hurt a fly.
Maybe that was true. But his role, the job he was willing to do, the people he was willing to associate with, the inaction he embodied, still mean I'm very comfortable saying he was not good.

Every cop knows who they're working alongside, no matter how lovely they may personally be.
posted by Acid Communist at 5:53 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


My uncle is a policeman. And he's a moral, law abiding man. Of course, I'm dutch and we have a proper police force here.

Are we sure about that?

All cops.
posted by kafziel at 5:17 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


WalkerWestridge, I agree with you: not all cops are bad. I've known more good ones than bad ones by FAR through my work.

However, I do concur that police work is a job that is more likely to attract bastards and jerks and abusers, and that sort of job can easily aid and abet bastards/jerks/abusers in continuing to do jerkass things and have the power to do it.

That said, I do seem to have a weakness for watching cop shows like Brooklyn 99 and The Rookie that show cops who want to do well. I like to see good guys even if they're fictional, god help me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:55 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying the system isnt broken, but let's fix it so there are more people like me who feel like a cop saved their life.

Yeah I just can't get behind those who say that police must be dismantled. Clearly those people have never been, and can't imagine being, at the mercy of an unpoliced society.

I grew up in India where the police exist mostly to shake everyone down for bribes and terrorize the poor to protect the rich. EVEN SO I was glad every day of the existence of a hypothetical threat that kept many of my street harassers from progressing beyond catcalling. Of the few that did go past catcalls, I was sometimes able to scare them off by shouting, "Police! Call the police!" at them. The times I was too stunned to shout, I was sometimes (well, twice) able to get bystanders to help me by restraining the guy and dragging him to the police station... after he was done assaulting me. I was glad of the existence of a mutually-agreed higher authority to call upon, even if only in theory.

Every time someone says police should be abolished I wonder if they have ever been a girl walking the streets in India. Invariably it turns out that they have not.
posted by MiraK at 6:35 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]


Every time someone says the police should be abolished, someone chimes in to ignore what's actually being asked for and pretend it's a desire for there to be absolutely no safeguards or law enforcement of any kind in society.
posted by Acid Communist at 3:44 PM on January 13


Every time someone says the police should be abolished, someone chimes in to ignore what's actually being asked for and pretend it's a desire for there to be absolutely no safeguards or law enforcement of any kind in society.

Probably because that’s exactly how it comes across when expressed as a glib ‘abolish the police’ statement. If you want people to engage with what’s “actually being asked for” (presumably something along the lines of abolishing the police as currently constituted in tandem with decriminalisation of low-impact crimes and massive societal changes to effectively address the factors that account for the majority of criminal behaviour?), probably best to give some indication of what that is.
posted by inire at 2:16 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


someone chimes in to [...] pretend

Also boo to this in particular.
posted by inire at 2:52 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Yes, to be honest, I see the issues but am not in "ACAB" circles, so I'm not sure what the alternative proposals to having police are if they don't include a society with no law enforcement, and don't think it should be assumed that everyone knows them.
posted by Miko at 4:21 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I'm all ears if someone wants to tell me how girls walking the streets in India can have even the current shreds of theoretical safety if police are abolished. Because even:

> "abolishing the police as currently constituted in tandem with decriminalisation of low-impact crimes and massive societal changes to effectively address the factors that account for the majority of criminal behaviour"

sounds like the girls walking the streets in India are either going to have to put up with the crimes against us being decriminalized for being "low impact" (heyyy what's the big deal if a 15 yr old's butt got grabbed on the bus, amirite) or, best case scenario, wait around for the "massive societal changes" to kick in... which is making me laugh even as I type it, I mean, hey, you guys, you just changed my mind, if you only want to abolish the police AFTER society has been cured of patriarchy, sure, sign me up!
posted by MiraK at 6:14 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


(heyyy what's the big deal if a 15 yr old's butt got grabbed on the bus, amirite)

This is an absolutely disgusting thing to imply I've suggested.

I'm not the one defending an organisation that assaults women on a regular basis, and obviously doesn't give a damn about doing so. That's what this very thread is about an example of. How the police ignore and perpetuate violence against women. Hell, just a few hours ago cops stormed a house full of mothers and forcibly evicted them.

If you keep supporting an organisation that exists purely to protect the powerful, you're setting yourself and future generations up to always have that threat of assault hanging over their heads in the street. I'm not claiming we'll fix patriarchy overnight. But we'll never make significant progress if we insist on shilling for one set of violent scum in the vain hope they'll protect us.

This is intersectionality. The problems are all interconnected, and so are the solutions. We cannot make the streets safe for all women by hiding behind state violence. Notably, you're relying on the idea of those police, because in reality cops spend very little time protecting people from sexual assault. When they're not too busy making sure textile workers can't organise and harassing sex workers, they're intimidating victims of sexual assault into not making reports. But go off if it makes you feel safer, I guess.
posted by Acid Communist at 10:11 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Hey Acid Communist, I didn't imply you suggested it. I actually quoted the words from a totally different commenter who was both supporting my comment and providing a sort of steel-man scenario to bolster your position.

Yes, indeed, I am relying on the idea of state "violence" i.e. protection. I have found it, in real life, a lovely, practical, and useful thing which is 1000% preferable to the alternative of the absence of the idea of state protection. If you're asking me to give this very practical and useful thing up, you'd better tell me what you plan to replace it with.
posted by MiraK at 10:19 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


It is perhaps instructive to note that folks who support abolishing the police, especially anarchists, do not necessarily support abolishing all forms of enforcing safety for community members, especially marginalized or vulnerable community members. Some of the solutions that various groups have proposed involve things like having unarmed and trained mediation and intervention teams rather than police officers, changing our justice system to favor a restorative justice model, increased social services to handle problems before they escalate to crime, taking a close look at what crime actually is (e.g. decriminalizing things that primarily serve to punish lower-status community members, like weed criminalization), and possibly community-self-defense--instead of maintaining a professional armed police force, have members of a community serve to protect themselves in shifts.

Let's not talk past each other, please. I appreciate that the police can be useful authorities when there is no other option to seek justice--after all, the imperfect justice system we have is often the only thing we collectively have to rely on when shit gets bad. But that justice system is not... well. Just. Many groups who have been historically and currently oppressed by police have thought long and hard about how to create justice in their communities, and post-disaster initiatives suggest that many of these might be more workable than our current system.
posted by sciatrix at 10:19 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


Or, well, shorter me: is our current system of armed, professional police who are disproportionately not community members automatically the only version of state protection that you can envision? Who do they protect? Who do they serve?

Can we change the incentives on those questions? If so, how?
posted by sciatrix at 10:21 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Thanks, sciatrix, that sort of information about what an alternative to police might look like is so much more helpful than simply saying "abolish the police." I'm off to look at the link you posted. But I do want to note one vehement objection to your emphasis on minimizing the presence of people from outside the community and focusing on community self-policing. While this might work very well to minimize racist violence by police towards black communities, to pick one specific example, it only exacerbates patriarchal violence.

Patriarchal violence is perpetrated primarily by our own communities, our own families, our own partners and parents and children. If my father is assaulting me, I cannot turn to the neighborhood watch headed up by my father's best friend for protection and justice. When you belong to the community that perpetrates patriarchal violence against you, the community cannot be the entity you turn to for protection and justice. The community-ness of the community IS the problem. The only entity that can be trusted to protect us from patriarchal violence is an impersonal, unconnected, faceless bureaucracy... or at least total outsiders. This is not as weird as it sounds. The best and least biased social safety nets are the ones that treat us like a number rather than a name or person, which gives us a modicum of reprieve from concatenated oppressions that tag along with our individual identity.

Ironically, this is precisely the problem noted in the original post: your husband is a cop, and all cops in the community of cops protect each other, where do you turn for protection and justice? The fact that they are behaving like a community IS the problem. The solution, imo, lies in making the police less of a community, not more of your community.
posted by MiraK at 10:36 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Thank you for the substance, sciatrix.

I do tend to think there is a place for a dedicated professional police force of some description, even in the theoretical anarchist-justice future - they don't need to be armed, but there is a lot of value in having people with specialised training and experience to investigate and deal with crimes that go beyond everyday street-level stuff, which I suspect could be dealt with pretty effectively by mediators and volunteers (supported by the other changes you mentioned re social services, etc.), although on preview I see MiraK has pointed out at least one potential issue with that model.
posted by inire at 10:45 AM on January 14


I see where you're coming from, but I think I disagree. I don't think you can have a group of humans without them organically forming a community. In order to prevent a "community of police," I think you need to give people a different community to identify with and participate in, one that they think is more important and feel more strongly about than the "community of police." There is no way to disrupt human bonds enough to prevent a "community of police" from forming in the first place, and if you successfully disrupt enough other human bonds in the service of trying to prevent one, you run the risk of tightening and strengthening professional identity as enforcers.

So we are left instead trying to grow a more positive community to encourage peacekeepers to identify with, minimizing authoritarian identity as much as possible. This new community must have power distributed evenly among people, especially among women. Achieving that is a function of a bunch of things, including enshrining and honoring the authority of women in that community, making women equal participants in the mediating and justice systems we enact. One possible model for hope in that direction might be the Rojavan model of community councils adopted by Kurdish women in Syria.

I think many anarchists would agree with you that toxic communities can absolutely be complicit in enabling, facilitating, and promoting abuse of women within their ranks. But I think they would typically argue that the solution is to figure out how to erode and sand the toxicity away in order to create a community that is minimally toxic in this way rather than to try to starve out the community entirely.

Here's another dynamic I worry about. Can you police a community without its own consent? What happens when outsiders to a community walk in and force change without becoming part of that community in its own right? I would argue that this can create a dynamic where communities balk and strengthen their toxic behavior, because the toxic behavior now becomes an identity in its own right, a rejection of outside control.

I don't think that modern policing works well when cops are not previously known to the people they theoretically protect and serve. If you're right, I would expect communities policed by frequently-rotated outside staff to have a higher rate of justice for domestic violence victims. I don't know where to find empirical evidence to support either of our theories, though--if someone else does, please let me know.
posted by sciatrix at 10:58 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


> I think they would typically argue that the solution is to figure out how to erode and sand the toxicity away

I guess they have something in common with people who don't want to abolish the police, then. Because the violence perpetrated on us by our communities are no less vile than the violence perpetrated on us by the police. The police enforce state power, communities enforce other kinds of power, and all systems of power are exactly as difficult to dismantle. A racist cop wielding a gun and a husband empowered by law to rape his wife: both are equally difficult to eradicate.

this can create a dynamic where communities balk and strengthen their toxic behavior, because the toxic behavior now becomes an identity in its own right, a rejection of outside control

Or, as in the case of Sati (a ritual burning alive of a hindu widow upon her husband's death on his funeral pyre), with vehement enough enforcing by powerful outsiders, the toxic behavior can die out in half a generation.

IDK, none of us have all the answers, and I'm on neither side of this argument, to be honest. It's not that I'm deeply invested in keeping the police. But folks who say "abolish the police" irk me deeply because they've generally failed to consider the unique challenges posed by patriarchal violence in their alternative models. And if not patriarchal violence, then they've failed to consider caste violence, or transmisogyny, or heterosexism, or or or or. It's like they believe that state power is uniquely worse than all these other oppressions. Which is NOT true!

Communities themselves are the very source and the very medium through which these forms of violence are enacted. I mean, yeah, that's the human condition, and we can't really wait for alien overlords to come save us, I know, but sometimes I wish we could! Asking communities to police themselves is like asking Exxon to set its own environmental safety standards.
posted by MiraK at 11:16 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Not everyone agrees with you about the human condition. There's no original sin in our hearts that makes us evil. That's not to say that we're naturally angelic either, but the assumption that humans will, regardless of any possible circumstance, need controlling by some outside force or inevitably rot, is a political idea, not a universal truth.

Communities aren't oil companies. Oil companies are subject to forces that mean they are incapable of self-regulation. Now, most every community I've ever seen is subject to all kinds of forces, but unlike companies in a market, there's no reason why communities have to be subject to many of those forces.
posted by Acid Communist at 12:58 PM on January 14


Coming into a thread specifically about the existing amplification of targeted violence which happens as a result of the intersection of policing & community with (paraphrased) "there's nothing preventing this behavior from spontaneously cleaning itself up, why would you have these concerns?" feels strongly dismissive, to me.

Like, regardless of whether or not you believe in original sin, MiraK has raised clear concerns about existing models of abuse and you're handwaving that problem away at the same time as you're requesting clarity on the same range of points.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:21 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


« Older This Is How We Live Now   |   $16 billion company sued over free inmate labor Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments