by Lesson Learned
During your interaction with law enforcement it is normal to feel, anxious and somewhat intimidated. Even when you’re in the right, something about that badge, gun and the general demeanor of cops can make you feel stressed. What you should not feel is fear…at least from the officers. If you feel fear – if they are standing too close, or are intentionally appearing intimidating, ask them calmly if they would take a step back as you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. This is where a witness is crucial. If the officer will not step back you have a witness to attest to that and he knows it. Throughout this I will refer to law enforcement as ‘he’ for expedience and because during my ordeal I didn’t have any interactions with female officers. I am also referring to sociopaths and other opportunists as ‘he’ again for expediency and because that is my main experience.
I am speaking from my experience divorcing a sociopath with police affiliations and the experience of my niece. Her ex-husband’s best friend is a cop. Her ex used his cop friend both while in uniform and out of uniform to intimidate my niece during their divorce.
My ex learned from an early age that having friends in law enforcement is a great advantage when your whole life is about theft, manipulation and deception. Both my niece and I made mistakes in how we handled ourselves in many of our interactions with what I like to call “violator-friendly officers”. I’d like others to learn from our mistakes. And having the luxury of being divorced from my ex for several years now I can look back and realize that I learned a great deal about how NOT to react to law enforcement and more importantly, how to keep a clear head and act in my own best interest in the worst of situations.
First, let me say that during a separation or divorce from a sociopath (or other opportunist), you are at your wits end. You’re tired – both physically and emotionally. Just when you think you can relax for a second…they do something else to turn your world topsy-turvy. Possibly even turning your family and friends against you. Questioning your own sanity. You just want it to be over without losing everything you’ve ever earned. Or god forbid, your children. They lie to your family, your friends, lawyers, judges, police, your and their bosses and co-workers, your favorite checker at the grocery store. Literally everyone you know. They have launched a smear campaign that you will find very, very difficult to overcome. Some people will come to their senses and see things for what they really are. Some won’t. You must let go of those that don’t. They’ll figure it out eventually or they won’t and it’s not your responsibility to convince them one way or the other.
Laying the ground work with cop buddies
If he has law enforcement friends they are already looking at you with at the very least skepticism. Usually disdain and mistrust. They see YOU as the self-serving manipulator. A sociopath will have laid the groundwork with his law enforcement buddies long before you filed for divorce. He knows instinctively that you’re contemplating separation or divorce and they just want to ensure that you leave with as little pride, money, possessions and children as possible. You must understand that they do not believe in joint custody – or equal division of property. What belonged to him when you married…what belonged to you when you married…and everything you both accumulated during the marriage…in the sociopath’s mind all belong to him. The things you owned when you met him, literally belonged to him the first time he laid eyes on them…your bank account, your house, your car. In his mind, from the very beginning…all of it was his. A former FBI profiler put it best. And this quote is not exact but to the best of my memory – “From the sociopath’s point of view everything you own is his or hers. They just don’t have possession of it yet.”
And – they will work tirelessly from day one to ensure they retain possession. Once you understand this – and accept that is how they think – it becomes easier because you are no longer surprised or at least less surprised, at what they will do to get what they want.
You must take away the power he/she has of the element of surprise. When you are caught off-guard is when you will be manipulated.
But – how does this intertwine with police interaction?
Why aren’t they arresting him?
We want to think of law-enforcement officers as being on the right side of right and wrong. And you are the victim…the one who is ‘right’. So why aren’t they protecting you?
If he has cop friends he will have already laid the groundwork that YOU are divorcing him without cause. YOU are cheating on him. YOU are trying to take everything from him. YOU have broken his heart. YOU are a BIG FAT LIAR AND A THIEF! Blah, blah blah.
Don’t spend your time and energy trying to convince his cop friends that he has been lying and manipulating them. They won’t want to believe it and even if they do, they won’t act on it. Your job is to remain calm, cool and collected enough to ask firmly and assertively that they do their job. How do you make that happen?
My first interaction with a sheriff’s deputy was just me and him.
I had discovered that my husband had hidden cameras mounted in my bathrooms and bedrooms. After a thorough search of the house I discovered high tech equipment designed to download the video to the internet and he was also making DVDs of the video feed. I had a neighbor come over to serve as a witness to what I had discovered but she wanted nothing further to do with the whole creepy affair. I took pictures of everything and then took it all down and called the Sheriff’s Department to meet with a Deputy. I took all the equipment, including the DVDs (as embarrassed as I was about the content I wasn’t going to let my ex get away with this). The Deputy not only wouldn’t make a report – he proceeded to tell me how he and his wife weren’t getting along so well either. My response was ‘So you’re making covert videos of your wife in the bathroom and posting them on line too?’ He did have enough sense to be a little humbled but still did nothing.
I made at least four crucial mistakes in this interaction:
#1 Not having a witness present when I met with the Deputy
#2 Mentioning that my husband was involved with a police sponsored youth activities organization. (Also known as PAL) This in itself dissuaded the Deputy from taking a stronger stance. I should have kept that information to myself.
#3 Not insisting that he at least make a report. In California, an event report can be filed…it is viewed as less than an official report but is issued a number like an official report. He did neither.
#4 Not having a game plan. At this point I didn’t even know I needed a game plan. I was only reacting to what I saw as a gross and illegal invasion of my privacy.
The Deputy told me cavalierly to ‘just move out already.’ I knew if I did, I would never see my house again. I went back to the house and stupidly (because it was pointless) confronted my ex with what I had found. He became enraged because I had ‘embarrassed him’ by going to the neighbor and the police. He threatened me with a weapon. I called 911. When the Deputies arrived they thought the whole thing was a joke because by the time they arrived he had changed into a PAL hat and shirt. He greeted them like old buddies even though he didn’t know them. The PAL affiliation gave him validity. I was intimidated by that but I’m still thinking the Deputies are going to do the right thing and arrest him. Nope.
At that point I made what was probably my biggest mistake during my interactions with law-enforcement.
I should have insisted that HE be removed from the house. Instead if they wanted to ‘help me get out of the house for my own safety’. The Deputy acted put out that it took me a few minutes to load a small suitcase. And frankly at this point I’m baffled and disoriented. Why are they not arresting him? What the F*** is going on here??? While I am gathering a few things, I can hear my ex telling the other officer ‘She has mental problems. She needs help. Maybe if she’s out of here she can see a psychiatrist or something.’
So…let’s look at this more closely, he threatens me with a weapon (an underwater spear gun) and they don’t take him out of the house much less arrest him? Was I afraid of him? Damn right. I was too shaken to think clearly and sociopaths count on that. And by the way I was right…it took me six years to get back into my house.
Learning how to interact with law enforcement
Over the next seven years I had several interactions with law enforcement. Sometimes I did it right…sometimes I didn’t. But each time I learned something.
I secured a restraining order after life threatening texts. I started digging into his past and found a conviction for child abuse . I met with the police officer who was the current President of PAL. I questioned him as to how a person with a restraining order for domestic violence and a conviction for child abuse (I gave him a copy of the police reports and court transcripts) could possibly serve on the Board of PAL. His response?…“Yeah, he told me he was going through a bad divorce”. Really??? This officer did exactly nothing and My ex continued with his PAL position.
Remember what I said about ‘laying groundwork with cop buddies’? This was a perfect example.
What should I have done? Turned over the information to the Chief of Police with a witness present. Preferably my attorney. A copy of those transcripts and a copy of the restraining order should also have been sent to the National Board President of PAL with a note saying who I met with and his response. Turning over the reports to the Chief of Police and National PAL Board may or may not have helped me immediately but undoubtedly it would have turned some unwanted attention toward my ex.
So, the big question is….Why didn’t I do that? I didn’t want to bring any bad attention to PAL. I believed in the organization and wanted to protect it. How naive could I be? This is an organization to help disadvantaged kids and he has a conviction for child abuse and a restraining order in place and he is serving on the Board. I should have exposed him and let the chips fall where they may but my priorities were not in order. Obviously.
Each time my ex violated the restraining order I called the Police. I was still embarrassed at the whole situation so I didn’t have the sense to have a witness present when the cop showed up. (And they didn’t always). I did get cards when they had them and names and badge numbers when they didn’t. Sometimes they filed a report or event number and sometimes they didn’t. I kept a record of every interaction which is an absolute necessity.
Each and every time they let him off without arresting him, it empowered him. I should have had a witness each time and insisted (calmly but firmly) that he be arrested AS THE ORDER MANDATED! If they refused I should have asked for their superior officer’s name. And really, I probably should have made a call to (on speaker phone with a witness present) or visited the Chief of Police, again with a witness, every single time. Squeaky wheel gets the grease as they say.
Getting their attention
When I finally did get the correct response from an officer it was because he just seemed to be fed up with the whole situation after reading through the reports. He asked me ‘Do you want to do something about this or do you just want to keep calling us out?” My response was ‘I’d love to do something but you guys don’t seem to be interested in following through. I’m just building a report history so that when something does happen to me it’s documented that I called over and over and you guys did nothing”. That got his attention and things went forward from there.
In retrospect it was the first time I was forceful and let the officer know there would be consequences for him not doing what he was supposed to. (My ex had left the premises by this time and so again escaped arrest.)
Happy ending? Not so much but it did get the ball rolling a little. The domestic violence unit took over and had a long meeting with me which ended with two undercover Vice officers asking me a lot of questions about my ex. Their conclusion was that he was probably involved with child pornography. (I didn’t see that coming but wasn’t surprised either) I also received a very big apology from the Police Dept and Sheriff’s Dept.
And yet my ex was still serving on the Board of PAL.
Fast forward several years. (And many other incidents). I finally have a court order removing him from the house. The order states that Law enforcement is to be used if he does not comply. (He was in court when the order was issued so he was well aware of the stipulations.) The order states he is to vacate the house within 24 hrs taking only his clothing and personal items. I knew he wouldn’t comply because again, he sees everything as belonging to him. I took a witness with me the next morning and posted myself within sight of the house but not be seen by him. Of course he was taking everything from the house. According to the mover they had already removed two large truckloads of furniture.
I called the Sheriff’s dept and when the deputy arrived he didn’t want to get involved. I read him verbatim the order and ‘that law enforcement was to be used should he not comply’. I looked him up and down and said ‘you appear to be law enforcement, Officer. Are you refusing to help as the court order states?’ He reluctantly went to ask my ex to leave and not take anything else. Although he did allow him to finish loading appliances. WTF??? At this point as the 24 hour time limit was not up, I left after My ex left. As he drove away he was shaking his fist at me and snapping pictures of me and my friend/witness. He made sure to get a picture of her license plate so he could use his cop friends to see who she was. And yes, the Deputy watched him do this.
My ex and the violator-friendly Deputy
I came back to the house at the 24 hour mark with a witness and called the Sheriff’s dept again because my ex’s car was parked next door and I did not have keys to the house. I knew I’d have to break in or call a locksmith and I wasn’t going to do that without law enforcement present. They did show up but again, didn’t want to get involved even after reading the order. I got angry and insisted that I was going in with or without their help and I had no idea where my ex was but pointed out his car next door and said ‘he could very well still be in the house”. They understood what I was saying – ‘I go in by myself and he is still there and I get hurt or killed – it’s all on you’. We broke in through a window and they went in to clear the house. my ex was undoubtedly watching from the neighbor’s.
In these two interactions with the Deputies what I did right was to stand my ground and INSIST that they do their job. I simply was not going to take ‘NO’ for an answer and I held them personally accountable. Also, I did not mention my ex’s affiliation with PAL.
The next morning though I didn’t do so well. The violator-friendly Deputy showed up with my ex and his brother early in the morning literally banging on the door and yelling for me to come to the door. My friend/witness had just left for work. The Deputy insisted that my ex had something in the house work related that he needed. I told him too bad. In a loud voice he said ‘he needs it and we’re not leaving until he gets it’. (It was a briefcase full of unlabeled DVDs which I knew were definitely not work related). I told the Deputy to come in…my ex tried to force his way past the violator-friendly Deputy but was restrained. I closed the door and had the Deputy wait inside while I retrieved the briefcase. I told him ‘The contents of this briefcase, which are all unlabeled DVDs have nothing to do with his job. Your co-workers in Vice think he’s involved with child porn. He also likes to video women in the bathroom and bedroom without their knowledge or consent. Since taking possession of the house last night I have already found three hidden cameras in the bathrooms and bedroom.’ I handed him the briefcase looked him straight in the eye and said ‘So, here you go.’ He left without further comment.
What I should have done is called 911. All I knew for sure was that my ex was at my door after being court ordered out of the house and he had people with him yelling and banging on the door. What I should NOT have done was open the door. I had changed the lock on the door so there’s no way they could have come in without breaking the security door down. And unfortunately my witness was gone. This unexpected visit had me shaken and off my game – the yelling and banging on the door early in the morning was meant to do exactly that.
In a conversation later in the day with the violator-friendly Deputy (I called him for an explanation…silly me) I asked why he felt compelled to support my ex in his efforts to disobey the court orders. His response “my ex will be protected and we will always be on his side”. He didn’t say it in a threatening manner. Just very factual. I asked why and he said “Because he works for VZk.” I explained that he only served in a volunteer position with them. He has tried to become a cop three times that I know of and hasn’t been able to pass the screening. AND I was telling the truth when I said your Vice guys think he is involved with child porn. And you’re going to protect him….really?” He hesitated for a few seconds and just said “Yes”. But I had planted a seed of doubt which was my intention.
So again a closer look – Vice detectives think he is involved in child pornography. They can’t prove it but from their experience all the signs are there. We know for sure at the very least he likes to secretly video people in the bathroom and bedroom. And he has a conviction for child abuse and has previously had a restraining order. And a Deputy flat out says they are ‘protecting him and on his side’. Wow. And the worst part? I wasn’t smart enough to have a witness to that conversation. Could kick myself for that. My call to the violator-friendly Deputy was impulsive and not well thought out.
However, I still should have gone to the Sheriff with a witness to ask for an explanation of the Deputy’s behavior. And an explanation of the follow up conversation.
I should mention that from the time I left the house to the very end of the divorce, seven years later, I had absolutely no communication with my ex, except when he reached out to me via threatening messages. I did not respond to those communications and not once did I institute any form of communication. This is also key. I had learned from my research shortly after starting divorce proceedings to cut off all communication with the sociopath and that was my plan. I was also told by a domestic violence advocate that your credibility with law enforcement goes way down if you continue communicating. Where there are children involved it will be different and I don’t have the experience to speak to that.
My niece’s experience was much like mine – husband’s cop friend shows up at the door with her ex demanding that she give him items that the court deems to be hers. He is in uniform and threatens her that it will go badly for her if she doesn’t hand over what her ex wants. Her ex and his friend both know there is no one else in the house. She should never have opened the door. Better to call 911. No need to tell the dispatcher that a cop is at the door. Just say your ex is there with someone else and you feel threatened. There was no valid reason for the officer to be there with the husband. Just as there was no valid reason for a Deputy to be at my door with my ex. It’s counterintuitive to call 911 when a police officer is at your door but sociopaths count on your mind not thinking in a way that instinctively protects you. The violator-friendly cop will hear the dispatcher issue the call on his shoulder radio and may try to cover himself at that point. Doesn’t matter – he has no business at your door.
At the very least the violator-friendly cop will end up trying to explain to the officers responding to the 911 call and to his supervisor why he is at your door in uniform, not on official police business with your estranged husband who has a history of domestic violence and possibly even a current restraining order. You can fill in the blanks with those officers so far as the intimidation for additional material items. A few may cover for the violator-friendly cop, but most will not.
Here’s what you do …
Right away, go to the police station with a witness and demand to see the Chief of Police for an explanation of the Officer’s behavior. I do mean right away. In your interactions that do not involve officers who are protecting the violator here are a few quick thoughts
The whole key is to remain calm and collected enough to do the thing that protects YOU. And to not allow yourself to be manipulated, intimidated, confused or in any other way pushed into not thinking clearly. It’s fine to be visibly scared…probably even good. But do not be timid or passive and certainly not whiney.
Have a game plan ahead of time for any and all interactions with law enforcement and practice with a trusted friend. Over and over again. I cannot stress this enough.
Keep your cool. If you are calm and collected you will get a better response from law enforcement. Even though you are calm and collected you must stress to the police that you are afraid of the violator. Say it as many times as you need to.
Ask for their card. They are supposed to carry them but they don’t always. If they don’t give you one ask for their name and badge number. Have your witness write it down for you. Do this at the beginning of the exchange, not after. If there is more than one officer, get everyone’s info. Shows them you are serious and creates a little shift of power.
If you can do so without being spotted, record the interaction. I’m not recommending video. Sometimes you turn on the recorder on your phone without being spotted. Police do not like being on video so if you opt to try that, better not get caught. Best to just record. I got very good at hiding a small digital recorder in my bra.
Always have a witness with you who is also calm and doesn’t say anything to the officer unless asked. Basically just observes. If asked to leave by the officer, the witness should refuse with the calm but firm response ‘I’m only here to support my friend. But I’m not leaving.’ Officers many times will work in pairs and one may try to separate your witness from you. Again, the witness should calmly and politely refuse and re-state the position of support.
Let them know that you are aware that if a restraining order is broken the officer is mandated to arrest the violator. You might say something like “Officer Smith, you realize that Mr Brown, my ex-husband, has violated the restraining order. In the order sir you are mandated to arrest him. Are you going to follow the order?” This is all said in again, a calm but assertive manner. Assertive, not aggressive. You want to make the officer feel compelled but not forced. If he says ‘no’. You might say something like..’I’m sorry to hear that Officer Smith. Will you do me the courtesy of calling your Supervisor right now to affirm that you are not making the arrest? If he still refuses just say ‘Thank you for your time. Before you go I’ll need a report number please for my records.” If he’s dumb enough to say no to that you can make a direct call to the police dept and ask for the supervisor on duty. Tell him/her exactly what happened. Again…cool, calm and collected is key. And you have your witness….right???
Our instinct is to obey police officers…especially those of us who are old enough to have been taught that the Police are the ‘good guys’ and should be respected and obeyed. During my ordeal I came across a few good cops and I am very grateful to them for their help. There are a lot of really sincere officers who take their duty to ‘protect and serve’ seriously. But – you must prepare yourself for those who protect and serve the wrong people.
In ALL interactions keep a log of day/time and all details. Have either your witness or a trusted friend help you with that. Make sure you are forwarding all information to your attorney asap.
As a side note I now live in a country with a bad reputation for police corruption. A great deal of it overblown in the US press. I have had one experience of being pulled over when driving alone late at night. The officer wanted to fine me $40 because my windows were too darkly tinted. (He was absolutely right about the windows.) He gave me the option of paying him the fine or going to the 24 hr court to pay. Let’s just say there was no visit to the court, nor did any money change hands. His pride was a little dented but he shook my hand respectfully and with a little smile, wished me a good evening. On to easier targets…LOL For that I thank my ex because without my experiences with his cop friends I would not have the tools to stand up for myself like I do now.