Pilot to address police perpetrated family violence not progressed

Tue 25 Feb 2020

The Lighthouse Project was an initiative to address family violence or "family harm" within police, but the project was not progressed.

Media outlet Stuff reported details about the Lighthouse Project based on a document that Stuff obtained under the Official Information Act. According to the Stuff article, the Lighthouse Project was designed to address "a steady increase in reported family harm incidents involving police" which had come to the attention of police professional conduct staff. Journalist George Block wrote that the project was intended to include training, counselling, support lines, welfare grants and a clear "family harm" policy.

He also cites comments from Kaye Ryan, NZ Police Deputy Chief Executive: People & Capability about the Project, saying that the Lighthouse Project was due to be piloted in Canterbury early in 2019 but was "superseded by district priorities" following the Christchurch attacks on March 15.

The article also includes data on the number of investigations of police officers for family violence allegations.

For further information, NZ Police publishes Professional Conduct Statistics of allegations of police misconduct. The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) is the body responsible for investigating and resolving complaints about the Police. The IPCA publishes Summaries of Police investigations overseen by the IPCA which includes cases related to family violence and sexual violence, including sexual harassment.

Related news

In October 2019, the UK Centre for Women's Justice (CWJ) announced they would be filing a super-complaint related to police perpetrated domestic violence. The UK police super-complaint process was launched in 2018 to allow "... designated organisations to raise issues on behalf of the public about harmful patterns or trends in policing." In May 2019, the UK based Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that had been almost 700 allegations of police perpetrated domestic abuse in a three year period. Less than a quarter resulted in any professional discipline and just 3.9% in England and Wales ended in conviction, compared with 6.2% among the general population. 

Update: CWJ has submitted and published the super-complaint on the Failure to address police perpetrated domestic abuse (2020).

A US-based investigation by a coalition of reporters from more than 30 newsrooms reported similar issues with the handling of police perpetrated family violence. This included high numbers of domestic violence convictions that were pleaded down to nonviolent misdemeanours.

The International Association of Police Chiefs published a Domestic Violence Model Policy in 2018, which includes a section on Domestic Violence by Law Enforcement. They also published a Concepts & Issues Paper on Domestic Violence in April 2019 which includes domestic violence by law enforcement. Previously published documents include Domestic Violence by Police Officers model Policy (2003) and Discussion Paper on IACP's Policy on Domestic Violence by Police Officers (2003).

Research and resources

For more information, see the following:

Officer involved domestic violence: A future of uniform response and transparency (Russell and Pappas in International Journal of Police Science & Management, 2018)

Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence 2nd Edition (Roslin, 2017)

The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence: How It Affects Us All (Roslin, 2016)

Police Responses to Cases of Officer-Involved Domestic Violence: The Effects of a Brief Web-Based Training (Oehme, Prost and Saunders in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 2016)

Hands Up at Home: Militarized Masculinity and Police Officers Who Commit Intimate Partner Abuse (Goodmark, 2015)

When the Batterer Wears a Badge: Regulating Officer-Involved Domestic Violence as a Line-of-Duty Crime (Ávila in American Journal of Criminal Law, 2015)

US National Prevention Toolkit on Officer Involved Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking provides online training to US law enforcement and includes links to policies and resources.

Diane Wetendorf (USA) has written extensively on the issue and published a number of resources including a handbook for victims, an annotated safety plan and a police power and control wheel.

Related media

Victoria Police, minister apologise to domestic violence victim after 'appalling' privacy breach, ABC Radio Melbourne, 17.06.2020

Officer on domestic violence and firearm charges for trial, Otago Daily Times, 13.06.2020

Police rape case: Victim talks of fight through hell as her colleague and attacker is jailed, NZ Herald, 30.04.2020

Police officer who sexually assaulted fellow cop at Northland motel can be named, Stuff, 24.04.2020

Police sex assault trial: Cop found guilty of sex charges, Stuff, 18.03.2020

Queensland police: 84 officers accused of domestic violence in past five years, The Guardian, 02.03.2020

Police officer on trial accused of raping colleague, RNZ, 05.03.2020

Police release findings of bullying review, NZ Police Media Release, 03.03.2020

Police Acknowledge IPCA Findings in Relation to Sexual Assault Investigation, Press Release: New Zealand Police, Scoop, 27.02.2020

The Lighthouse Project & Domestic Violence in Police Ranks w/ Ang Jury: February 21, 2020, 95bFM podcast, 21.02.2020

Senior Dunedin police officer allegedly investigated for firearms violation, family violence, Stuff, 23.12.2019

Police face super-complaint over officers’ domestic abuse scandals [UK], The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 20.10.2019

What if Your Abusive Husband Is a Cop?, The New Yorker, 30.09.2019

Only 10 per cent of police misconduct allegations upheld, Stuff, 21.07.2019

Nowhere to turn: Women say domestic abuse by police officers goes unpunished [UK], The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 01.05.2019

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