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Although it’s a great way to get press, most of the people talking about the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal don’t really care about domestic abuse. Recent coverage might lead you to believe that the NFL is the worst offender when it comes to violence against women. Unfortunately, the facts tell a different story. Consider:

The average person is twice as likely to commit domestic violence than an NFL player. And a cop is two to four times more likely to commit domestic violence than the average person. And yet, when it comes time to sound the alarm, our senators unite to speak out against the NFL:

Our celebrities are held to higher standards than our law enforcement officers. 

Originally, this article was going to explore how police officers use their powers against women. I had seen a video, taken last year, showing an off duty cop arresting a woman at a bar who had rejected his advances.  It made me question how often incidents like that happened. I already knew of many examples of illegal body cavity searches, and I wanted to point out how:

According to the Cato Institute, more than 9 percent of reports of police misconduct in 2010 involved sexual abuse, making it the second-most reported form of misconduct, after the use of excessive force.

But while working on the article, I just could not escape coverage of the Ray Rice story. It had gotten so ridiculous, 16 female senators wrote to the NFL about the situation.  There was even talk about congressional hearings:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said congressional hearings could be the next step in finding out how the NFL investigated and responded to shocking video footage that showed the former Baltimore Ravens running back knocking out his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator.

The rhetoric included a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence:

We are deeply concerned that the NFL’s new policy, announced last month, would allow a player to commit a violent act against a woman and return after a short suspension. If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL.

And yet, the idea that senators were worried about the NFL’s policies seemed ridiculous. If they held police to the same standards they expected of football players, this country would be a much better place.

The Right Police, the Wrong Target

The senators were right about one thing: the idea that someone can commit a crime, then return to their job after a short suspension, is troubling. And yet, that is exactly what happens in police forces around the country.

One of the most problematic forces has been the Albuquerque Police Department. Due to the number of complaints it received, the Department of Justice launched an investigation against them that:

…reviewed 20 fatal shootings by Albuquerque Police between 2009 and 2013 and found that in the majority of cases the level of force used was not justified because the person killed by police did not present a threat to police officers or the public. The DOJ also reviewed the use of nonlethal force involving significant harm or injury to people by APD officers and found a similar pattern of excessive force by officers against people who posed no threat and was not justified by the circumstances.

The officers involved in these incidents were known. And yet, many of them remain on the job. Why? According to APD Police Chief Eden, “we are stuck with them”:

 He would not tell the newspaper how many officers were unfit to wear the APD badge or what they had done to deserve termination.The chief said firing officers for things they had done in the past would likely be impossible because of provisions in the police union’s contract.

If senators are troubled that you can “act against a woman and return after a short suspension,” how about officers who use unjustified force to kill members of their community and are impossible to fire? If they are troubled by the actions of one man against one woman, how do they feel about an armed force acting against an entire community?

The Power of  Unions

Despite the evidence against him, the NFL player’s union is attempting to help Ray Rice keep his job by appealing the suspension:

The NFLPA appeal is based on supporting facts that reveal a lack of a fair and impartial process, including the role of the office of the Commissioner of the NFL.

That’s what unions do. But, unlike police unions, the NFLP has no real political power. That’s why senators are quick to appear on camera to denounce Ray Rice and the NFL. They are perfect targets. High profile. Indefensible. And politically irrelevant.

Police unions are another story. They have political power. They have influence. They  make donations. They give endorsements. And they can swing elections in hotly contested races. In short, they can fight back.

That’s why we live in a society where we hold our celebrities to account and let our government officials slide.

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