The caller’s number was unknown, but the voice coming from Nancy's* cell phone was very familiar. It belonged to Tim Gallick, an estranged boyfriend who had beaten her during a domestic dispute, leaving her with bruises and a concussion. According to her police statement, when Nancy dialed 911, Gallick demanded her phone, then grabbed a gun and fired a shot into the back wall of his house in Lancaster, California.
Gallick was arrested, but quickly released. In most cases of this kind, a threatening phone call would result in another arrest. Yet he remains free, and armed – the latter fact demonstrated by a shapchat message Nancy received in which Gallick displayed a gun. That ephemeral contact left no record – but it did make an impression.
“I am very much in fear for my life,” Nancy told me. “He is a violent, possessive man who has repeatedly threatened me, and the police are more concerned about his professional standing than my safety.”
Despite being arrested on a domestic violence charge involving assault with a deadly weapon, and his blatant violation of a protection order, Tim Gallick remains armed and at large because he is a traffic enforcement officer with the LAPD.
“When I’ve spoken with police investigators, they always bring up the damage that this situation could do to Tim’s career,” Nancy relates. “They seem to think that I should be concerned about whether or not his career will survive. I’m much more worried about whether I will survive.”
“He’s being given special treatment,” she complains, “and I’m being treated like a criminal. In any other domestic case they wouldn’t be investigating the victim.”
Some might suggest that the behavior Nancy describes might reflect the pressures of Gallick’s job. However, writing traffic tickets is not the kind of activity that generally results in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other deep-seated emotional problems. In his very comfortable 18-year career, Gallick’s most notable accomplishment so far was his participation in a traffic enforcement sting near the campus of California State University, Northridge.
“I have friends and relatives in law enforcement, and they think it’s ridiculous that Tim would be acting out of job-related stress,” Nancy reports. “He’s a motorcycle cop who writes tickets, not a homicide investigator. I think his problems have nothing to do with the dangers and anxieties of his job – but his job is why he has become such a threat to me.”
Any situation involving domestic violence poses potentially lethal dangers to the victim – but to whom does the victim turn when the abuser is someone supposedly sworn to “serve and protect” the public?
Women who are married to, or in a relationship with, police officers are twice as likely to become victims of domestic violence than are the rest of the female population. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that police are trained and licensed to commit aggressive violence and to treat non-submission as an offense worthy of summary punishment. Individuals in the professional habit of commanding others and using “pain compliance” to overcome resistance will often display the same inclinations in their personal affairs.
The conceit of “qualified immunity” and the tribal loyalty of those who constitute the “Blue Wall” greatly amplify the danger to the victim if she seeks protection from the police. When police officers threaten, beat, or otherwise abuse a wife or girlfriend, the first instinct of his fellow officers is to protect one oftheir own and preserve his professional viability, rather than objectively investigating the allegations and taking necessary action to protect a victim from further harm.
“Since the earliest days of law enforcement, domestic violence in police families was considered an officer’s personal business, one of those private realms into which departmental administrators chose not to involve themselves,” retired Chicago PD Homicide Lt. Dennis Banahan told Police Magazine. “Their attitude was that unless the problem affected an officer’s job performance, they’d prefer to ignore it. Whatever happened behind closed doors remained private. Since a large part of a cop’s M.O. is to maintain a game face, personal problems were considered just more of what we were expected to suck up and keep hidden.”
“Police officers have always prided themselves on their ability to keep secrets within the law enforcement family,” acknowledged the publication in a rare and welcome display of candor. “That’s the case in some departments to this day…. [N]o incident was more likely to bring down the Blue Wall or trigger the Code of Silence than a cop who beat his wife. Nor did agencies want to get involved.”
Damage control, rather than prosecution or protection of the victim, has long been the chief priority of police in dealing with domestic violence incidents. According to Branahan, the first officers on the scene “were expected to be the primary spin doctors.”
Witnesses other than the victim and the offender would be removed from the scene. The victim – assuming she survived – would be separated from the abuser, not for her protection, but to isolate her and make her more vulnerable to manipulation.
“She’d be told that an arrest would serve no one’s best interest, and would absolutely jeopardize the officer’s job, thereby threatening the family’s security,” Branahan explained. “In effect, that’s telling a bleeding victim, `Hey, sorry about the broken arm and that your nose will never be the same again, but drop a dime on this guy and you’ll all be in the welfare line tomorrow.’”
In effect, the woman and any children are being blackmailed into protecting the interests of an abusive cop – sacrificing their personal security to protect the abuser’s job security.
Destruction or falsification of evidence is also quite commonplace in police-related domestic violence cases. Early in his career with the Chicago PD, Branahan was given specialized instruction regarding the handling of domestic violence cases involving his comrades. The most common method of official obstruction “was failure to file an official report, followed by withholding information from the victims.”
In addition to the "professional courtesy" extended by police to others in the fraternity of official coercion, abusive cops can usually exploit the deference extended by most citizens. In tracking down his estranged wife, Milwaukee officer Robert Velez used department resources to find that she had checked into a hotel in the Exel Inn chain. After he arrived at one location, Velez flashed his badge and claimed to be undercover looking for a criminal suspect; the clerk was able to locate the woman in a room at the chain's Oak Creek location.
The wife had advised the hotel staff that she did not want to be contacted by her husband. Nonetheless, when Velez arrived he brow-beat a clerk into taking him to the room and threatening to use the master key if his wife didn't open the door. Once inside, he punched his wife and assaulted her paramour, threatening to kill him. Originally charged with offenses that could have resulted in more than five years in prison and being barred from owning a gun, Velez was "punished" by a six-day suspension.
Nancy, who has no intention of marrying Gallick, lives in a different city -- but is very aware that this may avail little in terms of protection. She told the police that she had been trying to find some way “to end the relationship safely." She is in significant peril if Gallick’s colleagues succeed in making this case disappear -- leaving him free to continue his career as an armed revenue farmer, and Nancy in fear for her life.
Seattle resident Darrion Holiwell, a deputy with the King County Sheriff’s Office, has been charged with several offenses, including domestic violence, using his estranged second wife as a prostitute, stealing ammunition from the department, and providing his colleagues on the local SWAT team with illegal steroids.
His wife and ex-wife are understandably fearful of him – but both Holiwell and his “gang” – his preferred description of the SWAT team – pose an acute threat to the public at large, as well.
"The defendant has been violating the law and the public trust for years,” insists the indictment against Holiwell. The document goes on to state that there are “significant concerns for the safety of the community and the many witnesses who have cooperated in the investigation and whose identities will be revealed." The indictment also alleges that "Both [Holiwell's] current wife and former wife reported to investigators concerning acts of physical violence, assaults, and violent behavior ... that went unreported and are now outside the Statute of Limitations."
Holiwell, who was arrested and given $155,000 bond, was tipped off before his colleagues took him into custody. A text message recovered from his iPhone indicates that he is planning to retaliate against his enemies: "Sh*t storm is coming.... I got something for there [sic] asses. Hang on, it's about to get real."
Prostitution and drug use are vices, rather than crimes, of course -- but it shouldn't be forgotten that most SWAT deployments originate in efforts to treat those behaviors as if they were criminal. Holiwell, who has been a King County Deputy since 1995, was surely being paid enough to live comfortably. In addition to his tax-derived salary, Holiwell owned a firearms training company called Praetor. Yet according to Sheriff John Urquhart, his deputy pimped out his wife and started retailing steroids because he "needed the money" following an injury that cut into his overtime pay.
In a television interview several years ago, Holiwell described the King County SWAT team as a “gang”: “Bad guys, we’re a gang, too…. As soon as they unleash us, go hide; guaranteed, we’re coming to get you."
Sheriff Urquhart admits that his SWAT team, which is deployed, on average, about twice a week, is compromised. Yet the sheriff insists that Holiwell’s government-licensed gang will be “operating as normal” until the investigation is completed.
If he were at all concerned about the safety of the public he is sworn to protect, Urquhart would take immediate action to disband the gang, rather than keeping it together. In keeping with the well-established priorities of Urquhart’s profession, protecting the public – including victims of domestic abuse by a cop – comes a distant second to concern about the continued professional viability of the abuser’s comrades.
*The woman's name has been changed for the purposes of this story.
*The woman's name has been changed for the purposes of this story.
Dum spiro, pugno!