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Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We sadly begin this October with news of the fatal shooting of Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo purportedly as a result of a domestic violence incident. Shock, sadness and disbelief were just a few of the emotions expressed when it was reported that Mayor Daniel Crespo had been shot and killed by his wife and high school sweetheart, Lynette Crespo.

As a retired Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, I know the devastation domestic violence can bring to a family. As a first responder to these types of radio calls, I have witnessed families torn apart, sides chosen and victim denials. As a victim of domestic violence, at the hands of my [then] police officer [now] ex-husband, I know that anyone can become a victim. Domestic violence occurs in affluent homes, poor homes, political homes, and police officer homes.

One thing I can say for sure is that you never know what goes on behind a closed door. According to the Crespo family's lawyer, "the mayor abused his wife for years before she shot him." Conversely, the mayor's brother adamantly denied that assertion, stating, "I never saw any evidence of that."

Often, we hear from the extended family, friends and neighbors this familiar retort: “They seemed like such a loving couple” or “I never saw any signs of trouble in the family”; and “I don’t believe that he/she would do that.” In truth, it is difficult to say what another person will or won’t do. It is difficult to say what “you” will or won’t do; what “you” will or won’t put up with from another person. Unless and until you are facing a situation, you really don’t know how you will respond.

I was a victim of domestic violence. This was something that I only mentioned in dark corners of quiet rooms, if at all. A secret I only shared with my very best and dear friend. A truth I tried to work through before I felt I could go public.

I needed a plan.

I was a victim of domestic violence. This was something that I only mentioned in dark corners of quiet rooms, if at all. A secret I only shared with my very best and dear friend. A truth I tried to work through before I felt I could go public.

I certainly didn’t want my co-workers or supervisors on the LAPD knowing what was really going on in my home. After all, I was a big city cop. It was embarrassing. It was something I could not control. It was something that I did not want to admit existed in my world. The inevitable second-guessing that occurs by voyeurs, the judgment that comes from so-called friends and acquaintances, and the side-eye glances given by those who presume to know more about your situation than you is to be avoided at all costs.

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So, I understand why some may find it hard to believe that a mayor, of all people, would or could have domestic discourse regularly occurring within the family. As an 18-year veteran sergeant, at the time of my personal shame, I had to admit and confess to the LAPD that I had been subjected to emotional and at times physical abuse. People want to know first, "Is it true?" Then they “assume” that it isn’t. Then, they opine that if it were true, you would not stay.

I never told the LAPD about the problems I was having at home. I had no intention of allowing the LAPD to step into my bedroom. The LAPD had been notified by another police department. The police agency which had responded more times than I cared to count to “keep the peace” had finally had enough. When the LAPD discovered that there was indeed a problem in my home, the LAPD immediately ordered my husband to an administrative hearing, called a Board of Rights (BOR).

The LAPD considers domestic violence serious police misconduct. But the LAPD didn’t stop there; the department ordered me to a BOR. I found out that being a VICTIM of domestic violence was also considered “serious police misconduct”. I’m guessing that only in LAPD-land does this happen.

The all-male, white command staff presiding over my Board of Rights hearing expressed their doubts by proclaiming, “Not a mother in the cosmos would stay in a [domestic violence] relationship like that.”

In 1997, as both a victim of domestic violence and a Sergeant II on the LAPD, I was subjected to this capricious and arbitrary disciplinary process. It’s that disciplinary system that has been recently referred to by the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) as “arcane, unfair” and in need of “reform”. It’s that disciplinary system that I talk about in my autobiography, The Creation of a Manifesto: Black & Blue. It’s that disciplinary system that could drive a police officer to act in a way that is totally out of their [normal] character. It's the disciplinary system that LAPD officers, in recent months, are loudly calling unfair. It's the disciplinary system that LAPD Sgt. Jim Parker -- the officer involved in the actress Daniele Parker incident -- said had caused an "inability to sleep."

I fully understand and sympathize with the Crespo family. A domestic violence victim’s decision to stay or go is a private one that requires no commentary. This is a situation that no victim wants to share, detail or defend. It is my hope and prayer that the Crespo family will be afforded the opportunity to, privately, without molestation, grieve, heal, and reflect; each in their own time and space. Hopefully that can happen -- without question and condemnation.

For anyone who finds themselves in an abusive relationship, know that you are not alone, you are not to blame and you should feel no shame. If you are unsure if you are truly being abused, I say, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck -- it's a duck". I encourage you to share your truth, seek assistance and develop an exit strategy.

Fire Cynthia Whitlatch

Cheryl Dorsey