Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Domestic abuse by officers is just another hidden police problem

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Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Generally speaking, we like Police Chief Michael Harrison and the NOPD. We think Chief Harrison is at least trying to do a good job within the budget and directives set by Mayor Landrieu. But there are serious neglect-of-duty and abuse-of-power issues hovering over the NOPD including yesterday’s City Council dialogue on the mishandling of sex-crime and child-abuse cases.

It is unfortunate that Chief Harrison did not address this problem before being forced to do so by a scathing report from IG Ed Quatrevaux. Even though Deputy Chief Arlinda Westbrook complied some frightening statistics that found wide-ranging administrative policy violations, no officer has been disciplined in the seven months since Quatrevaux’s initial report because of the prevailing good-old-boys network inside the NOPD where they protect their own.

Once Westbrook has this mess better under control, perhaps she could turn her attention to another hidden problem – the abuse of power by police officers against their ex-wives which also hurts their minor children.

Just think for a moment about the culture of the NOPD and other policing agencies and the roles they are charged to fulfill every day. These are most often tough, no-holds-barred men and women. But batterers among them can use tactics of control they have acquired through professional training and experience, including exaggerated forms of verbal, psychological and physical abuse.

WWL-TV recently aired a story about two ex-wives of NOPD officers — Lesley St. Germain and Christina Ballard — who claimed that their former husbands used their positions as NOPD officers to harass and intimidate them. WWL reported that multiple NOPD ex-wives contacted them regarding difficulty having their voices heard in domestic court cases.

Evidence shows that NOPD ex-wives can be sued or even arrested on trumped-up charges when their former husbands work the courts and judicial system to their advantage.

No one knows the extent to which police officers abuse their wives or intimate partners, according to author Diane Wetendorf, a 30-year advocate who pioneered the field of police officers involved in domestic violence.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police states the rate of officer-involved domestic violence “is calculated to be at least as common as that of the general population.” Though there has been little research in the prevalence of officer-involved domestic violence, in one study 40 percent of police officers self-reported having been violent toward their spouse or children, according to Wetendorf. In another, 28 percent indicated they had behaved violently toward their spouse. Regardless of the statistics, any rate of domestic violence involving police officers should be considered unacceptable, Wetendorf said.

At least one of the local ex-wives has approached Chief Harrison for a meeting. It has yet to be scheduled. Perhaps domestic violence prevention advocates can persuade the City Council to take up the issue soon.


Today is the 96th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. When you consider the composition of our own City Council with a majority of four women members, the women-lead majority at our Civil District Court, the Honorable Bernette Joshua Johnson as Chief Justice of Louisiana’s Supreme Court, or even presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, it’s easy to see its far-reaching effects.

The legislation’s passing came after decades of hard work and struggle by hundreds of women suffragettes and their male supporters. Today women elected officials are a fact of life and play prominent roles in city, state and federal government. Though New Orleans has yet to elect a female mayor (please recall that Councilmember Nadine Ramsey previously ran for mayor against C. Ray Nagin), Councilmember Latoya Cantrell or even Councilmember At Large Stacy Head could change that.

In a new poll released yesterday by former New Orleanian and mayoral candidate Ron Faucheux, President of the Washington D.C. based Clarus Research Group, Hillary Clinton still tops all Republican candidates among voters nationwide. (Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy on June 24 in New Orleans, was not included in the poll.)

While these numbers are sure to fluctuate over time, Faucheux says, the poll shows that Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker run closest to Clinton while Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz run rather behind. Bush and Cruz (let alone Jindal, Huckabee, Christie and Fiorina) will have to make some tough decisions regarding electability as the campaigns ramp up during the summer.

Clinton only loses 7 percent of Democrats to Bush while he loses 16% or Republicans to her. Both Bush and Rubio beat Clinton among Independents. While we certainly don’t want to discount the prospects of any other Democratic contenders like Gov. Martin O’Malley and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, chances are Clinton will be that party’s nominee.

One of Danae’s deceased parents’ most prized possessions was the invitation they received to President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Regardless of the weather on election day, our parents always voted. We prefer to early vote, in part because of potential unforeseen distractions on Election Day. We also applaud an effort to expand “voting rights” by Hillary Clinton who is calling for increasing the number of early voting days to 20 in all states. This move would be beneficial to Democrats, Independents and Republicans.


The race for Louisiana’s next governor and America’s next president will be shaped in part by dollars contributed not just to political campaigns but also to political action committees. A new poll released yesterday by the New York Times showed that 84% of Americans think money has too much influence in American political campaigns. A whopping 85% of respondents also said the system of funding political campaigns should have major changes or be completely rebuilt. Furthermore, the poll revealed that 66% felt that the wealthy have more influence over the election process. Even with these kinds of numbers, true campaign finance reform could be decades away.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

One thought on “Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Domestic abuse by officers is just another hidden police problem

  1. I hope you can keep up the pressure by keeping this the public. it has been going on for a long time and the last Cheif knew about it. Abuse can be in many forms and worse when children are involved. There is a desire to control and intimidate the ex spouse. Even physical abuse when the police were called and the first cop to arrive was the head of the police union. The report did not even have the name of the polieman whom the complaint was filed. No witnesses were ever interviewed. It disappeared.I wrote the City Council person of my district Stacy Head and Jackie Clarkson, as well as our Mayor. The silence to my letters was defining. I am sorry that Harrison has not agreed to a meeting. I have no faith in the present CityCouncil who are too important to even return a phone call. My daughter’s problems have been gong on for 10 years and the hurt just continues.. .

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