Think street cops are better trained to deal with sociopathy than the rest of us? Think again. Here are three ways that cops—at least the small town variety I’m most familiar with—can get pulled into aiding a sociopath:
1. Cops are just as likely as anybody else in the world to be charmed by a sociopath on the spot.
In my case, I called for help when my ex threatened to leave my house with our children and not bring them back. At the time, he had also been actively stalking me and threatening my life. The local prosecutor had just sent an “official” letter to him, warning him to stay more than 100 feet away from me (or some similar distance). After our disagreement over his intent to keep our children, my ex wouldn’t leave my front porch. So I stayed inside and called the cops and told them about the letter and asked them to make him leave my property.
Were they charmed by him on the spot? Yes. Two squad cars pulled up to my curb and left their lights flashing for 45 minutes while they chatted and laughed with him on my lawn—all before they came inside to talk to me. And they told me starting off to wait inside. I lived in a nice, quiet neighborhood at the time, so I was horrified by the scene this created in front of my neighbors. I was even more horrified by the fact that my kids were there, experiencing all of this.
But my ex seemed delighted. He shook hands and shared big smiles and made broad gestures with his arms as he socialized in the spotlight. He strolled around my small lawn, laughing with them in the sunlight.
He set up their perspective of our situation. They let him.
2. Cops can be helpful. That means they can be helpful to a sociopath.
When they finally came inside to talk to me, I asked my children to stay upstairs for a moment while we talked. But I didn’t get to do much talking. Because when I showed my copy of the letter I had from the prosecutor (asking my ex to stay away), the cop actually scoffed at me and said that my ex wasn’t dangerous. When I started crying (even though I tried not to), the cop told me to stop being such a “crybaby.”
My ex couldn’t come inside to shame me, so he set up the cop to do it for him.
3. Cops can be seduced into supporting power dynamics that work against victims of violence.
My ex had been abusive toward me on many multiple levels for years and years before I ever left and got my own little house and that letter from the prosecutor, which turned out to be an ineffective, wobbly shield.
The way the story ended that afternoon is that the cops told me to gather my children and get them into the car with their father. Granted, they were in a difficult situation because of the he-said, she-said nature of the whole thing. But instead of choosing to remove him from my property (according to the letter from the prosecutor), they let him stay. They chose to talk to him first and for nearly an hour before talking to me. They allowed themselves to be drawn into his story of why he was lingering there instead of asking him to step away from my property. And then they took it further by supporting his request to leave with our children.
They undermined my sense of safety while putting my ex in charge of the entire situation. They became his believers. They were at his beck and call. They weren’t curious about our history, the letter from the prosecutor, or my own detailing of what was happening at that moment. After talking to him, they didn’t want to hear from me at all. And they felt no obligation to ask.
He was in control of all of us. He used the cops and the entire situation to his advantage.
And with that experience of power to boost him, he pulled away from my house with a smile.
My children watched me through his windows, waving goodbye.
H.G. Beverly is the author of The Other Side of Charm.
This post can also be found on hgbeverly.com.