The Troopergate fiasco has turned into yet another partisan discussion about Palin’s fitness to serve on the basis of her general leadership style. While I agree that questions about the way she leads, her hiring and firing decisions, and her behavior with members of the cabinet and public servants in general is critical to assessing her overall fitness, one thing seems to be consistently sacrificed in this story: the opportunity to address Domestic and Sexual Violence. Since this is Domestic Violence month, and since Troopergate proves an ideal case to open discussion of DSV and policing and state and national leadership around ending DSV, I think its time we reframe and refocus the discussion onto the impact of Palin’s decisions on women living with or surviving abuse.
In an interview with Local Alaska News outlets, Palin claimed she had
“been cleared of any wrongdoing”
repeatedly, despite the fact the report found her
“Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.11(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.”
The McCain camp is also continuing to float the idea that the investigation was a
despite the fact that the board is overwhelmingly Republican. There are 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats on the board; they voted unanimously to investigate and unanimously to release the findings. If the Board is partisan than the party they would be
aligned with would be Palin’s own.
While I personally think any police officer/state trooper who tasers his own children should be removed from service on the basis of both abuse and the use of police issued weapons outside of his duties this is unfortunately not the law. I also agree with one of Palin’s early comments that we should be able to remove people from state policing who are guilty of abuse. (You’ll note Palin embraces the disconnect between legal guilty and ethical guilt when it benefits her but not when it does the same for others.)
Unfortunately, instead of using her considerable base of power to work to change the law, Palin used that power to punish a supervisor who was following existing law. The problem here is two-fold:
- Abuse of power – a pattern in her administration
- the failure to represent and protect all Alaskans – resulting in the failure to protect women experiencing abuse in the long run
I’ve already written about the former, so let’s focus on failure to protect and serve. Had Palin worked with her cabinet to change the law governing police misconduct in Alaska to include issues of Domestic violence instead of threatening and ultimately firing a supervisor guilty of neither violating the law or DSV, she would have:
- paved the way for legally removing her brother-in-law from his position – which her threats ultimately did not do (he still works there)
- set legal precedent for removing police officers from duty for DSV
Using her power for legal and rational means then would have meant that women experiencing DSV in Alaska, the state with
one of the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence in the US, would have been safer for multiple reasons:
- DSV calls would not be being taken by police officers with potential records of abuse themselves – research shows that abusive police/lawyers/judges/caseworkers make DSV calls worse for women not better
- the abuse record of Palin’s ex-brother-in-law would have been public from the outset, ensuring that he would not be able to tazer other women’s children (or any other activities we still don’t know about) with the ease he could have prior to Palin’s White House VP bid
- the police would not have closed ranks against the Governor over the firing of Monegan ensuring better cooperation between the “rank and file” police and the Governor’s Office on any policing issues including a DSV Taskforce (which she could have implemented or strengthened as part of her plan)
- Could have led to a stronger stance on use of force on and off the job in general – creating or bolstering an atmosphere of respect that one should expect from “community policing” rather than antagonism which often comes from police forces riddled with corruption or consistent use of excessive force (it is unclear what type of policing they have in Alaska, the pt. is about inculcating or further supporting a culture of cooperation over one of violence)
A non-personal approach would have also ultimately impacted the safety of all N. American women by giving us case law to refer to in trying to remove police officers from their positions for DSV outside of Alaska as well as statistics showing the impact of an anti-DSV policy on policing. Even more important, since Alaska is the site of such high DSV incidents, had this kind of law and supporting Task Force been created and shown dramatic impact, it would make it all the more possible to make this a uniform policy across the nation.
Palin could be running on a platform of actual reform and support for women in DSV, instead of looking like she is using DSV “allegations” to get out of a modus operandi in her administration of firing people who disagree with her.
Since October is Domestic Violence Month, I wish more people were approaching the Troopergate issue from a feminist perspective that critically unpacks the real issue of Domestic Violence in the Palin case, the police force, and our culture and what Palin’s myopic and self-serving leadership style has done to undermine women’s safety rather than support it. This is not a partisan statement, it is a feminist one.
- You can listen to the full interview and read full transcripts here
- htp to Mudflats which runs alot of posts about Palin. Read the piece here.
- Grapevine Texas Police PSA Campaign Against DSV
- graphic unattributed
- San Antonio protest against police beating from The Minority Advocate
- Officer Friendly visit to Palentine Illinois Middle School unattributed