It is a very sad day when a man convicted of domestic battery is allowed to return to office as sheriff. Ross Mirkarimi’s reinstatement has a chilling effect on the domestic violence movement as a whole, and specifically on victim’s/survivors willingness to report the crime.
The message that Mirkarimi’s statement gives is that what he did was “not so bad”. The message communicates some types of domestic violence, although illegal, are tolerable and can be put aside. The message is that if you are politically connected and financially well off, you are above the law. The message for youth and children is that power and success allows you special privileges,
even if you are caught.
Despite his guilty plea to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge stemming from a New Year's Eve dispute with his actress wife, Ross Mirkarimi gets to keep his job.
Four of the 11-member Board of Supervisors voted late Tuesday against upholding official misconduct charges against Sheriff Mirkarimi. A minimum of nine votes were needed to oust him.
Mirkarimi was sentenced to three years of probation and fined. He is undergoing
court-ordered counseling and parenting classes.
In August, the commission voted 4-1 that Mirkarimi committed official misconduct, setting the stage for the supervisors' long-awaited vote. Before the vote, Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser said Mirkarimi committed an act of domestic violence that should not be ignored.
"It wasn't a mistake on Dec. 31. It was a crime, a very serious crime," Kaiser said.
Mirkarimi acknowledged bruising his wife's arm with an “overly firm grip” His wife, Venezuelan actress Eliana Lopez, turned to a neighbor, Ivory Madison, who
later contacted police. Authorities eventually confiscated video Madison had
taken, along with text messages and emails between the two women. The video
shows Lopez tearfully pointing to a bruise on her right bicep, where she said
Mirkarimi had grabbed her.
When Mirkarimi appeared at his Jan. 8swearing-in ceremony with his wife and son, he called the incident a "private matter, a family matter", echoing the sentiment of many current batterers and that of a community from more than forty years ago.
The times have changed and so have the laws… for the better. Ross Mirkarimi’s
reinstatement reflects a step back in time and a rollback of laws to protect
the most vulnerable.
Keeping the Promise: Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence and Holding Batterers Accountable was a study released in 2005 by then Attorney
General, Bill Lockyer. The study stated “Domestic violence victims who receive support services are more likely to be and feel safe, and thus more likely to cooperate with prosecutors. A majority of the prosecutors’ offices in the core counties, however, do not work with community-based victim advocates and agencies that provide such services, preferring instead to work only with their own victim advocates.”
This need for cooperation between victims advocates and law enforcement is especially relevant the sheriff’s department in San Francisco. The current rift is too large and without genuine acknowledgement of the act that he committed, Mirkarimi will not be able to mend the tear between the sheriff’s department and the domestic violence prevention community.