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What Law Enforcement Should Know About Narcissists
Police officers are required to be many things. Counselors, judges, mediators, experts in all manner of legal subjects and much more. Their job is difficult. They don't usually show up when something good happens and as a result, many people dislike them. Many police officers are just trying to do their job to the best of their ability. They deal with people who are angry, injured, intoxicated or upset. They are required to make decisions in a very short amount of time and there are times when they have to do this without all the information they'd like to have.
In most situations, things are pretty straitforward. There's been a fight, or a theft or someone's dog has bitten another person and things like that. Maybe the neighbor's stereo is too loud too late at night. It's easy to see what has happened in many situations. But then there are other situations that are not so cut and dried. It is not uncommon for narcissistic people to use law enforcement and the court system to harass and abuse their victims. Because of this, there are some things that police officers should think about before deciding what action they will take.
Usually, if someone says something happened, it did - or something pretty close to it. They may be off on the particulars according to their own perception but it is not usually totally made up. Police officers - like everyone else - generally operate off of the idea that if someone is accusing another person of something, there is probably some truth to it somewhere. Of course, they know people lie and people deny things, but in the general course of things, the truth is not usually that far apart from what is being claimed. However, in the case of narcissistic people this is not correct. Narcissistic people do make things up, and they do it for no other reason that they want to punish the other person.
For example, a police officer who is called to a domestic may be told that one of the parties was the victim of an assault. If they are told by the accused batterer that the supposed victim hit themselves, they are unlikely to believe that, but it does happen - and far more often that people might believe. Law enforcement should not automatically assume that just because something seems unlikely that it isn't true. This is how narcissistic people get away with some very nasty things: they know people will not believe it.
Another problem is assuming that if more than one person is saying something, it's got to be true. This is a known issue with narcissistic people. They often use what are called "flying monkeys" to abuse their targets by proxy. These people are called flying monkeys in reference to the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz that did the bidding of the Wicked Witch. This type of abuse can be very damaging to a person who has actually done nothing wrong, and results in things such as enlisting an entire family or neighborhood or workforce against one person. Law enforcement should be aware of this dynamic, because it is more common than many realize and results in innocent people being harrassed, arrested and even hurt.
Aside from the typical domestic violence indicators that police officers are trained to look for, there are other red flags that law enforcement officers can look for to help them gauge what they are dealing with. If the stories they are getting from the two parties are not even close to similar, that can be a red flag. The perception of narcissistic people is often very different from the perception of others and from reality. And, as stated earlier, often they simply make things up. If one person is categorically denying everything, this can be another red flag. Narcissistic persons often deny everything and are unwilling to admit any wrongdoing at all, no matter how small. It is also the case that they accuse people of things that are not true and in these situations, the victim will deny everything. The truth usually lies between two people's similar yet differently-perceived versions of events. When these perceptions are completely and totally different, something is wrong and should be investigated further.
If one of the parties is reporting that the other party was behaving completely differently before police arrived, this can be a red flag. If one of the parties' emotional affect seems out of proportion to the situation or compared to the other party's emotional affect, either because they are too emotional or not emotional enough, this can be a red flag. Victims of narcisstic abuse may be afraid, confused, reactive, angry, frustrated or resigned because they cannot get any help or get anyone to believe them. They may say things to this effect, such as "What's the point? No one's going to believe me." or "It doesn't matter what I tell you because you won't believe it anyway." They are used to the abuser being seen as the victim.
Other red flags could include many calls about harassment or trespassing geared toward one person, many calls about petty things geared toward one person, if there are calls about outlandish things that just seem overblown or ridiculous, if everyone in a family or group all has the exact same story about one person, if someone is repeatedly calling child protective services, animal control or other authorities about one person... these things should all be cause for pause. The narcissist's specialty is manipulating a situation so that it seems like something other than what it is, but if law enforcement officers can learn to look past the surface of the situation they are dealing with, they can help stop the weaponized use of the legal system against abuse victims.
In the end, law enforcement and the court system can only do what they can do and they can only go by the evidence they are presented with. A police officer's impression of any situation is very important and their word carries a lot of weight. Narcissistic abuse is very real, and it often involves other types of abuse. As officials sworn to protect and serve, we should invite those in law enforcement to educate themselves further on this topic so that they can protect the community from this type of abuser, as often victims have nowhere else to turn.