An Indiana police officer was arrested Tuesday night on multiple violent charges, including pepper spraying his wife’s baby.

Charles Edelen, a reserve officer for the Clarksville Police Department, also brandished a gun during the domestic altercation involving his wife and the father of his wife’s child, whom he pepper sprayed along with the infant.

Edelen, who is also a firefighter, was charged aggravated battery, criminal recklessness and domestic battery.

Pepper spray is extremely painful and the effects can last for nearly an hour.  As an adult, the experience is terrifying, so one can only imagine the confusion and horror that it could bring upon an infant with no possible understanding of what is happening or how long it will take to wear off.

In 1993, the US Army did a study on the effects of pepper spray where they noted that pepper spray could cause “[m]utagenic effects, carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity, as well as possible human fatalities”.

Despite this extreme child abuse, the officer is currently free on bond.  He was not charged with child endangerment or any crimes specific to the child abuse.

In April of 2013, Pennsylvania State Trooper Ernest Boatright was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and harassment after he pepper-sprayed his girlfriend’s son, a 14-year-old boy, for being sick and staying home from school to rest in his bed.

In January of this year, a court decided the officer will only be required to complete a six-month accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program before having his record expunged, in yet another case of an officer receiving special treatment, even for heinous crimes.

The National Center for Women and Policing reports that domestic violence is two to four times more common among law enforcement families than American families in general.  The organization points to two studies, indicating that as many as 40 percent of law enforcement families have a problem with domestic violence.

As the National Center for Women and Policing points out, victims of abuse at home by law enforcement are in a very unique situation.

Domestic violence is always a terrible crime, but victims of a police officer are particularly vulnerable because the officer who is abusing them:

  • has a gun,
  • knows the location of battered women’s shelters, and
  • knows how to manipulate the system to avoid penalty and/or shift blame to the victim.

Victims often fear calling the police, because they know the case will be handled by officers who are colleagues and/or friends of their abuser. Victims of police family violence typically fear that the responding officers will side with their abuser and fail to properly investigate or document the crime.

LifeSpan’s Police Domestic Violence Program (known as S.A.B.L.E.) is a unique project that provides specialized counseling, legal, and advocacy services for victims whose abusers are police or other law enforcement personnel. They can be reached online or by calling 1-847-824-4454.