Domestic violence injunctions, more commonly known as restraining orders, also don’t keep guns away from abusive officers in Milwaukee — and don’t always lead to department discipline.
Most people with restraining orders against them lose the right to possess firearms. But the Milwaukee Police Department allows officers in that situation to “check out” their duty weapons at the beginning of each shift and return them afterward.
That is a constant source of stress for Jill Glidewell, who recently divorced Milwaukee police Detective Herb Glidewell.
“He said if I ever told the things he’d done, I’d disappear,” she told the Journal Sentinel.
Nonetheless, she testified in an attempt to get a restraining order against him, detailing abuse dating back to 2006.
Milwaukee County Court Commissioner Dean B. Zemel granted the restraining order based on an incident that occurred Nov. 1, 2008, in which Jill Glidewell — a police officer herself — ended up with a damaged rotator cuff.
The week before, she had told her husband she was pregnant with their second child.
“He viciously attacked me while I was in bed,” she testified later. “He got on top of me. With all his weight, he was picking me up and slamming me down as hard as he could on the bed, over and over, more than 10 times. I was screaming for him to stop and get off of me. That it was hurting me. “
She grabbed the phone, but he yanked it out of her hand and started beating the barking dog with it, she said. Taking the dog and her baby daughter, she drove to the District 6 police station, barefoot, at 3 a.m.
Herb Glidewell appealed the commissioner’s decision to grant the restraining order. He denied wrongdoing at a hearing before Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Francis T. Wasielewski, according to court transcripts.
“We argued often, yes,” Herb Glidewell testified. “And I’m sure on all those dates, we probably did have disputes; but never, at one point, ever, was it physical. I’ve never harmed her, never touched her, hit her, pushed her, any of those things.”
At the end of a two-day hearing, Wasielewski, who has since retired, left the restraining order in place. It is in effect until 2013. He based his decision on medical records, which showed Jill Glidewell sought treatment for the shoulder injury and told her doctor it was the result of domestic violence, the transcripts say.
Herb Glidewell is among seven police officers who have had restraining orders imposed against them by a commissioner. Of those, three orders were later dismissed — two by the women and one by a judge when the woman didn’t show up at an appeal hearing.
In another 11 cases, officers’ spouses or romantic partners filed for restraining orders that were not granted by a commissioner in the first place, either because there was not enough evidence or because those who filed for them did not follow through with the cases. One was later granted by a judge after the victim appealed.
But Herb Glidewell’s attorney, Barry Book, characterized the burden of proof for restraining orders as extremely low. In the Glidewell case, the law allowed the commissioner and the judge to “err on the side of caution,” he said.
Book said the timing of the application for the restraining order was suspect, since his client was served with it the same day he signed away his rights to the couple’s house in a pending divorce.
Jill Glidewell says she would have done it sooner, but he was out of town. He wanted his name off the house because he already offered to purchase another one, she said. Property records back up her assertion, showing Herb Glidewell closed on a new house five days later.
The attorney also questioned Jill Glidewell’s continued assertions of abuse, saying he suspected she was using them as ammunition in a contentious custody battle.
“I do think there are some extenuating circumstances in this particular case that call Ms. Glidewell’s credibility into question,” Book said. “The divorce proceedings lasted about 2½ years. It was very acrimonious from the beginning.”
Nearly two months before she sought the restraining order, Jill Glidewell discussed her then-husband’s abusiveness with internal affairs, alleging the same mistreatment she testified about in court.
After an investigation, the Police Department referred the case to the district attorney’s office. Local prosecutors often review cases against Milwaukee police officers themselves. But in this case, they asked Chris Freeman, then a Dane County assistant district attorney, to serve as a special prosecutor.
“The Glidewell case was referred to Dane County due to the appearance of a conflict, although to our knowledge, no actual conflict existed,” Lovern’s written statement says. It does not say what the perceived conflict was.
In a letter to the department, Freeman, who has since been promoted to deputy DA, said “three major incidents stood out as strongest for charging.” One was the episode in which Jill Glidewell’s shoulder was injured. In another, Herb Glidewell grabbed her by the throat and pushed her into a wall, Jill Glidewell said. The third “was an incident in which Herb Glidewell started a fire on a grill in front of the residence while he was intoxicated,” Freeman’s letter says. “The fire raged to such a degree that the wheels of the grill melted into the pavement.”
To corroborate her statements, Jill Glidewell provided the medical records regarding her shoulder, as well as pictures of redness on her neck and of the melted grill.
Freeman did not charge Herb Glidewell with a crime.
“The reason for the lack of charges does not stem from the belief that these events did not occur as Jill Glidewell describes, but that I do believe based on the entirety of the record and reports that this case could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” Freeman wrote in the letter, which explained his decision to the Police Department.
Herb Glidewell was not disciplined, and his personnel record remains spotless.
His ex-wife is frustrated that he hasn’t been held accountable.
“He told me, ‘If you ever leave me or try to fight me, I’ll ruin you,’ ” she said. “Criminals are afforded the right to a fair and speedy trial. Why aren’t victims of domestic violence?”
Herb Glidewell primarily works burglaries and robberies, according to Book. He carries his gun while on duty. If the department ever asked Glidewell to work domestic violence cases, his attorney said that wouldn’t be a problem.
“I think he is able to separate his personal situation from his professional obligations,” Book said. “I have no question in my mind that if he were to investigate a domestic violence case he would do the right thing. If he had to put a dad under arrest, he would do it.”
Jill Glidewell said she has never feared a suspect as much as she fears her ex-husband.
“This is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done,” she said of leaving him. “I live in fear every day that someone is going to shoot up my house.”
Police departments that give abusive officers access to their guns need to be aware of that possibility, according to Thomas, of Johns Hopkins.
“People think you go on duty and all of the sudden there’s a protective shield around you and you’re not going to do anything stupid anymore? It’s just ignorant,” he said.