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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

Dangers of Domestic Violence Calls

Don't discount DV calls as routine. It just takes one to get you killed.

May 23, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

At the scene of a recent domestic violence call, an officer was assisting a woman in retrieving her belongings when her estranged significant other showed up. He shot the officer, who died at the scene.

This is the second such shooting I've read about recently. I'm not saying the officer did anything wrong.

Sometimes, you're just screwed.

But I have been at enough domestics to know that some officers can be a little more lax than they should be.

Exercise Caution

Consider this: There's a reason that you're called to a location. The transition from domestic bliss to domestic violence can take place in the blink of a wandering eye and the person requesting your presence often has some legitimate expectation of getting his or her ass beat. And the person who may inflict such harm might not care who's on the receiving end.

Assuming you've been able to get to the location without having some low-life ambush you, you have the right and the obligation to keep the peace for all involved to the best of your abilities.

To this end, consider the following:

Have at least one backup officer present and keep in eye-line of one another.

If the disturbing party is not currently at the location, but there is a possibility of their imminent return, position yourself where you can optimally:

1) detect their arrival before they know where you are (unfortunately, where you park your patrol car may have some effect on just how they elect to approach the location, so keep this in mind);

2) have cover and concealment available;

3) be able to intervene while minimizing the prospect of friendly fire or crossfire with innocents or other officers.

Maintain Peace and Safety

If the person is on site and you're able to contact them, first determine if there's been a crime involved. Whether or not one has been committed, tell the person you're assisting to keep their mouth shut so they don't provoke the aggressor into going Jerry Springer on their ass, or more importantly, yours.

Conduct a cursory pat-down search of BOTH parties. Considering the nature of circumstances, the omnipresent threat of danger associated with such calls, the understandably agitated frame of mind of the distraught boyfriend/husband/significant other, and the possibility that one/the other/both may have a weapon to launch or prevent an attack, it shouldn't be too hard for you to justify your need for doing so.

Have the disturbing party maintain their distance, both from the person you're trying to assist and yourself.

Keep the disturbing party in sight, in any area that has been subject to a protective sweep and where their hands are apt to be in plain view.

If the disturbing party wishes to leave and is not subject to further detention or arrest, tell him or her that's fine, but not to return to the location while you're there, as they may avail themselves a weapon in the interim.

Personal Experience

I hate domestics, and was wounded while responding to one when an idiot ambushed another deputy and myself with an AK47. Perhaps predictably, the girlfriend we saved—the one who, along with her family, was the object of the suspect's murderous rage in the first place—pissed backward when it came time to go to court and testified on his behalf (he was still sentenced to 160 years).

Personally, I believe that the first time any person becomes a victim of domestic violence, law enforcement officers should do everything in their power to insulate them from any further attack. But the moment they go back to the abusive son of a bitch, then we should be able to wash our hands of them. Professionally we don't have that discretion: We are expected to continually run interference on behalf of these Darwin Award aspirants.

So you will probably find yourself going back to the same location on such calls more than once, occasionally with no lasting effects to show for it.

But remember: Just because a crime hasn't been committed yet, doesn't mean one's not about to happen.

And the victim could be you.


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

knight3218 @ 5/23/2008 11:54 PM

I learned the hard way, that you MUST watch the "Victim", because you never know when they will turn on you.
Since I had the back of my head split by a "victim", that had taken a severe beating prior to my arrival, when I was walking out with the suspect in cuffs, I have a plan.
I already know what I'm going to do to the suspect, if they make a move that I don't like. The person that I watch the most is the "victim", because of the crazy things that some of them have tried in the past. You don't want the "victim" too close to you either, because they will often instigate, or they will come to the rescue of the suspect when you are arresting them, or they go to IA and make a complaint on you.
I know that they have a reason for what they do, but I won't pretend that it's okay to make ME the ultimate victim, when they want to rescue the suspect.
I went to a DV class and that was one thing that they did not explain enough, but I did learn how to help the victims that really Want the help.
Don't get me wrong in what I just said, I HATE DV suspects and want to help the victim, but it burns me up when they turn on the person that they called for help.

David Moore S-55 @ 5/25/2008 6:42 PM

Domestic violence like a really bad horror movie – leaves a trail of victims and some do not recover. But it’s like getting knocked down (Ground is hard but it takes this same hard ground to get back up and move forward). Your advice is most solid and hits to the point...Thanks!!!...”In the 60's Domestics was a whole different ball of wax”...and wives tended to stay for far too long example my own mom...as most did not have jobs and never worked outside homemaker. My dad was a Korean war vet with PTSD and got extremely out of control drunk at least twice weekly or every Friday/Saturday night in go into his violent rages - destruction...No quality family time here. There was justice when he tried to fight the two very large Gloucester Cops who came to the call of his aggravated Assault on my mom Butcher Knife into wooden door frame...He made the mistake of trying to fight these two Police= (1) Dad=0), I have to admit I did smile just a bit he got what he deserved for quite some time a jail stay…We lived with grandparents for two months – while mom was going through divorce.

My father, a Korean War veteran, 6-4, 280 pounds VS mom 5-4, 115 pounds soaking wet. He was Re-living the Korean War via the bottle, highly intoxicated and out-of-control. He was beating my mom while we- (brothers and sister) were trying to pull him off. He tried stabbing my mom with a butcher knife which went through her nightgown into wooden door. The Key factor in DV's is quote –"from knight3218 I went to a DV class and that was one thing that they did not explain enough, but I did learn how to help the victims that really want the help." Like everything in life it has to come from within!

gcarrier @ 6/1/2008 4:50 PM

I've been lucky. In two years of service I've only had two DV assaults. On the first one (ever) the suspect approached me and stated "I'm the one you want, I've been drinking, I beat her up, took her phone and stole her car". Now in my mind (which was racing when I arrived) what is going on this isn't supose to be this easy, but it was the suspect was cuffed, transported and lodged at the county jail. Since then my department has dealt with the victim in that case 8 times for illegal activity.

Second one, the suspect is from Cuba and has 2 names, a normal "American name" and a solid Cuban name. he beat up the mother of his children, I arrive on scene and the suspect confirms the victims story word for word. He was polite and honest, not what I was expecting. The suspect stated at the end of the interview" I want to do whats right, lets go to jail", so to jail he went. According to basic police training this is not the norm.

I recently attended an updated DV class. I have learned some things, like get back up before you arrive on scene and If you have a Lesbian Prosecuter teaching the class you will find the male is always the violator and the woman is always the victim.

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