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Behind Closed Doors

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 26 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2002 Pages: 46-51
Gerald W. Garner
Date Published
May 2002
6 pages
This article discusses police strategies for handling domestic violence calls.
Annual FBI statistics show that domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous for peace officers to handle. All peace officers should learn the tactics and techniques necessary to handle these calls in a safe and effective manner. Peace officers should learn as much as possible about the situation before arriving on the scene and while on the call. Peace officers should ask if weapons were used, how many participants were at the scene, and whether the offender has fled. Peace officers should also rely on their own observations of the scene to determine the safety of the situation. Peace officers should try to keep the element of surprise in a domestic violence call. The officer should arrive quietly and approach from an unexpected route. In addition, officers should never handle domestic violence calls alone. Additional officers should be used as “lifeguards.” Peace officers answering domestic violence calls should remain aware of their environment. They should keep a safe reaction distance between them and other parties, and they should watch for sudden changes in the people involved in the situation. Peace officers should keep participants to a domestic violence investigation separate. Because of the charged atmosphere, parties close to each other can start fighting again. In addition, peace officers should keep close track of their weapon and search participants for weapons. If the peace officer needs to complete a report following the call, the officer should leave the area before writing the report. By staying in the neighborhood, the officer risks an encounter with an involved but not arrested participant, which can lead to more violence. Upon leaving the scene, the officer should evaluate the encounter and determine how to improve performance in a similar situation. A domestic violence call can be a mental and emotional burden for an officer, and officers should recognize their feelings of outrage towards the offender, and their frustration and sympathy as normal reactions.