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Learning Unit 4 - Police as First Responders-CRJ 461
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Learning Unit 4 - Police as First Responders-CRJ 461


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  • 1. Police as First Responders to Domestic Violence
    Learning Unit 4
    A mini content lecture designed as a supplemental learning resource for CRJ 461 by Bonnie Black.
  • 2. Prior to 1980
    Arrests on misdemeanors, only if committed in officer's presence.
    Domestic violence considered civil matter NOT criminal .
    Result: Few Arrests
  • 3. Historically: Police Mediated D.V. Situations
    Defuse conflict
    Suggest husband or boyfriend “cool off”
    Encourage one party to leave or take a walk
    Viewed as marital dispute -- family issue
    Victim blaming common
    Repetitive calls resulted in frustration
    Lax or non-existent police policies on D.V.
    Crisis Intervention
  • 4. Practice of Mediation Ends in Early 1980’s
    Push for greater accountability and punishment
    Recognize need to limit police discretion
    Emphasis on deterrence
    Police not qualified to mediate
    Didn’t stop the abuse; police continue to go to same homes over and over
  • 5. Push for Change
    Feminist Rallied for New Legislation
    Built Momentum
    Victims United
    Key Lawsuits Against Law Enforcement
    1979- Sorichetti v. City of New York
    1984-Thurman v. Torrington
  • 6. Police Held Liable
    1979 - Sorichetti v. City of New York
    Suit filed after “father attacked daughter with a fork, knife and screwdriver; then tried to saw off her leg” during visitation
    • Ruling: “Police failed to investigate reports daughter had not returned from visit with father” with a protective order in place.
    Award: $2 Million
    Source: “Insult to Injury” by Linda G. Mills, p. 36-7.
  • 7. Police Held Liable
    1984 – Thurman v. Torrington
    Suit filed after police failed to arrest after he violated probation terms and a protective order. A delayed response by police to a call by the victim resulted in her being stabbed repeatedly and severely injured.
    • Ruling: Police repeated failure to intervene and arrest violated Constitutional rights; proved police department treated intimate violence different than stranger violence.
    Award: $2.9 Million
    Source: “Insult to Injury” by Linda G. Mills, p. 37.
  • 8. Mandatory and Pro-Arrest Policies Are Implemented
    Attempt to create consistency in response.
    Attempt to counter frustrations about D.V.
    Based on deterrent approach.
    Victim is no longer responsible for arrest decision.
    Does it work?
  • 9. New Laws Don’t Always Change Attitudes and Actions
    Discretion still exists.
    Repeated calls to same house continue.
    Primary aggressor determination is difficult.
    Led to “Dual Arrests.”
    Police arrest both parties
    Revictimization of victim occurs
    Fosters belief D.V. is a marital issue
    Allows abuser to blame victim and avoid responsibility
    Another Issue: Most victims don’t call the police!
  • 10. Police Justify Dual Arrest
    “I arrested them both to teach them a lesson. I am tired of going back to that house over and over again.”
    “If I arrest both of them, then the victim can get some help.”
  • 11. Why Victims Don’t Call the Police
    Victims fear retaliation
    Believe police won’t do anything
    Cultural norms:
    see family issues as private
    Brings shame to whole family to reveal secrets
    May be illegal immigrant or have a warrant
    Loss related to income or child custody
    Acceptability of violence as normal
    Negative past experiences with the police
    Decision making is impaired because of abuse (PTSD)
  • 12. Think About It!
    Should victims retain some control in whether their partner should be arrested?
    How important is victim empowerment in the criminal justice process?
  • 13. Police Training on D.V. is Added
    Required in academy for new recruits.
    Encouraged as continuing education for officers; in some jurisdictions it is mandatory.
    Victim advocates and survivors participate or have a voice in officer training bringing in new perspective.
  • 14. Training Focus
    Role in Victim Safety
    Understand D.V. and Victim Dynamics to Counter Frustration
    Collection of Evidence and the Importance of Documentation
    Define and Clarify D.V. Laws and Changes that have Occurred
  • 15. Think About It!
    Should 911 operators also get training on D.V.?
    “Operator: What is your emergency?
    Maria: I was just – I have a restraining order on my husband and he just threatened me. ‘I’m coming over there with a .35, some kind of gun, and shooting everybody.’ I am having a party and it’s my birthday….
    Operator: But he hasn’t come over there?
    Maria: No, he hasn’t.
    Operator: But he’s just threatening to do so?
    Maria: Yes, I am sure he will.
    Operator: Okay, well the only thing to do is just call us if he comes over there. I mean, what can I do? We can’t have a unit sit there and wait to see if he comes over?
    Maria: Oh, my God.
    Operator: So if he comes over, don’t let him in. Then call us.
    Maria: Thank you.”
    Example Source: “The Criminal Justice Response to Criminal
    Justice” by Andrew Klein, Thomson Wadsworth, 2004.
  • 16. Outcome
    “A short time later, the husband scaled a back wall into the yard, crashed through the back door of the tiny house….shooting. When the shooting was over, Maria and three others were dead and others seriously wounded. The husband fled to his father’s house…..surrendered to police.”
    Lawsuit: Fajardo v Los Angeles
    Think About It!
    With training, what could have the 911 operator done differently or was it an appropriate response?
  • 17. Community Policing Emerges
    1. Changes police role from crime fighter to problem solver.
    2. Focus on non-crime problems and resolutions.
    3. Greater reliance on community resources.
    D. V. no longer just about arrest.
  • 18. New Laws Empower Police
    State Level: Laws expand with greater consequences
    Federal Level: Violence Against Women Act (V.A.W.A.)
    September 13, 1994
    Part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994
    Created New Crimes: Sexual Assault, Stalking. D.V.
    Protections for Victims
    Funding for Training and Victim Services
  • 19. Discretion Influences Actions
    The authority to decide
    Despite policy changes, police attitudes, frustrations and lack of understanding about D. V. influences discretion.
    Ingredients of Discretion:
  • 20. Factors NOT Relevant to Arrest Decision
    • Claim by accused victim provoked or perpetuated violence.
    • 21. Verbal assurances violence will stop.
    • 22. Denial by either party abuse occurred when evidence exists.
    • 23. Speculation victim will NOT follow through or cooperate with criminal prosecution.
  • 24. Factors NOT Relevant to Arrest Decision
    Victim’s statement they don’t want their partner arrested.
    Disposition of any previous police calls involving same victim or accused.
    Speculation arrest may not lead to a conviction.
    Victim’s emotional state.
    Where incident occurred; private place.
    Race, culture, social, political, or professional position of victim or accused.
  • 25. Do abusers attempt to manipulate law enforcement officers when they respond to domestic violence, thus influencing officer discretion?
    Think About It!
  • 26. Ways Abusers Attempt to Manipulate Officers
    Pretend they were sleeping.
    Be apologetic, friendly, polite and very courteous.
    Express frustration or sadness over the alcoholic and/or drug addicted victim.
    Attempt to get sympathy by presenting themselves as a "victim."
  • 27. Ways Abusers Attempt to Manipulate Officers
    Tries to get officers to relate to their situation - "You know how those women are."
    Will lie and fabricate a story; blames victim.
    Will be calm and surprised by officers' arrival.
    Will minimize incident by describing it as "a little" disagreement or a "family issue."
  • 28. Arrest Requires Probable Cause
    Some evidence exists to lead the officer to believe that the offender “probably” did it.
    Domestic violence complicates arrest decisions
    What if both have injuries?
    Should primary aggressor be considered?
    What happens if probable cause can’t be determined?
    Think about it!
  • 29. Options for Non-Arrest Situations
    1. De-escalate
    2. Ask Someone to Leave
    3. Write an Appropriate Report with Written Statements
    4. Advise & Warn Parties; Complete an Incident Card
    5. Make Appropriate Referrals
    6. Provide Safety Plan
    7. Explain Orders of Protection
    No Probable Cause Exists
  • 30. 27
    Arizona Profile
    A.R.S. 13-3601/13-3602
  • 31. 1980 Arizona D. V. Laws Empower Police
    Officers can arrest on misdemeanors which did not occur in their presence.
    Creates the option of obtaining an Order of Protection.
  • 32. Arizona D.V. Laws Continue to Expand
    Mandates arrest under certain conditions
    Emergency Orders of Protection added
    Violations of civil protective orders are criminal
  • 33. AZ - New Felonies Added
    Aggravated Domestic Violence
    A.R.S. 13 -3601.02
    “If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for a third time (in an 84 month period) you can be charged with a felony…..considered a Class 5 felony and carries up to 2 ½ years in prison for a first conviction.”
    Aggravated Harassment
    A.R.S. 13-2921.01
  • 34. AZ Arrest Laws
    Based on probable cause
    Dual arrest requires separate acts
    Can’t arrest for self-defense
    Victim’s position regarding arrest irrelevant
    No citations or tickets
  • 35. Does AZ have Mandatory Arrest?
    “Shall arrest” in D.V. cases involving “infliction of physical injury or involving the discharge, use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.”
    All other circumstances officers “may arrest.”
    Department policies influence arrest decisions.
  • 36. D.V. Crimes: AZ Requirements
    Designated Crime
    Aggravated Assault
    Criminal Trespass
    Criminal Damage
    Interfering With Judicial Proceedings
    Living together or lived together
    Child in common or pregnant
    Related by marriage
    Spouse, parent-in-law, step-child, brother and sister in law, step-parents, grandparents
    Related by blood
    Parent, child, grandparent, brother, sister
  • 37. 2009-New Relationship Added
    Dating relationships added to AZ D. V. Law
    13-3601 A6: “The relationship between the victim and defendant is currently or previously a romantic or sexual relationship. The following factors may be considered…….
    Type of relationship
    Length of relationship
    Frequency of interaction between the victim and defendant
    …length of time since termination”
  • 38. Federal Law Enforcement: FBI
    Enforcement domestic violence and stalking laws at federal level
    New laws evolved from Violence Against Women Act
    Photo Source:
  • 39. Federal Law Related to Crossing State Lines
    With intent to commit D.V. crime
    To cause bodily injury
    To violate protection order
    Refer to FBI for investigation
  • 40. Lautenberg Amendment18 U.S.C. 925 (a)(1)
    Federal Provision: No possession of firearm if convicted of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence involving act of violence
    Effective date September 30, 1996
    Attempt to control weapon access of abusers
  • 41. Conclusion
    D. V. laws continue to evolve and be enhanced giving more options for law enforcement and prosecutors.
    Despite law changes, discretion impacts on police officer arrest decisions.
    The feminist movement and lawsuits forced police departments to be more responsive to D.V.
    AZ domestic violence laws are very broad (more than intimate relationships), requiring a specific relationship and crime.