The Police as Critical Agents in the Fight Against Domestic Violence

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“…we cannot overlook the instances, and they are many, when through their quick response and professionalism, those sworn to protect and serve were diligent in helping to bring perpetrators of  violence to justice.”

In many countries across the world, and states within the United States of America, the police have come in for heavy criticisms on claims that they tend to take a hands down approach to the crime of domestic violence.

Although generally regarded as a misdemeanor, domestic violence (abuse and battery) is a crime that is widespread.

It is so widespread, having potential for fatal consequences, that some have questioned the class within which this crime is placed. Misdemeanors are on the lowest tier of the classes of crimes, attracting the least amount of fines, penalties and punishment.

Many women, men and children have been severely injured or killed as a result of unresolved issues of physical abuse and violence within the home.

This may explain why the general citizenry would expect the police to take a more proactive role in helping to bring an end to domestic violence.

You may have heard cases where police officers were quoted as saying that they do not interfere in domestic affairs, and this may be factual especially depending on the jurisdiction.

In other cases, officers are accused of mishandling the situation, or of arresting the ‘wrong’ party in the domestic squabble. Take for example, Party A, was assaulted and/or battered by Party B. However, when the cops came, Party A, because of his/her erratic behavior may be perceived and deemed the “primary aggressor,” and so is arrested instead of the actual assailant or batterer.

Several months ago, a woman wrote criticizing the police for ‘wrongful arrest.’ She said her husband broke her arm and ribs. He then beat her to the punch and called the police. Instead of arresting him, and despite her very visible injuries, she was the one arrested and thrown in the lock-ups. The first question that might pop into your mind might be “how fair is that?”!! Yes, with exclamation marks. Well, hold your horses. She agreed to slapping him first. This being the truth of the matter, she argued that to the very least both of them should have been arrested. You may agree or disagree with the argument or alleged course of action by the police.

But are our officers being unfairly criticized?

Attending to calls pertaining to alleged crimes are fraught with rules and procedures that are expected to be followed. Otherwise the police may find themselves in suit for breach of rules and procedures. As simple as it may appear, being read the Miranda Rights, for example, is something that is fundamental in the process of prosecution. A mere neglectful omission to read a suspect or arrestee his/her rights may result in the entire arrest being improperly made. This in turn can affect the outcome of any case that may arise from the arrest.

Why are we talking about rights? Because it cuts to the core of rules and procedures and, even in family abuse and violence cases, police officers have a legal duty to be diligent.

Resources

Many times, and from a more practical standpoint, attending to calls to intervene in a domestic violence situation depends on external factors that the police often have little or no control over. And much of those factors go back to one thing: RESOURCES.

Human resources, and financial resources, are primary factors in determining the level of performance by these agents within the criminal justice system. Furthermore, human and financial resources are critical to the efficient and effective functioning of any organization.  

Institutional policies and inadequate training on how to handle domestic violence cases may further impede response and performance.

This being said, we cannot overlook the instances, and they are many, when through their quick response and professionalism, those sworn to protect and serve were diligent in helping to bring perpetrators of domestic violence to justice.

In essence, what we should take from this is that our police officers are too often given less credit than they deserve.

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