The Complexities and Dangers of Domestic Violence Police Calls
“When officers respond to a domestic violence call, it’s a very tense situation,” says Sgt. Mark Clarson, who leads the Tigard Police Department’s Domestic Violence Resource Team. “You can feel it when you walk through the door.”
Clarson explains that officers responding to these calls are often faced with combative and intoxicated suspects who, because they are in their own homes, know where weapons are located. “Things can go badly very quickly,” he adds.
A nationwide study of officer deaths related to dispatched calls between 2010 and 2014 found that 22 percent were attributable to domestic violence (DV). Because of the inherent risks in these situations, at least two Tigard officers must respond to every DV incident, and waiting for the second officer can cause delays in response times.
On a typical day, Tigard police may receive two to six calls for service related to domestic violence. If a shift is minimally staffed, with an active DV call in progress, it may leave only one to two patrol officers available to respond to all other calls in the city.
DV cases are often complex and resource intensive. Within a single incident, officers may have to work with a victim requiring medical treatment, assist children in the home who may be in danger and find enough evidence to arrest the perpetrator. Investigations can be further complicated if a survivor is unwilling to cooperate because they fear the abuser will retaliate either physically or by cutting off money and resources following an arrest.
Because of the complexity, Tigard Police Department has a DV Resource Team that follows up with survivors involved in severe abuse cases to collect additional evidence and be a resource to the survivor.
Police Partner with Advocates to Help Victims
Sheida Bahrami, a community advocate for the Domestic Violence Resource Center, has been partnering with Tigard police for more than six months, and occasionally she accompanies officers when they follow up.
Bahrami recalls a case a few months ago when she and Officer Brett Adamski followed up with a young woman who had endured months of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a boyfriend who threatened to kill her if she told anyone. Bahrami was impressed with Adamski’s demeanor as he questioned the traumatized survivor, who had emigrated from a country where abuse is a taboo subject.
“The level of care and compassion he expressed to the family and client was heart-warming,” she said. “He was apologizing for some questions he had to ask, knowing that they would make the client uncomfortable. He also gave latitude to her and her family to just answer as much as they felt comfortable.”
Their follow up with the survivor led to a restraining order, and connected her with legal help and other resources.
Domestic violence is complex crime that affects all walks of life. The inherent dangers of these situations require more resources to maintain safety for all concerned. While the department is fortunate to partner with the Domestic Violence Resource Center to connect victims with resources to help them leave dangerous relationships, having enough officers available to respond quickly when calls come in is key to protecting all members of our community.