Calling 9-1-1

It doesn't matter who calls 911 — you, a child, neighbor or stranger. A 911 call starts a process that often goes far beyond your immediate need for help. It draws the complexity of the criminal justice system into your life.

He's One of Us

When police respond to a domestic violence call, officers are to use all reasonable means to prevent further abuse but once he identifies himself as a cop or firefighter, they'll usually treat him differently than they would a civilian. His rank, personal relationships, and department policies will influence how they handle the situation. Responding officers may know him even if they are from another jurisdiction. They may not believe that an officer or first responder is a batterer and respond less sensitively to you. They may feel conflicted between upholding the law and protecting another officer's job.

Responding officers have discretion on how to handle a 911 call even with department policy. They may extend "professional courtesy" by not filing an official report, by not collecting evidence at the scene, by not making an arrest, or by not notifying supervisors about the incident. They may pressure you not to pursue charges. There may be a blatant or a subtle threat to your safety if you decide to cooperate with an investigation or prosecution. Your abuser may be able to manipulate responding officers into arresting you by claiming that you assaulted him. They may not listen to your story nor believe you were acting in self-defense.

Police Report

The police report is a key factor in the prosecutor's decision to pursue charges. A well-prepared report clearly identifies all parties present at the time of the incident; provides an account of events from everyone present; details the responding officers' observations of the scene; and summarizes the responding officers' actions.

It is important that you read the report to verify that it is accurate. This guards against any discrepancies between the batterer's account of events and yours, plus any tendency responding officers may have to describe the incident in a way more favorable to their colleague. If the report is inaccurate, you should request that the department amend the report to include your account of the incident. Access to the police report will vary across jurisdictions. Some police agencies or prosecutors readily provide a copy of the report to you. Other departments and prosecutors only provide a copy of the criminal complaint and not the report itself.

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What You Can Do

Many departments have policies for responding to general domestic violence calls. Fewer have policy specific to officer-involved domestics. Your local domestic violence advocate may be able to help you determine whether proper procedures were followed.

To help ensure appropriate response, you can:

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As a victim of a police officer, your situation is very different than other domestic violence victims.

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