Cop Talk: What Not to Do If your Abusive, High-Conflict Wife Calls the Police on You, Part Two

Dr Tara J. Palmatier
November 23, 2011

In Cop Talk: Domestic Violence Statistics and Police Procedures, Part One, I explained some of the systemic problems with police training and recruits as it pertains to domestic dispute calls. This article will explain how domestic trouble or domestic dispute calls work from a law enforcement perspective.

The following is a generic template without the jargon and Domestic Violence Act of 1986 requirements in Illinois. It is not inclusive and it assumes all parties are on scene when the police arrive.

The call: You or the crazy, high-conflict wife, the neighbors, the kids, somebody calls the police. If sounds of combat are heard by dispatch or yelling and screaming or you hang up after dialing 911, we are coming pretty much no matter what.

Getting there is half the fun. If I am “running code” (lights, sirens, etc.), I will already be pretty wound up when I arrive, since the motoring public is paying little or no attention and won’t get out of the way. Short answer . . . getting there can be more stressful than the actual call. We bring that with us. I have learned not to (stress out) after 20 years, but it is an acquired skill.

Safety first: Every call I go on is a man with a gun call. I’m bringing the gun and it is only mineas long as I can control it. I have never been disarmed, but approximately six or so individuals have tried over the years.

If you don’t carry a gun for a living, this is a bit hard to quantify. Guys, think about always having to keep your testicles covered. ALWAYS. Safety will keep coming up.

Arrival: Since I had my fun getting to your house, I now have to make contact with you or the crazy wife or girlfriend. Here’s a checklist of what goes through most police officer’s heads:

Police lights out. Don’t slam the doors. Shape, shine, shadow, silhouette. Stay out of the light. Pick your cover. Pick your escape route. Get rid of the nosy neighbors. Stop at the door. Listen. Have dispatch call in and have someone come out (depending on the type of call). I’m talking about active, probably violent, heated domestics. Make entry, by force, if exigent circumstances exist.

Contact: I have about 3 to 5 seconds to figure out who is going to be my primary “problem child” or children. First we separate the couple. We will search and cuff if needed. We try not to apply cuffs as it triggers arrest, search and seizure issues that are beyond the scope of this article.

Next, we try to control movement of subjects. For your own safety and a positive outcome (i.e., so you don’t go to jail), KEEP OUT OF YOUR KITCHEN, CLOSETS AND BEDROOMS! Kitchens are filled with knives, forks and other sharp pointy things. People tend to keep guns in closets and bedrooms and occasionally baseball bats and the odd sword. Put the dog away. PLEASE.

Working the problem: Why are we here? Injuries? Other hazards? Where are the kids (if any) and are they okay? Who called? Why? Are one or both parties intoxicated? Do one or both parties have mental issues? Etc., etc.

No arrest: Will the couple go to “neutral corners?” Will someone leave voluntarily? Can you get along so we don’t have to come back?
Arrest: We take photos and evidence tech stuff (CSI for the TV watchers). Then we transport the offender(s), victim(s), kids, pets, etc., and take statements from victim/witness. There is a pre-printed form and template for this which is actually pretty good. It helps remove gender bias by design.

Screening with on-call Assistant State’s Attorney (ASA): This is not unique to just Illinois, though it is a mandatory requirement for DV cases in Illinois. This is a crap shoot.

I have had ASAs approve charges on crazy people that were not fit to be incarcerated, anywhere, for any reason. I have had charges denied on what were pretty clear cut crimes to the rest of us (cops, victim, offender and witnesses). I have noticed I have better luck with female ASAs charging these crimes. Better luck as in doing something that actually fit the facts, logic and common sense.

Charging, transport to jail and a bond hearing: You bond out after your stay at the jail. Typically, you will receive a mandatory “NO GO HOME!” order from judge due to the Domestic Violence Against Woman Act. If this is followed up by your crazy wife or girlfriend with an Order of Protection (OP), you won’t be able to go home for two weeks or longer.
I have just reduced about 40 hours of training to a page or two. This is information is not inclusive. I am not an attorney (thank God) and am not giving legal advice. This is a basic outline of what takes place on the average domestic disturbance call.

Now I’m going to explain what you should NOT do if the police get involved. This is not inclusive. I am not an attorney. I am not giving legal advice. I am relating 20 plus years of experience as a working cop. Your experience may vary.

Simple is good (SIG). There are only three things you can do to pretty much guarantee you will have a bad experience. They are:
1. Run
2. Lie
3. Fight

DO NOT RUN. I mean this literally. I have seen too many people, mostly men, run on sight of the police. Almost all of them get injured and the police never touch them. They trip and fall. Some people reading this might be thinking, “Mark’s not being truthful!” Wrong.
These men (and sometimes women) trip and fall. They go over fences blind. They slip on dog shit. They impale themselves in the pile of scrap iron they leaped onto from their den window. All chases are BAD. Car or on foot, it makes no difference. Too much adrenaline and people (good guys and bad guys alike) do really stupid things. Not enough space to write this up either. Find a copy of On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace by Col. Dave Grossman and Loren Christensen. They explain much of this stuff far better than I can.

DO NOT FIGHT. I have been tased, pepper sprayed, knocked out, punched so hard in the head my jaw was an inch off center, cut, etc. I haven’t been shot yet, but I have about 10 years until I can retire, so it still might happen.

The point of mentioning all that is I won’t fight fair and I will win. I’m going home and am highly motivated by my three kids to do so. They aren’t losing Daddy. Period.

Yell, scream, vent be pissed off at the wife, whatever. Don’t fight with the police. In most states, assaulting a cop is a felony. By doing so, you turn a problem that might result in an arrest, into a felony charge and a trip to jail, usually by way of the local hospital.

DO NOT LIE. Everybody lies to the police. We’re used to it and (mostly) try not to take it personally. I had a priest lie to me once. He forced the arrest after repeated chances to just tell the truth. Simple. Tell the truth. If you don’t want to say anything fine, that is your right under the Constitution. But don’t lie.

Corollary to not lying to the police . . . Never lie to your attorney. Ever. I have heard many attorneys yelling at clients over this. Your attorney can’t help you if he is operating with bad, false or wrong information.
Seems like a lot of stuff just to try and explain one cop’s view of DV and how people, mostly male, wind up getting arrested. Yes it is. Without an understanding of what you, the male half of the issue, are up against, you are going to add to the problem. Men unwittingly add to the problem. It is in our nature and there are many issues that contribute to this.