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Policey_Man

Is it time we change the way Police deal with domestic incidents?

Should we change the way Police deal with domestics?  

14 members have voted

  1. 1. Should we change the way Police deal with domestics?

    • Yes
      12
    • Unsure
      2
    • No
      0


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Policey_Man
Posted (edited)

I realise that DV is a serious and important issue. I know the risks around it. But, I often wonder if the way that we deal with it sometimes causes more problems than it solves. A lot of forces have a positive action policy, which in reality is little more than a positive arrest policy, but is this really the right way to go?

 

Often, police turn up after things have calmed down. Our interference then can sometimes make things worse. Sometimes, I agree, it is necessary and needed, but is the blanket positive arrest policy really the best way to go?

 

Should we be trusting officers on scene to make decisions, to risk assess their actions, to make their decisions and decide actions based on what they see, based on intelligence they can get and the individual circumstances they are faced with, rather than a blanket one size fits all approach?

 

In the past year or so, I’ve attended a number of domestic incidents that include:-

 

- Boyfriend and girlfriend arguing. She wants him to leave and he won’t. She phones 999 but he agrees to go so she puts the phone down. This comes through as an abandoned call to police and officers attend, arriving 30 mins or so later. Boyfriend is leaving as police arrive. Both parties spoken to separately. She says he wouldn’t leave so she hit him. He confirms she hit him but he says he deserved it for refusing to leave, he won’t provide a statement, make any allegations or support any police action. He leaves her flat. He has no keys to return. Supervising Sgt is happy with a crime report to go on as the risk is managed. The domestic detectives want her arrested, in her own home, for trying to eject the boyfriend who doesn’t live there. Duty Inspector supports detectives so officers forced to arrest and threatened if they don’t, they will be in bother. The person who called police for help, is therefore arrested….. Will she call us next time she needs us? Does she now trust us?

 

-  Mother and son arguing. Police arrive after everything is calm. The son had minor anxiety issues and police being there really set him off again. Mother refused to make a statement or press charges regarding a table being flipped over. Mother went into the neighbours for a few hours, promising not to return home, whilst the neighbour who is good friends with both and has a good relationship with the son, went to calm him down. If the son was arrested, he would have massively kicked off and it would have destroyed any trust the mother had in us. There were no history of domestics between the two and the informant was a neighbour.

 

- Boyfriend and girlfriend staying in an air B&B (a rented flat) for a night. They have an argument and police are called. Whilst speaking to the boyfriend, he discloses to an officer “in strict confidence, off the record” that she went to slap him twice earlier. No contact, no injuries. He is adamant he doesn’t want her arrested and won’t provide a statement or support any police action. They are tourists in the city they are in and have both been drinking, so neither can go elsewhere. Only option is leave them together – which the officers who are there want to do – or arrest her. More units are called for because the officers know if she is arrested, he won’t be happy. She ended up getting arrested at which point, he kicks off too. He then storms off, saying he’s more angry now than when they were arguing and the police have made everything worse.

 

- Female calls saying her boyfriend won’t leave. No domestic history between the pair, she makes it clear on the call she just wants him to go home and not to be arrested, etc. Police arrive and he’s disappeared. Whilst taking details, he returns from the shop, which is where he had gone.  The police have managed to extract from her by questioning a very minor assault. He knocks on her bedroom window, she tells him to come in and he goes round to the front door. Police tell him he can’t come in and to go home, which he does. Officers criticised by the domestic detectives for not arresting him, whilst the victim only called police to get him out of the property and was clear she wouldn’t support any police action or provide a statement. Detectives later issue an arrest enquiry for common assault.

 

In my view, there are better ways that we could deal with some of the above incidents. I personally, feel like the second and last incidents were dealt with correctly, with a common sense approach, as positive action was taken. The first and third incidents, police involvement was appropriate but in the end, the police actions has just made things worse.

 

Clearly, if the two parties involved are high risk, there are regular domestics, there are injuries or there are offences whereby the victim supports police action and is willing to provide the evidence, then I have no issues with dealing with those offences and completely agree the suspects should be arrested. But I just worry that the current, blanket approach as a result of positive action is not always having the best outcome and I worry that sometimes we are not helping situations and causing more problems in the long term.

 

Does anyone have any thoughts or experiences to share re domestic incidents?

Edited by David
Most odd formatting removed
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andi

Your force sounds behind the times. We simply haven't got the staff to be arresting and dealing with stuff going no where.

In GMP, if you thoroughly justify and explain your actions, then that's fine. It's about positive action, not arrest. There's been occasions I've left people together so long as I can give good reason why that's the best choice to take.

That said, God help you if it goes wrong still

I thoroughly agree with you. There are still some cops here who will lock up "to be on the safe side", ignoring the fact that it's only going to make things worse in the long run.

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MerseyLLB

It literally boils down to who your Supervision is for the day.

I've had loads of similar jobs to the above. 

A good skipper will hear what you're telling them (ie. This is a waste of time for the police and the suspect and likely to make matters worse) and find a workaround where we can still provide support and safeguarding.

It has to be said though, when it comes to homicide reviews the IOPC make PCs and Sergeants justify non-arrest a lot harder than they ever probe into why an arrest was made at a DA. So if it does go wrong, which 99/100 is not the police's fault and making an arrest does nothing to prevent further serious harm at a LATER date, be ready for a rollercoaster.

The unintended consequence of the literal and strict application of the crime recording rules (coupled with climbing overall demand and fewer cops) is that simply we are desperately falling over ourselves to keep all the plates spinning. We are probably more likely to make a mistake or miss something now which could lead to something bad happening.

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Reasonable Man
It literally boils down to who your Supervision is for the day.
I've had loads of similar jobs to the above. 
A good skipper will hear what you're telling them (ie. This is a waste of time for the police and the suspect and likely to make matters worse) and find a workaround where we can still provide support and safeguarding.
It has to be said though, when it comes to homicide reviews the IOPC make PCs and Sergeants justify non-arrest a lot harder than they ever probe into why an arrest was made at a DA. So if it does go wrong, which 99/100 is not the police's fault and making an arrest does nothing to prevent further serious harm at a LATER date, be ready for a rollercoaster.
The unintended consequence of the literal and strict application of the crime recording rules (coupled with climbing overall demand and fewer cops) is that simply we are desperately falling over ourselves to keep all the plates spinning. We are probably more likely to make a mistake or miss something now which could lead to something bad happening.

This has nothing to do with the Counting Rules and everything to do with good decision making (apply the NDM and record it properly) and good supervision.
An IOPC investigation into a DA homicide has more to make you worry about when asked why you did not record that DV crime you attended than why you did not make an arrest.
If a crime has occurred call it a crime, record it as a crime and record the appropriate action you took. Not recording it looks very much like the first step of not taking the appropriate action

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HazRat

If each incident has been dealt with correctly and the course of action rationalised against the NDM then it will stand up to scrutiny further down the road. 

My personal view is if the domestic detective doesn’t agree with the course of action taken then they either need to make themselves available to give tactical advice or they start attending domestics and deal with them themselves.

I absolutely detest this 9am coffee and comfortable chair club, who with the relative safety of the office and no other pressures pass judgement on how matters are dealt with.

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Burnsy2023

I often find the positive arrest policy to be contradicting the principle of a victim focused investigation. Nobody who I've asked to reconcile that seems to be convincing.

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Zulu 22
Posted (edited)

Detectives later issue an arrest enquiry for common assault. AND 

Duty Inspector supports detectives so officers forced to arrest and threatened if they don’t, they will be in bother. 

Since when can some domestic detective tell an officer that he must arrest someone. Are they not capable of doing that themselves by getting off their shiny backsides, going out of the building and making an arrest themselves.  It used to be a ploy for CID to tell the uniform section to arrest someone on their behalf. They would get a visit from me and told to do their jobs , and that uniformed offices were not their skivvies. The Detective Superintendent was informed of the same. He tried to take it further but got a rude rebuff from the Divisional commander.

Domestic's are always a tragedy waiting to happen but, in all of the examples given it appears that there was a huge over reaction.

Edited by David
Most odd formatting removed

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Hyphen

I’m glad this topic has been posted as it’s something me and colleagues debate about almost daily.

I can completely relate to the examples you have given. It really does wind me up because we absolutely do more harm than good with the low level stuff. 

If it’s a one off domestic incident and there is no genuine vulnerability then why can’t we let people decide for themselves whether they wish to go further or support any action? I’ve said this before, if I was pushed by a partner as a one off during an argument would I be a ‘vulnerable’ victim who needs decisions made for me? Of course not! 

We should be able to apply the NDM and make decisions without blanket policies and procedures. This irrational sledgehammer approach to everything doesn’t do anyone any good.

The main problem is someone somewhere has decided that prosecution somehow protects people more than any other method of safeguarding a victim. It’s nonsense. 

I am all for safeguarding and I’m more than happy to deal with perpetrators particularly where there are genuinely vulnerable victims who need our help but many domestics now days are tit for tat one upmanship or genuine people who have for whatever reason had an issue with each other or child contact issues etc. 

Totally agree Mersey, some supervisors are spot on and will have an adult discussion about jobs and my observations/perceptions and the history. Some unfortunately are robotic and just say ‘we need to lock them up’ or ‘we need to have them in for interview’ even with zero evidence. It’s such a time drain.

@Burnsy2023 I totally agree re the victim focus side of things. We’ve been told it’s basically nothing to do with what the victim wants, it’s just evidence led all the way. Many don’t care about the fall out or the repercussions for the victim/suspect/family or kids etc.

Just to add to the discussion, what are people’s perceptions of DV ‘harassment’. I use the term lightly but I’ve had a load of jobs lately which are barely made out as harassment and are clearly there to get one up over the other, usually where child contact issues are creeping in. Again, hours upon hours are wasted where the IP is adamant they just want the other party spoken to and will never attend court etc however because they’ve said they’ve been harassed on the log the other person needs bringing in. It’s madness.

 

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Chaos

CPS guidelines says that a victims wishes should always be taken into account.

Time and time again I see people being arrested at domestics against the victims wishes.. and time and time again I see the suspect being NFA'd due to only having very little hearsay evidence from the attending officers. Yeh there may be a work around with the body worn videos, but again for low level stuff things still get NFAd without a statement from the victim.

We had an email she other day saying that any domestics that are risked as medium or hight then positive action should be taken questions would be asked if no arrests are made... The question was asked "what about if there are no offences".... Again it came back to the old "well if she was scared enough to ring the police there is more than likely a common assault"

I normally ask the person who called the police of they are wanting to stay in a relationship with this person... That's normally a good indication, of they say yes they are more than likely not going to want to make a complaint of assault.

The problem is the police is too risk adverse and they would like to cause problems in 100 low level domestcs to try and stop one of hight level hidden abusive relationships from slipping through the net.

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Straker

Personally I think one of the problems with the SOCPA 2005 changes to powers of arrest if that it made it far too easy to default to an arrest without really having to justify it for low level offences, as in "prompt and effective investigation" became a default (something the changes to code G and pressures on forces for manpower and custody space is slowly changing). Especially in the example of the common assault given above previously there would have been no power of arrest without an ongoing reasonable suspicion of injury.

My problem with "positive action" policies is that they just aren't supported by legislation; if the government wanted to do something about it they could easily give appropriate powers: 

-For example NZ police can issue 24hr no contact orders given reasonable suspicion that violence has or could take place with arrest and a new offence for a breach, brought in precisely because a positive arrest policy was subject to a judicial review which it lost badly (note not positive action there was a reason a lot of forces changed the wording a few year ago.) 

-Or just make a domestic assault a specific offence like in a lot of US states (normally showing injury as criteria) and Europe (varies quite widely) that has a defined power of arrest separate to that of "normal" assaults. 

I get the feeling some forces are making a lot of legally justifiable (ie they meet the SOCPA criteria) arrests that probably don't meet the does the feel right in terms of justice test for a lot of the arresting officers.

As to being told to arrest by the duty inspector; were they ordered to in which case presenting at custody with "I was given a lawful order to arrest by ABC who will present grounds" is an option to cover your backside if you feel strongly enough about it or just told to with unspecified threat of action? I'm wondering if anyone has ever been successfully disciplined for not following a suggestion to arrest rather than a lawful order, I've never heard of it happening.

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Sceptre

The APP on domestic violence is worth a read; in brief it does tell us that arrest ought to be considered in every case and a decision not to arrest should be justifiable. It does not however require us to arrest people, and does set out other "positive" options short of arrest. It's quite a persuasive thing to have read and to make reference to when justifying your decisions on the log, firstly because it makes you look well-informed and attentive in your decision-making and secondly because quite a few of the people who might otherwise criticise probably haven't read it themselves and won't want to admit it. 

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Zulu 22
14 hours ago, Straker said:

As to being told to arrest by the duty inspector; were they ordered to in which case presenting at custody with "I was given a lawful order to arrest by ABC who will present grounds" is an option to cover your backside if you feel strongly enough about it or just told to with unspecified threat of action? I'm wondering if anyone has ever been successfully disciplined for not following a suggestion to arrest rather than a lawful order, I've never heard of it happening.

I am not aware of any discipline action for a supervisor suggesting to arrest as unless the discipline Regs have changed dramatically I am not aware that such would be a lawful order. It is the officer who makes the decision to arrest and has to be able to justify it. 

As others have said the high percentage of Domestics are nothing more than a falling out and have been resolved merely by our attendance. I have never attended a Domestic and arrested someone unless it has been obvious that such action was necessary.  Those cases usually stick out like a sore thumb and have the alarms bells ringing in your head, loud and clear.

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Mac7

This is a good thread. Lots of good advice and real world examples.

 

I’ve known a lot of cops interpret a positive action policy as arrest. Attending a domestic, recording it properly and making referrals is positive action. Providing support to victims is positive action. It does not mean arrest for the slightest of allegations. I’ve seen countless “suspects” arrested, make no comment in interview as there is no evidence, only to be NFA’d after a short period in custody and returned home, usually to “the victim.” What has that achieved? Probably more harm than good. I’ve left persons together or not arrested, but I’ve justified it as well by taking into consideration all the facts together with what powers I have.

 

As reasonable man quite correctly stated, if there is an crime allegation, no matter how small, record it as such and write your rationale for what you did (or didn’t do) concisely. I’ve never been a fan of business models but the NDM really does work for decision making, both on scene and later when you’re writing the report. Taking time to weigh up the options of what to do with the information you have is cannot be underestimated. Don’t forget to apply legislation or tactics that are not always considered at domestic incidents. For example, I’ve used dispersal notices at domestics (when they were law) to great effect.

 

Where we are today and how we manage domestics is from years of getting it wrong and leaning lessons. It’s not the sexy side of the job and it can be laborious but at the same time necessary.

 

It’s not surprising that those in charge of policy sit on the fence and won’t advice either way.

 

It does make me cringe when I read that domestic officers advise to arrest. Or send our a request to arrest. I fully agree with the person who said they should be doing it themselves. Will they or the inspector be supporting the uniformed officer when a complaint comes in for unlawful arrest or the suspect kicks off and complains about use of force. I think not.

 

It should be a personal decision to make an arrest. You have to remember that if it feels like a dodgy arrest and the suspect struggles, you make be on very sticky ground.

 

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Policey_Man
10 hours ago, Sceptre said:

The APP on domestic violence is worth a read; in brief it does tell us that arrest ought to be considered in every case and a decision not to arrest should be justifiable. It does not however require us to arrest people, and does set out other "positive" options short of arrest. It's quite a persuasive thing to have read and to make reference to when justifying your decisions on the log, firstly because it makes you look well-informed and attentive in your decision-making and secondly because quite a few of the people who might otherwise criticise probably haven't read it themselves and won't want to admit it. 

However, in my force the rules are very clear: if there is a difference between APP or national policy and local policy, then local policy trumps all. I'd be surprised if it was different anywhere else.

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Policey_Man
8 hours ago, Zulu 22 said:

I am not aware of any discipline action for a supervisor suggesting to arrest as unless the discipline Regs have changed dramatically I am not aware that such would be a lawful order. It is the officer who makes the decision to arrest and has to be able to justify it. 

As others have said the high percentage of Domestics are nothing more than a falling out and have been resolved merely by our attendance. I have never attended a Domestic and arrested someone unless it has been obvious that such action was necessary.  Those cases usually stick out like a sore thumb and have the alarms bells ringing in your head, loud and clear.

Ordering someone to use their police powers is not a lawful order, so you can't actually order the arrest. But, supervisors can make it very difficult for someone if they don't follow the advice given, etc and if things go wrong, they won't support you and will hang you out to try. But lets not get too hung up on the examples and what is or isn't a lawful order, it's the bigger picture that we should be discussing around domestics.

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