You are a domestic violence advocate working for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). You have been asked to create a presentation for a small, local police department agency that will allow them to determine how laws, ordinances, policies, and procedures may affect the decisions made by their officers when responding to domestic violence calls. You will present the police department with two situations and explain how various aspects of the decision-making process, such as discretion and laws, can affect the outcome of each situation.
You are a police officer for a large, diverse city in Rhode Island with a population of nearly 180,000. There are over 400 sworn officers and 70 civilian personnel in your department, along with multiple sergeants and lieutenants and one chief. The police department that you work for practices community policing and places a strong emphasis on community involvement and trust. You are responding to a call from a neighbor regarding a disturbance next door. When you knock on the door where the disturbance is alleged, a woman with a fresh bruise on her left eye opens the door. When you inquire about the injury, the woman reports that her husband was recently fired from his job, and their loud argument over finances “had gotten out of hand.” The woman reports that she and her husband have reconciled, that he is extremely remorseful, and that this type of altercation has never happened in their 10 years of marriage. The woman does not wish to pursue charges against her husband.
In your interview with the husband, he is clearly distraught and regretful over the incident. He reports that he was recently fired, has missed several payments on his mortgage, and is coping with the life-threatening illness of one of their children.
You are a patrol officer for a small town in Rhode Island that is roughly 48 square miles with a
population of just under 2,800. It is a rural, close-knit community consisting of family-owned small businesses. Most community members were born and raised in the town. The town employs five fulltime patrol officers (you and four others) who work in 10-hour shifts spanning three watches. There is a full-time sergeant, a lieutenant, and a chief who also work each watch. There are nine civilians who cover all administrative and dispatching functions.
At approximately 9:30 p.m., you and your partner are dispatched to a 911 call made by a concerned neighbor who would like to remain anonymous. The caller states that the neighbors have been fighting for hours, and it has now escalated to what sounds like a person screaming for help. Upon arrival, you knock on the door and hear a male voice shouting, “I hate you,” at which time the male opens the door.
You observe that some of the living room furniture is turned over and there is broken glass on the floor. After you separate the combatants, the female tells you that her husband was recently laid off from work and has been under a lot of stress. The female looks as if she has been crying, but there are no visible signs of injury. She claims the argument began after he refused to get off the recliner for the third day in a row to go out and look for work. She admits to throwing a glass of water to the floor, and states he tripped over the recliner causing it to fall over.
Your partner knows the male from the painting company he has just been laid off from. The male claims that his wife called him a loser for getting laid off, which sparked a larger argument. During the verbal altercation, he claims the woman began throwing dishes and pushed him into the recliner, which knocked it over, but there are no signs of visible injuries. The male states he does not want to sign complaints against his wife and he really just wants her to take a walk and cool off.
Rhode Island Statute
In the state of Rhode Island, the General Laws (R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-29-3 (b)) state the following:
When a law enforcement officer responds to a domestic violence situation and has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, the officer shall exercise arrest powers pursuant to §§ 12-7-3 and 12-7-4; provided, that the officer shall arrest and take into custody the alleged perpetrator of the crime when the officer has probable cause to believe that any of the following acts has occurred:
- A felonious assault;
- An assault that has resulted in bodily injury to the victim, whether or not the injury is observable by the responding officer;
- Physical action that was intended to cause another person reasonably to fear imminent serious bodily injury or death. “Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or an impairment of physical condition; or
- Violation of a protective order and the violator has previous knowledge of the order and the terms of it;
- Violation of a no-contact order issued pursuant to § 12-29-4.
State of Rhode Island General Assembly. (n.d.) Title 12 Criminal Procedure, Chapter 12–29 Domestic Violence Prevention Act, Section 12-29-3. Retrieved from http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE12/12-29/12-29-3.HTM
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