NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Police hate domestic violence calls. Statistics say these are the most dangerous calls for police. There’s something about violating the relationship between a man and women, and often violating their home at the same time. Emotions run high. The actors involved often think its not the police’s business.
There used to be many cases where police would show up at a house, check on things, and then walk away. The greatest danger for a domestic violence victim is the time just after police leave.
Many states passed enlightened laws that require police to make an arrest when there’s evidence of an assault. A cop has to act when he sees someone with a bloody lip, a black eye, or other signs that a verbal argument turned physical. A battered woman doesn’t have the option of deciding not to press charges in these cases. We, correctly, consider domestic violence a crime against society. Wisconsin has such a law.
This doesn’t go far enough. What about cases where there wasn’t an assault – but police were still called. This happened at least seven times, and perhaps as many as 20, during the relationship of Radcliffe and Zina Haughton. Some of this is just bad police work. There was one incident where police thought he was armed with a shotgun. Police called for back-up. Whether he was armed or not was never definitively determined, and the charge was a misdemeanor disorderly conduct. That didn’t stick because the lead officer was on vacation when the case went to court. Charges were dropped.
The solution here is a new charge – disorderly conduct/domestic – that has special rules and penalties. Even if the charge itself remains a misdemeanor, the new law should come with specific penalties and specific law enforcement protocols. First and foremost, someone must be removed from the home and held by police during the booking process. That’s the only way to keep the altercation from starting up again once police leave.
This is not just a police matter. There are many, many cases were victims take their abusers back – must to the frustration of police and social workers. That also seems to be a big part of the Radcliffe and Zina story. I’d favor administrative restraining orders in these cases. (Currently a woman must seek a restraining order against a man.) There are some circumstances were two people have such a rocky relationship where a judge should literally have the power to order them to stay apart – at least for a few days as a minimal cooling off period.
Domestic violence is fundamentally a problem between people. The law enforcement tools to fight it are imperfect. But the Brookfield spa shooting shows us that the legal system needs more and better options.