Dangers of Domestic Violence Calls

For the second time in two week’s multiple officers were shot responding to a domestic dispute. Last week in Palm Springs, California as officers negotiated with a suspect to exit the residence he opened the door and began firing killing both officers. This week in Boston officers were responding to a “domestic incident” between two roommates when officers were confronted with a suspect with an assault rifle who shot and critically wounded both officers.

As noted in the latest National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund/ COPS Office report, Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous calls for service even when multiple officers respond. Research shows that even when 3 or more officers respond to this type of call the consequences can be deadly. The report also points out the inherent dangers of a single officer responding to a domestic disturbance call. Standard practice for most law enforcement agencies is to have a least two officers initially respond to a domestic violence call for service. For officers who are responding from different jurisdictions it is imperative for them to wait for back-up before approaching the scene if at all possible.

As noted in the “Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters” report more than 20 percent of the officers in that study were killed by rifles and in both the Palm Springs murders and Boston attack officers were shot with assault rifles. Given the increasing use of assault-style rifles against police, the report recommends that “officers should incorporate the use of patrol rifles, body armor with hard armor plates, and ballistic helmets, which can be deployed during high threat responses”.

Armed with our past information on domestic violence calls and with this latest research data domestic disturbance calls officers must understand that domestic violence calls should never treated as routine; officers must be situation aware at all times, especially with the increased number of rifle attacks and take appropriate measures to protect themselves from these types of potentially deadly assaults. For more information on officer safety resources visit the NLEOMF Destination Zero page.

If you'd like more information on law enforcement agency assessments and de-escalation training visit The Community Safety Institute for more information.

John Matthews is a highly decorated, thirty-year law enforcement veteran, analyst for both CNN and FOX News and the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival, Police Perspective: Life on the Beat, School Safety 101 and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer, a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.