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Ask a Cop: How do you handle domestic violence calls?

MOISAN(A Lake Oswego police officer answers readers’ questions each week in this space. To submit a question call staff reporter Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or send an email to cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com)

How do you handle domestic violence calls?

When you respond to a domestic violence call, if the person insists that “everything is fine” but you suspect that not all is fine, what do you do? Do you have to take his/her word and leave?

When an officer from the Lake Oswego Police Department responds to a domestic violence call, they work diligently to determine if a crime has occurred and if there is any past, present or future danger to either party involved. If we arrive at a domestic violence call and suspect that there has been a disturbance but the victim insists that “everything is fine,” we can offer suggestions for immediate personal safety as well as provide them with domestic violence advocate resources.

Spouses, domestic partners and family members may hesitate to speak with the police regarding domestic violence because they may be dependent on the other party for a variety of reasons. If the violent spouse or domestic partner is no longer there because they have been arrested, the victim may fear retaliation when they return.

If no clear crime has been committed, an officer will try to provide reasonable options to both parties so that they remain separated for the night (or at least a few hours) and can let cooler heads prevail in the morning. This can involve suggesting that one of them go to a family member or friend’s house; sometimes, this can mean asking one of them to stay at a hotel. If it is feasible, an officer can attempt to help the couple work through their differences for a short-term solution.

In short, an officer must make the best decision that they can, given the information that is provided to them at the time. This will include observing the scene; interviewing the suspect, victim and any witnesses; and checking both parties for injury. Often there is no clear answer.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can contact your local police department for assistance as well as utilize the resources listed on Oregon.gov under its domestic violence sections. This information can be found here: www.oregon.gov/dhs/abuse/domestic/Pages/index.aspx

— Officer Karina Moisan

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