THE POLICE AND COURTS
This section will tell you what to expect when the police are involved. Police officer response may vary slightly from one community to another, but police in New York State are trained to respond to domestic calls or incidents as the very serious matters that they are.
Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
Depending upon the particular incident, the police should:
- Respond immediately to your location;
- Separate the people involved;
- Conduct an investigation, including getting statements from you, the abuser and others;
- Identify and collect any potential evidence of criminal behavior, whether related to the current incident or other incidents;
- Make an arrest if specific crimes were committed;
- Refer you to the local domestic violence program;
- Complete a Domestic Incident Report (DIR) and provide you with a copy at the scene;
- Provide a written notice of your legal rights and remedies as a victim of a family offense, i.e., Victim Rights Notice; and
- Conduct a follow up investigation and possibly a home visit to check on you.
What Should You Expect When You Call 911?
- If you call 911 for emergency assistance, the police must come to investigate.
- If the police do not come, call again until they respond.
- Your call to 911 will be answered by a dispatcher. Dispatchers are trained to ask questions that will assess your safety, and to gather information that can help police and other emergency personnel respond to the scene safely. You will be expected to tell your location and answer questions about the incident, the abuser, the presence of guns or other weapons and whether or not you have an Order of Protection.
Whether you called the police or the call was made by your child, a family member, a neighbor or a concerned friend, a police officer must respond. The officer should:
- Separate the people involved in the incident;
- Take all weapons used or threatened to be used;
- Ask about the location of everyone at the scene, including the abuser and any children. They must check on the safety and well- being of anyone present;
- Assess the need for medical attention for anyone, including the abuser. If you injured the abuser while defending yourself, be sure to tell the police exactly what happened;
- Ask if any pets were harmed in the current incident or in the past;
- Separately interview all available witnesses, including you, the abuser, your children, and any other people at the scene;
- Collect and document anything that could be evidence, including:
- Statements by you, the abuser, and witnesses;
- Visible injuries and property damage, by taking photos or video;
- Any other evidence from this or past incidents gathered by you or someone on your behalf, such as:
- Photos or videos of visible injury to you, your children, or pets;
- Proof of damage to your personal property (clothing, jewelry, cell phone), to any property that you co-own with the abuser (home, furniture, computer, vehicle), or to the abuser’s personal property;
- Copies of threatening messages or apologies for having hurt or scared you, including those found on voicemail or text messages, e-mails, social media posts and written letters, notes, or cards.
- Determine whether an arrest must, by law, be made (“Mandatory Arrest”), and whether any other action should be taken;
- Complete the New York State Domestic Incident Report (DIR) whether or not an arrest is made, and complete any other reports necessary. They must provide you with a copy of the DIR at the scene; and
- Give you a copy of the Victim Rights Notice (on the back of the DIR) and a referral to the local domestic violence program.
What if You Are Not Satisfied With the Police Response?
You should be treated with dignity and respect by everyone, including the police. If the police do not respond the way you think they are required to, you may want to talk to an advocate at a domestic violence program about your concerns and possible options.
You can also contact the officer’s supervisor. Provide the name and badge number of the officer(s) that responded to the incident (Note: this information, as well as the Incident # and Complaint #, will all be located on the DIR). If you do speak to anyone about the officer’s handling of your case, document everything, including: all calls to the police, their response, and any follow-up contact with supervisors. You may need this information if further action is necessary.