The result of one of these investigations (internal and criminal) could cost the accused his job. This would be a more permanent consequence than Ray Rice has received to date. The process can be even more complicated because the ‘accused’ has police powers, access to police records and resources, ‘connections’ in the system, and also carries a GUN!
Unless things have recently changed with the Nevada Revised Statutes and LVMPD procedures, there was a mandatory arrest expectation on all Domestic Violence (DV) calls if evidence of a battery was present and the primary physical aggressor could be determined. There was some flexibility if the situation had ‘mitigating circumstances’ but I never read that a person’s rank in a police department should be a ticket to get out of jail (or stay out of jail) for free. If a police officer (or police employee) was involved, we had to immediately notify supervisors, the Watch Commander, domestic violence detectives and Criminalistics personnel to thoroughly investigate and document the incident. This protocol was very well established and probably followed very closely — but the final outcomes of DV calls involving police personnel were simply NOT so systematic and consistent. There is probably more ‘wiggle room’ on DV calls than on drunk driving calls involving a police officer. Police call it discretion but that discretion is supposed to be almost non-existent for the responding officer.
I’ve seen the pictures of some of my own former academy classmates and co-workers in the newspaper or on TV after they have been accused of a DV (and were arrested). One was accused of biting the face of his girlfriend and there was supposedly evidence about what happened (in the form of text messages). He did get arrested but kept his job — maybe because there was no BATTERY or the other ‘elements of the crime’ of domestic violence were not present. An accusation must be validated and there must be ‘probable cause’ to make any arrest. How does a responding officer or detective try to determine exactly what happened? Records of phone calls made to dispatch during a DV can be one of the most horrible things that anyone can ever listen to.
Screams for help are often heard by neighbors — and far too often, the calls end in a death before the police arrive. A physical examination of the parties is conducted and photos are taken. The scene of the incident is examined to see if there was evidence of a struggle.
Witnesses — such as children and neighbors — are often aware of what happened and also of prior incidents. Even when an arrest is made, this does not mean that there will be a conviction for domestic violence. We supposedly have a justice system that determines the final outcome.
Sometimes it is a tough decision to make an arrest and it is even tougher to NOT make an arrest and be required to justify that decision (ethically, legally, and subject to supervisory review). Of course, when you are the head of the agency (i.e., Sheriff Gillespie) you get to make the rules and ignore the rules so the decision for the sheriff is much less difficult. The District Attorney has discretion to decide what to do and is accountable to the voters, but he may just ask the sheriff ‘which way the wind is blowing’ on a particular case.
Decisions are made — not only in the heat of the moment but also after time to review photos of injuries, medical records, interviews, and the totality of the circumstances.
If anyone wants to scrutinize and challenge the decisions I know that both the sheriff and the D.A. have the benefit of refusing access to records. In reality, there is little likelihood records will ever be available to the media or anyone else, unless something extreme happens like a police officer’s wife getting killed after a non-arrest. Even then, it would probably take a lawsuit or a victim’s family filing a civil rights charge causing an outside investigation.
These things have happened in other jurisdictions and have even involved the police chief of those jurisdictions.
Most people with a ‘view from the inside’ at Metro know about numerous situations where officers were not arrested. Some of these people were on the scene or have accurate details about what was known and what was (or was not) done. Others are just listening to rumors and operating on speculation. This doesn’t change the fact that there was an ‘incident’ and it could have resulted in enforcement action by the police.
I am not the first person to hear from frustrated ‘victims’ of domestic violence and how it can impact a police family. I’ll relay a story (below) that was recently provided to me… but just think about this: if you are ‘entitled’ to a portion of your spouse’s income/retirement because you have been married and maybe even have had children together and you are told to consider the economic impact that your family could suffer if the breadwinner loses his job… what would you do? Maybe somewhere along the ‘official’ line (a responding officer, a DV detective, your batterer’s supervisor, a member of the DA’s office) you are told that your batterer could lose his job and you could lose the retirement/financial security provided by your batterer and his ‘career’ so you decide to recant or can’t remember what actually happened. This seems like an easy way when the police have to investigate one of their own but it is actually NOT ALLOWED under state law or department policy. A ‘cooperative’ victim is NOT necessary if there is evidence of a DV and enough evidence to figure out what happened! In the real world, arrests are frequently made —
even when both parties refuse to speak to the police after their arrival. Officers do their best to determine what happened and then take action.
Here is a summary of an ‘insider’s view” (make that what some victims have put into writing about their experience).
“The NFL has taken a big hit lately with several of its players being involved in domestic violence situations. It has forced the NFL to take a look at this violent crime. They have had to make new rules and provisions and take a stance as far as domestic violence is concerned.
I wonder why our own Las Vegas Metro Police Department doesn’t take a stance on this horrific crime? Why do officers and the “top brass” at Metro get different treatment than the general public? When a Metro officer is involved in a domestic violence situation, it is treated as an “intervention” rather than them being arrested. A Metro officer is
given the benefit of the doubt rather than forcing them to own up to the destruction they have caused for their victims.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality. Intimate partner violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior which is only a fraction of a systemic pattern of dominance and control.” This can be doubly true when being the victim of domestic violence at the hands of a Metro officer. I can say this because I was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of a Metro officer. I understand fully how scary it can be to go up against a system that does not have the victim’s rights at the forefront, but does have the offending officer’s reputation as its first priority.
In a normal domestic violence call, if a victim is reluctant to state what has happened to him/her but shows visible signs of an altercation at the hands of someone else, the abuser is taken to jail. No questions asked. If a person is the victim of domestic violence at the hands of a Metro officer, they must be subjected to extreme questioning as to what happened. Even if a victim is bleeding and disheveled, he/she must explain in detail what transpired or the Metro officer is free to leave the scene. The officer is counseled and basically given a swat on the back of the hand for not keeping his or her personal life in better “check.” This often leads to more abuse for the victim and even more reluctance on their part to speak up and advocate for their rights.
If you are the victim of domestic violence your first source of help is to call the police. Who do you call when your significant other IS THE POLICE? Metro officers are afforded a different set of rules that the ordinary citizen is not privy to. It will not matter the physical evidence or the documentation provided to show repeated instances of abuse. All that will matter is that you as the victim tell the police your story so they can “start building a case.”
In Nevada, it doesn’t matter if the victim is reluctant, the state can still present its case. It is a known fact that victims of domestic violence are usually reluctant to speak out against their abuser. They may be frightened of their abuser, there may be custody issues involved and the loss of a perceived “lifestyle” are common reasons why a victim is reluctant to speak out against their abuser. When a victim is the partner of a Metro officer, it is almost impossible to leave because the abuser carries a gun… legally. The abuser knows the law and the statutes and is often the friend or superior officer of the officers who are called to the scene. The call to the officer’s house is treated more as a time to help the officer “to get his story straight,” when the focus should be on getting help for the victim involved. I ask, “When is Metro going to clean house, stop promoting officers who commit domestic violence and take a stand that domestic violence will NOT be tolerated by its officers who swore to uphold the law?” The NFL has set sanctions and rules as to its policy on domestic violence. When is Metro going to follow suit? When will the statutes and laws of Nevada be applied equally to officers? This is an important topic for the upcoming sheriff elects in the sheriff race.
Domestic violence must stop and it must stop within the ranks of our Metro officers.”
So since a new sheriff will provide leadership to the LVMPD, shouldn’t we know where the candidates stand on domestic violence involving the police? What are the factors that go into deciding to make an arrest or not? Does the rank of the involved department member matter? Does the severity of injury matter? Does the ability of the police department to keep the incident ‘silent’ matter? If the accused police officer does not admit to details of the incident (even though there is evidence) then is there going to be any penalty to be paid for that officer being UNTRUTHFUL to responding officers, supervisors, detectives, and internal affairs?
Sure, the officer can’t be forced to speak and incriminate himself (for the criminal investigation), but he can be compelled to speak and be truthful during the internal investigation. What is done when a victim notifies Metro that they have been dissuaded from following through with prosecution? If the victim knows that the batterer did not get arrested at the scene (and possibly wasn’t even formally interviewed) then just what message does that send about what might happen with the overall incident? No wonder some ‘Metro wives’ (or others who meet the relationship requirements of the DV law) don’t get justice and have to just give up on the system. Not only does this need to stop but it should never happen in the first place. Metro needs to take consistent action and give due process to the accused — NOT DIVERT THE PROCESS!