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The 2 most dangerous moments of domestic violence calls

If a domestic abuser intends on killing a police officer, history has proven certain events take place

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Arrive at a spot out of the direct line of sight of the residence on every domestic violence call.


If you ask a street cop who is about to retire what the five scariest moments were in his/her career, one or more of them will have taken place during a domestic violence call.

Time after time, domestic violence perpetrators prove that anyone who can deliberately kill the people they love the most can kill a police officer without blinking an eye.

Police officers must take full control of their destiny by being fully alert and aware during every moment of a domestic violence call.

The Most Dangerous Moments

If a domestic abuser intends on killing a police officer, history has proven the attempt is most likely to take place:

  1. During the approach;
  2. While attempting the arrest.

Officers must shift into high alert during these critical moments of every call/contact, but this is especially true in domestic violence cases.

The Approach

A domestic violence call is often a crime in progress. In most cases where the victim has managed to call 911, the perpetrator has witnessed the desperate plea for help. In these cases, the abuser knows the police are coming.

This call inspires some to flee. Others will stay, change their chameleon-like personas and attempt to lie their way out of their circumstance. Still, others will prepare to extinguish their rage by visiting violence upon responding officers.

Considering this fact, take great care during your approach. Do not announce your arrival with your siren. Come in silent as if you are arriving at an alarm. Arrive at a spot out of the direct line of sight of the residence on every domestic violence call. Approach cautiously on foot, using cover and try to be the surprise-er and not the surprise-ee, upon arriving.

Do not proceed directly to make contact on the approach. Pause short, from a position of advantage, and scan the area. Watch. Listen.

Assess what is happening around and within the residence before you make contact. During this moment in time, in many cases, you can determine what is happening, where it is happening, who is in danger, who needs to be arrested and how much more help you need.

You also will be able to determine if the circumstances are exigent in the extreme and if there are weapons involved. This intelligence-gathering takes just a matter of seconds, but failing to do so and rushing in blind has proven to be a fatal error.

When you do move in to make contact, treat every door as the fatal funnel it is. Do not stand in front of doors and avoid exposing yourself to attack from windows. When you are with a partner, you should approach using the contact-cover concept.

When you make contact, separate the parties involved, secure them if justification exists, conduct a protective sweep of the scene and attend to the injured.

With this done, it is time to investigate the incident.

The Arrest

The second most dangerous time for officers on a domestic violence call is during the arrest.

Chronic abusers can persuade those around them into believing they are wonderful individuals, while successfully hiding their dark side. So skilled are these schmoozers, they often lull officers with their compliance and cooperation into believing one of two false things.

They will convince officers either they are the victims or that the arrest will be made without incident.

The last words ever heard by officers could be, “Certainly, officer. Let me just get my coat.”

When it comes to making an arrest, you need to control the suspect’s movements both verbally and physically. Remember, you are on their turf, so they know where their weapons are and you don’t.

When probable cause has been developed, get the help you need, get them handcuffed and be prepared for violent resistance. If the suspect needs a coat and shoes, you get them and search them as well, before you throw them over the suspect’s shoulders. That suspect should already be handcuffed.

Treat the suspect with respect, but do not extend one ounce of trust ever.

The Most Dangerous Time For Victims

People from the outside looking in often ask about the victim, “Why don’t they just leave?”

There are many reasons domestic violence victims don’t leave, but one of them is because they have often heard, “If you try to take my kids and leave, I will kill you.” Abused victims have ample evidence to believe this is not an idle threat.

The process of leaving is truly the most dangerous time in a violent relationship.

Many abusers view their family as their property. If they feel they are about to lose this “property” they can be deadly to themselves, their spouse, children and even pets. The list does not stop here.

It is not unusual for this violence to spill out of the home, especially if the victim has managed to get out. On many occasions, these stalkers attempt to ruin their spouse’s life by targeting their spouse’s employers, fellow employees, friends and any officers that might try to interfere.


It is often said that the goal of officers is to make it home at the end of every shift. To accomplish this remember you can’t enjoy domestic bliss off duty unless you survive domestic violence on duty.

This article, originally published 08/25/2017, has been updated.

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.