On The Beat with Inspector Jim Tyner
It is human nature that most people dread seeing a police officer walking up to their front door and, let’s f ace it, we don’t always bring good news.
But for victims of domestic abuse our arrival at their front door can be a welcome sight.
For police officers, however, that walk up to the front door can be a difficult time for them too…
It’s a Sunday afternoon. You are on patrol, responding to a report of a suspected domestic incident on the new housing estate in Spalding.
This is one of 10,000 domestic abuse incidents reported to Lincolnshire Police every year. Neighbours have reported hearing shouting from next door.
As you arrive, the white UPVC front door is slightly open. You walk up the path past the well manicured lawns and picture-perfect flower beds. As you do, you don’t know what you’re going to find. It may be nothing. There may be a victim seriously injured inside; the offender can be either angry or remorseful or any emotion in between.
If you have to arrest the offender how will other family members react? It’s not unusual for a domestic abuse victim to react badly to police taking action against an offender.
As you reach the front door, your heart is racing as you shout in to announce your presence. Your colleague has also arrived and is now walking up the path towards you. As you enter the front door a woman is stood by the lounge door on the right. She is crying uncontrollably and through her sobs you can’t make out what she is saying.
You see a man standing at the far end of the corridor. He is bare-chested and in a split second you notice his knuckles are reddened. You ask the woman to take a step back in to the lounge and your colleague steps in behind to talk to her: it’s important to speak to both parties separately.
As you walk down the corridor towards the man he backs in to the kitchen. This is never a good place to be – too many accessible knives at a time of heightened tension.
You step in to the kitchen to talk with the man. At this point you still don’t know what has happened. Is the man an aggressor or a victim?
When you talk to him, the man is agitated but not aggressive. You can smell beer on his breath and his eyes are reddened. When you ask him what has happened, he replies: “Nothing’s happened. This is private, just an argument.”
Your colleague talks to you on the police radio. She tells you that the woman in the lounge is saying that the man in the kitchen is her husband and during an argument he has punched her in the stomach. You take a step towards the man and arrest him for assault. He is totally compliant as you handcuff him behind his back.
As you walk him down the corridor to the front door you notice a little girl on the stairs: she is about eight-years- old. As you walk past she shouts: “Why did you do it, daddy?”. This suddenly ignites the situation. The man wants to go up the stairs to talk to the little girl, but you want him out of the house and in the back of a police van.
He starts to struggle and the little girl starts screaming hysterically, backing away from her father. You are joined by your colleague from the lounge. As you both restrain the man, the woman then steps in to the narrow corridor and starts trying to pull your colleague away, shouting: “Don’t hurt him.”
Within a moment everything has gone from calm to shouting and it takes a few minutes and every ounce of negotiating skills to calm the situation again.
Thankfully, no one is hurt. The woman returns to the lounge and you are able to take the now-tearful and remorseful man out to the police van.
Now begins the vital task of evidence gathering. Will the victim provide a formal statement? Has she got any visible injuries that can be photographed? What exactly have the neighbours heard or seen? What has the little girl seen? Will you have to arrange for specialist interviewers to take a statement from her? If no one is prepared to give a statement, this may not go to court.
Don’t forget the risk assessment questions: has this happened before?
What has triggered it on this occasion? This is important information for safeguarding the woman and the little girl.
But that’s all for the future. For now, you want to get back to the police station, book your prisoner in to custody, write up your notes and see if you can get those words out of your mind: ‘Why did you do it, daddy?’