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The Police Can Help in Domestic Violence Situations

There are many people to go to for help, including the police.

There are telephone numbers of many agencies that can offer help to you or a friend of yours who is a victim of domestic violence listed in the resource section. Since 1991, domestic violence has been defined as a crime in the District of Columbia. The police are obliged to take a report following all allegations of domestic violence. They must investigate the allegation and determine whether or not there is probable cause to arrest the alleged abuser. The District of Columbia has a mandatory arrest policy that means the police have the responsibility of ensuring a victim is safe by arresting an alleged abuser on the scene or applying for a warrant of arrest.

The police officer who responds to a call should submit his or her report to a supervisor who, in turn will provide dedicated Domestic Violence Investigators with a copy of the report to ensure follow up with the victim. The police should also offer safety-planning advice and make referrals to services needed by the victim and the children. The police should provide details of the Crime Victims Compensation Fund which allows victims who have reported a crime to police (or obtained a protection order) to apply for financial assistance. The police can also offer information on where to obtain a protection order.

The victims of a domestic violence incident or offense will be allowed to obtain a free copy of the police report (PD 251) documenting their event from the Police District where the crime was reported or Police Headquarters located at 300 Indiana Avenue, NW.

Those cases in which an arrest has been made will be referred to the US Attorney’s Office for a decision about prosecuting the alleged abuser. The decision may be made independently of the victim’s wishes because it is believed that victims should be relieved of the burden of making that decision. The cycle of violence is such that many victims do not wish to proceed with a report to the police (for example, if the explosion phase is followed by a “honeymoon” phase). Some victims feel calling the police may be enough to get the abuse to stop. Regrettably, experience shows this is not necessarily the case and the violence may not only continue, but also get worse.

If an abuser is found guilty, he/she may be required to attend batterer treatment, or be imprisoned. Most victims will still require assistance from other service providers, (e.g. for housing needs, child custody issues, divorce or separation advice, counseling, advice on safety plans etc.).

For additional domestic violence information:

Domestic Violence Unit
Police Headquarters
300 Indiana Avenue, NW, Room 3156
Washington, DC
Phone: (202) 727-7137
Fax: (202) 727-6491