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Domestic Violence Calls Potentially Among The Most Hazardous For Police

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
In this photo taken May 6, 2015, Seattle police recruits Tre Smith, left, and Travis Duennes work together through a practice scenario at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission in Burien, Wash.

Tacoma police are grieving the loss of a fellow officer who was shot to death earlier this week. Officer Reginald "Jake" Gutierrez was responding to a suspected domestic violence case, one of the most common calls to service. 

Domestic violence calls are potentially among the most hazardous scenarios police officers face. That’s partly because they're so frequent even though domestic violence is still under-reported. But also, danger is never far from an officer’s mind because of the emotionally charged and personal environment he or she is walking into. Officers look for immediate danger first, and then work to de-escalate the situation.

"It's something that good cops historically have been skilled at, but now there's a lot more formalized training on how to calm people down," said Rick Bowen, commander for basic training at the Washington State Criminal Justice Commission.

Bowen oversees training for police in Washington. He says police have to treat people with an appropriate amount of respect during domestic violence calls.

"Even though I'm a police officer coming into your house to investigate a crime, I can't lose sight of the fact that I'm in your house, so there's a certain amount of respect that goes along with that," Bowen said.

Recruits learn these skills first through domestic violence training and mandated crisis intervention training, then by working side by side with veteran police in the field.  Officers are trained that their own safety is paramount, followed closely by that of the citizens they’re called to protect.