STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES
ISSUED ________ EFFECTIVE ___________
S.O.P. 16-8 FAMILY VIOLENCE INCIDENTS
It is the policy of the Agency to fully investigate and
accurately report family violence complaints brought to the
attention of the Agency, to arrest offenders where lawful and
appropriate, to provide protection and assistance to victims of
family violence, and to inform involved parties of the various
services that may be available to them within the criminal justice
system, from social service agencies and other community
ATTENTION CEO: For additional assistance with developing a
law enforcement protocol for family violence incidents, contact
Chairperson Marla Moore of the Georgia Commission on Family
Violence at 404-656-5171. The following procedures are based on
information provided by the Georgia Commission on Family
ATTENTION CEO: For more information explaining how
pro-arrest policy for domestic violence minimizes liability
exposure, see The Police Chief, November 1995, Chief's
Counsel by George Wattendorf, page 11.
The use of the term "family violence" in this SOP will be
defined in OCGA 19-13-1.
- RESPONDING TO A FAMILY VIOLENCE INCIDENCE
- Upon receipt of a call for service, the
communications officer should determine as quickly as
possible whether or not the call concerns an incident of
family violence. If so, the communications officer should
get as much information as possible from the complainant
(e.g., injuries, weapons involved, whether minor children
are present/involved, the exact location, whereabouts of
perpetrator and other relevant information).
NOTE: If a call for service is received by someone other
than law enforcement and then transferred to the Agency or
if an untimely report is received by the Agency, the officer
receiving the call should immediately contact his/her
supervisor. The supervisor shall then cause an
investigation as described below to be conducted.
- Once the information has been received, the
communications officer shall immediately designate one
primary unit and whenever possible, a backup unit. The
responding officers shall be provided with all available
information by the communications officer upon initial
dispatch. Each officer shall approach family complaints
with caution and discretion.
- The communications officer shall notify a supervisor
whenever the incoming call involves violence or a threat to
life and/or bodily harm (i.e., weapon involved). The
officer will call a supervisor to the scene if after
arriving, the officer(s) find these conditions. When
possible, supervisors should monitor the radio traffic
involving the family violence complaint and proceed to the
scene of the incident to assist the officer(s) as
- When dispatched, officers should respond
immediately to the location. If the officer finds the
disturbance to be in progress, he/she should notify the
communications officer about the following: location of the
problem, nature of the disturbance, and the necessity of a
back-up unit and/or supervisor. If the disturbance is not
in progress, the officer should immediately attempt to
contact the complainant and proceed with the investigation.
- Officers responding to family violence complaints will
coordinate their arrival at the scene without delaying the
response time. Upon arrival at the scene of family
violence, the responding officers will advise the
communications officer of the location of the complainant if
different from the original dispatch location. Officers
should park their vehicles in a readily accessible position.
The vehicles should be locked and secured.
- If the disturbance is at a private residence, the
officers should attempt to contact the complainant before
proceeding further. Officers should not enter a private
residence except on the direct invitation of the owner or
resident, unless probable cause exists to make an arrest or
a confrontation is in progress.
NOTE: Officers should make every effort to speak to
every occupant of the residence before leaving.
- Once the officer(s) has entered the residence, they
should prudently attempt to separate the parties in conflict
and calmly listen to each person to determine the cause of
the conflict and to gather additional information (e.g., who
was the primary aggressor).
- Officer(s) should avoid "taking sides" with either party
in the dispute. These family violence complaints should be
handled as criminal incidents. Reconciliation or divorce
should never be suggested or discussed with the parties
involved. Officers should be prepared to offer referrals to
the victim concerning the location of shelters, victim
witness assistance programs, counselling, etc.
NOTE: The existence of probable cause and the elements
of a crime shall be the sole factors that determine the
proper method of handling the incident. Factors that should
not influence the officer's course of action in family
violence include: the relationship or marital status of the
suspect and the victim; sexual orientation; speculation that
the complainant may not follow through with the criminal
justice process or that the arrest may not lead to a
conviction; the complainant's history or prior complaint;
whether or not the suspect lives on the premises with the
complainant; the complainant's emotional state; injuries
that are not visible; verbal assurances that the violence
will cease; the location of the incident, (i.e., public or
private); the potential financial consequence of arrest; or
the lack of a temporary restraining order or other
- An arrest should be made in the event there is probable
cause to believe that a felony has occurred. All suspects
arrested should be taken into custody. If an officer has
probable cause to believe that a felony has occurred, an
arrest should be made.
- Suspects should be arrested in the event that a
misdemeanor family violence incident occurs in the officer's
presence, or if the officer has probable cause to believe
that an act of family violence has been committed. Such
situations include, but are not limited to: an officer who
witnesses an act of family violence, a violation of a
restraining order, or illegal possession of a weapon.
- In the event the officer does not have the probable
cause or necessary evidence to make an arrest, he/she shall
make a good faith effort to inform the complainant of
his/her rights to appear before a magistrate to seek a
warrant for arrest. When possible, such discussion should
be held out of the presence of the suspect. An officer
should not encourage nor dissuade complainants from
attempting to obtain a warrant from a magistrate.
- Investigation of Family Violence Cases
Officers arriving at a family violence scene should conduct
a thorough investigation and submit objective reports of all
incidents of violence and all crimes related to family
violence. The Family Violence Reporting form should be
completed and processed in accordance with OCGA
- Arrival at Scene
- Determine location and condition of victim
- Determine if any weapon(s) are involved or within the
- Provide appropriate level of aid to injured
- Separate suspect, victim and witness (victim should
be out of suspect's view); and
- Take photographs of the victim, suspect, and scene.
NOTE: When possible, follow-up photographs should
be made for injuries that will become more noticeable
over time (i.e., bruises).
- Preliminary Investigation
- Interview everyone separately - victim,
suspect, children, other witnesses;
- Ask victim and suspect if they have pain even if
there are no visible injuries;
- Document victim's and suspect's condition. For
example, torn clothing, disheveled appearance, evidence
of injury, and disarray in house;
- Document size relation of victim and suspect, keeping
in mind that larger is not always stronger;
- Determine which of the parties involved was the
primary aggressor, by investigating the following:
- Did one of the parties appear to be in
actual fear of the other?
- Did one party escalate the level of violence
(e.g., did a man react to a slap by striking the woman
- Was a party physically larger and/or stronger than
the other? (See item d. above.)
- Does relevant documented history include the
- physical violence;
- sexual violence;
- destruction of personal property;
- harm to pet; and
- violence against others.
- Which of the parties has been documented as the
aggressor in previous situations?
- Did any injuries appear to be defense wounds?
- If victim has a restraining order or temporary
protective order against suspect, obtain a copy of the
order and valid proof of service. If not, inform victim
how to get an order.
- If victim has a restraining order or other protective
order that has not yet been served on suspect, inform the
suspect of the order and note in the report that this was
done. The officer should also enforce the applicable
provisions of the order (e.g., "stay away" provisions).
If victim has an extra copy of the order and the suspect
has not been served with a copy of the order, the officer
should serve the extra copy on the suspect and fill out
proof of service.
- If a suspect is taken into custody:
- Advise suspect of Miranda rights;
- Take statements if and when Miranda is waived;
- Document spontaneous voluntary statements; and
- Prevent communications between suspect and victim
- Evidence gathering should include:
- Document condition of crime scene
(disarray of physical surroundings);
- Photograph crime scene, if applicable;
- Ensure that victim's/suspect's injuries are
- Impound and/or photograph weapons and other
evidence of the crime.
- Medical treatment investigation should include:
- Obtain authorization for release of
medical records from victim, if possible;
- Document extent of injuries/treatment if
- Obtain names, addresses and phone numbers of fire,
ambulance or paramedic personnel treating the
- In making a permanent record of the incident and
subsequent investigation, the following should be
included as part of the reporting procedure:
- Maintain objectivity in reporting - avoid
personal opinions regarding comments from
- Ensure that elements of all involved crimes are
included in the report;
- Document any injuries victim/suspect have
- Document past history of violence;
- Document statements of victim, suspect and all
- Document physical evidence obtained; and
- Document probation/parole status.
- Officers should not advise victims of family violence
that they can "press" charges or "drop" charges. If a
victim spontaneously states that prosecution is not
desired, the victim should be told that the decision to
prosecute is made by the District Attorney or Solicitor.
Again, victims should be given information regarding the
availability and location of shelters, victim/witness
assistance programs, etc.
NOTE: Officers should refrain from giving opinions
and use discretion regarding the information and
statements made to or about victims.
- Follow-up Investigation
- All family violence reports prepared by
officers should be reviewed and given follow-up
investigation as needed. Whenever possible, review should
be conducted by officers with family violence training.
- Follow-up investigations should be geared to the
requirements of the prosecuting office's family violence
unit' or the particular prosecutor handling the case.