Ask a Cop

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Dear Copper,
My apartment complex has a pair of neighbors who are constantly fighting, and I mean hardcore. Every week there’s some kind of knockdown-dragout between them. Just last week the woman cut the guy up all across his back, leaving him bleeding and yelling for help. More specifically, yelling at her for help, only to receive a rapid succession of “fuck you,” in return. (Can you tell it’s a small complex yet?) Another neighbor eventually called the cops. When they arrived they tackled the guy to the ground after he tried to keep them out. He immediately yelled out “I didn’t do anything, she didn’t cut me, I’m not pressing charges, everything’s fine!” I can’t tell you whether this was an actual emergency or if this is just foreplay for them, but at the end of the night they talked their way out of going to jail and no paramedic arrived to help the guy. So my questions to you ... how the fuck does no one go to jail after all that? And is there ever a point where the officers step in and call bullshit on a story like this, or do they have to take their word on it?
Love & Sconecutter;

Dear Your Complex Sucks,
Damn!  I’d move, unless you like the entertainment.  You’re mostly right in that the coppers who respond on domestic violence calls like this really couldn’t give a shit if the Whiskey Tangos want to beat or slice on each other.  So, Utah laws, and most states’ laws for that matter, took the arrest decision out of the cops’ hands many years ago.

If you read the Utah statute on domestic violence crimes, you’ll understand that any time there is a physical altercation between two persons who legally meet the definition of domestically involved (married, ever lived together, child in common, related, etc…), the cops must arrest the primary aggressor.  The statute uses the words “shall arrest” so the coppers have no discretion as they do with other crimes.

Technically, if the cop writes the primary aggressor (that’s usually who the cops are going to arrest) a ticket for domestic violence assault, that’s an arrest.  The code doesn’t say they have to book someone in jail, just that they “shall arrest.”

But, as any good non-lazy cop knows, if someone doesn’t go to jail, they’ll be right back at your complex 15 minutes later. You’ve probably seen that yourself.  Cops can write the dumbass a ticket, drop his white trash ass at Uncle Elmer’s farm 500 miles away, and I guarantee he’ll be back lightspeed, beating on Trailer Park Barbie before you crack another beer.  By booking one of them into jail, not only does the copper avoid repeated visits that night, but the bookee gets a 24-hour no contact order.  If he (or, I should also say, she) violates that order, it’s an additional Class A charge, which is worse than the original assault,  not to mention the huge liability to the cop if someone goes back and kills the other person because he was too lazy to run to jail.

Seriously though, your described ringside drama, which is most domestic violence cases, has nothing to do with domestic violence abuse.  The only person being abused in your complex is you.  Serious domestic violence abuse is a whole different monster.  Most street cops are trained very well to discern the difference between the case you described and those involving real victims of abuse.  Those cases will involve victim advocates, sanctuaries and shelters, as well as protection orders from the court.

Now back to my original point.  You should move.  Living in your complex makes you a victim twice.  First, having to listen to your shitty neighbors’ foreplay, and second, having lazy cops do nothing about your shitty neighbors.  It doesn’t sound like money well spent, on rent or taxes.