After discussing a type of decision that might be good research target, we offered to send some data about the issue to the professors, and a sample of an investigative report--with names redacted. I assembled that information and forwarded it. The following morning, I received a response from one of the researchers. I could tell from the tone that he had been impressed after reading the case report I had sent, in which the officer explained what she had observed, what she heard from those she interviewed, what she learned from her own investigation, how she assessed the information, considered alternatives, and the thought process that led to her ultimate decision on the best course of action.
In Lincoln, we call this a Supplementary Report, or an Additional Case Investigation Report, and this one was quite typical for the type of case in question. He questioned whether this was typical, and I forwarded him a few other examples, all of which were selected completely randomly. All of these are evidence of compassionate, professional, deliberative decision-making, which is the norm. He closed his email by telling him how impressed he had been by the information we provided, and I told him this story:
It was the summer of 1975, and I was in my first solo assignment after a little less than a year on the department, as a motorcycle officer. I was dispatched to a disturbance in an upscale neighborhood deep in southeast Lincoln. I encountered a victim who had been beaten by her husband, who was in a simmering rage. As his wife had been trying to escape his wrath, he had grabbed her by the hair right outside the front door, and smashed her head against a concrete step. She broke away and managed to call 911. He was a physician, and could not believe that I had the audacity to arrest him. He was a lot older than me, and quadruple my income and social status, or more. The cuffs fit just fine, though.
A cruiser officer who had arrived as backup transported him to jail. The victim needed to go to the hospital. She had a split lip, a lump on her temple almost the size of a baseball, and was in extreme emotional distress. Even as a 21 year old, I knew that the source of her distress was complex, though unspoken. She was frantic over the impact my arrest might have on her family, her husband's job, her children--and she was almost certainly in a panic thinking about what he might do to her now. She had wanted to end the beating, but had no time to consider what her 911 call might set in motion, nor to comprehend the resolve of the young man with a badge who first arrived in response. In addition to all this, going to the hospital would now inevitably result in revelation of the abuse within Lincoln's tight medical community.
Unable to either console her or to convince her to go with me to the hospital, I sought assistance from a nascent human service agency, which dispatched an advocate within about 30 minutes. The volunteer who arrived was even younger than me. She was completely ineffective, seemingly in shock at actually witnessing the aftermath of genuine domestic violence, unable to communicate. Despite my sense of inadequacy in dealing with a case that epitomized every dynamic of domestic violence, I was left to my own devices, and muddled through.
As I told the professor, things are a little better today. The training of new officers, for one thing, is much better than what I received. The field of victim advocacy and support has also matured, and a similar call today would bring a seasoned, trained advocate. But I remind myself a couple of times every year, around graduation time, that we still give guns to 21 year olds, then send them forth to deal with the most complex interpersonal and societal issues than humankind can dish up, often pretty much alone--and expect them to do so with perfection.