"My mommy and daddy are having a fight..." - the 911 recording begins with a sobbing little girl begging a dispatcher to "please send the police" as the screams and cries rise in the background. The call goes on for a harrowing two minutes and nineteen seconds before it's discontinued.
That was the sobering start to this week's Orleans Citizen Police Academy, as Officer Patrick Cronin introduced the topic of domestic violence. You can hear the entire (non-local) 911 call on the YouTube embed at the bottom of this page. When the audio clip ended with a dropped connection, the entire room sat in silence. It's Week Six of the Orleans Citizen Police Academy and CCToday's embedded reporter is there once again to report on this excellent community program.
Domestic violence is an active concern here on Cape Cod. According to Officer Cronin, one in four women experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. Women ages 20 to 24 are at highest risk. 1.3 million women a year are physically assaulted and the cycle of abuse costs the American economy $37 billion a year.
Domestic violence incidents are some of the most disturbing and potentially dangerous calls to which Orleans officers respond. They present a scenario of high emotions where either the victim or the aggressor could turn on the responding officers in a nanosecond.
For the Orleans Police Department, a domestic violence report is a "Priority One" call. Two to three officers typically respond to a domestic incident. The officers approach a domestic call with extreme caution - and for good reason. 14% of police officers killed on duty lose their lives on a domestic violence call. 97% of officers killed on a domestic call are shot with a firearm - 7% of those are killed with their own weapon.
When officers are en route to a domestic call, the dispatchers try to provide as much information as they can to the responding officers. They look up previous incidents at the address, ascertain if any warrants are out for someone at the address, whether there are any active restraining orders, if anyone living there has a license to carry a firearm - and much more.
Officer Cronin went over the many resources that are available locally for victims of domestic violence and showcases a packet giving to victims with court forms and help source information.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Paterson spoke at length about the prosecution of the 1,600 or more domestic violence cases that pass through his office each year.
If children are found to be present at the scene of a domestic violence incident, the police and District Attorney's office are mandated reporters to the Department of Children and Families. DCF will investigate each incident to determine if the children are in danger.
Cape Cod's most visible resource for victims of domestic or sexual violence is Independence House in Hyannis.
Officer Cronin reported that the victims of the incident on the non-local 911 tape are "okay" now.
Investigation of Unattended Deaths
Lt. Kevin Higgins made an extensive presentation on how the police handle unattended deaths. Essentially every death investigation is treated as a "crime scene" with a slow, deliberate assessment of the scene.
When a person appears to have died some time ago, a careful examination of the scene helps the investigators determine when the person passed. Clues like receipts, mail, uncollected newspapers all create a trail for officers to follow. Simple household fixtures like a piece of fruit on a counter can also offer clues.
Lt Higgins explained the role that the common fly plays in an investigation, since its progress from laying eggs to new flies emerging also helps officers set the time line.
The Lieutenant presented several photos of death scenes he has worked over the years and walked the group through the premises, pointing out how the scene speaks to him as he makes his assessment.
In a community with a high population of senior citizens, most of Orleans' unattended death calls are for seniors who died in their home. A close second on that is drug-related deaths. Each unattended death is approached in the same deliberate, meticulous manner.