Investigating Domestic Violence Crimes in Nevada

Approaching the Scene

  • Consider threat level
  • Wait for backup, if possible
  • Park out of sight from the scene (not in front)
  • Observations
  • What did you see and hear
  • What's relevant to the scene and evidence
  • Make written and/or mental notes for report
  • Be aware of lighting conditions
  • Cautious approach minimizes the level of risk
  • Assess cover/concealment
  • Assess structure/scene
  • Obtain pertinent information from dispatch

(ALWAYS assume weapons are involved)

On-Scene Checklist

Once the Scene is Safe...

Primary Checklist

  • Request medical... ALWAYS in strangulation cases
  • Determine and document relationship
  • Document and photograph: scene, suspect and victims
  • Document any injuries observed and/or claimed
  • Document evidence of alcohol or drug use
  • Request voluntary PBT or urine samples, if appropriate
  • Document presence of children, their ages and demeanor; photograph and document any injuries
  • Document spontaneous statements and emotional state of EVERYONE, especially the victim
  • If possible, interview involved persons in front of the vehicle for video or make other arrangements to videotape statements
  • Schedule time with victim to obtain follow-up photos
  • Request medical release from victims
  • Consider other possible crimes to charge (stalking, kidnapping, destruction of property, etc.)
  • Obtain physical evidence from the scene and hospital
  • Locate and identify other witnesses - neighbors, children, other family members and medical personnel
  • Request criminal history and local information for involved persons
  • Request 911 recording and log into evidence
  • Obtain booking photo and phone calls from jail
  • Offer to call domestic violence advocate to scene after secure
  • Contact on-call Deputy District Attorney, if necessary
  • Document the incident even if an arrest did not occur

Tips for Interviewing Victims

  • While you must control the scene - remain calm
  • Realize that authority figures may scare the victim and family members
  • Realize that the victim and children may be conditioned by the abuser not to talk to law enforcement
  • If children are present, secure them in an adjacent location and interview victim away from children
  • Talk to victim before the suspect
  • Interview victim out of earshot and out of sight of the suspect
  • Reassure victim that you will listen to what victim has to say
  • Acknowledge that you are concerned for the victim and the family's safety
  • Offer victim services information and offer to call an advocate
  • Be patient - telling the story of abuse may cause the victim to relive the abuse
  • Record interview
  • Question all statements by the victim that injuries were caused by an accident
  • Tell the victim NEVER to hesitate in calling the police for help; remind the victim that the victim is not bothering the police by calling
  • Remind victim that another officer may respond to further calls and may need to ask similar historical questions
  • Track family violence cases to identify repeat offenders
  • If the victim indicates that there are other victims, contact the other victims
  • Review all past reports, even if they were cleared by patrol
  • Investigate all stalking complaints

Interviewing Victims and Assessing Risk for Lethality

Some victims can leave and never be troubled by the batterer again; others must go to the extreme of moving across the country and changing their identity. Most battered victims fall somewhere in between. Use the following questions to help determine the possible lethality risk and help the victim make plans. REMEMBER, battered victims are usually the best authority on their own safety.

  • Are you afraid to talk to the police? If so, why?
  • Please describe in detail what happened.
  • Has this every happened before?
  • (Ask italicized questions if abuse has happened in the past)
  • If yes, how often does it happen?
  • When was the first time?
  • What was the worst incident?
  • When did it occur?
  • When was the last time?
  • Has the physical violence increased in frequency or severity over the past six months?
  • Has he/she used a weapon or threatened you with a weapon?
  • Has the batterer ever been arrested before for violence against you or another member of the household?
  • Have you ever been treated by a doctor or hospitalized for injuries inflicted by the batterer that was not reported to the police?
  • Is there now, or has there ever been, any protective/restraining orders in effect?
  • Is the batterer on probation or parole?
  • Have you talked to friends/family about incidents not reported to the police?
  • Has the batterer ever forced you to have unwanted sex?
  • Does the batterer use drugs or drink excessively; if so, how often?
  • Has the batterer threatened to kill you?
  • Do you believe the batterer is capable of killing you?
  • Does the batterer control most or all of your daily activities? (For instance, does the batterer tell you who you can be friends with, how much money you can take with you shopping, or when you can take the car, etc.)
  • Have you ever been beaten by the batterer during a pregnancy?
  • Is the batterer violently and/or constantly jealous of you?
  • Has the batterer ever threatened or tried to commit suicide?
  • Has the batterer threatened to harm you or your children?
  • Is the batterer unemployed?
  • Do you currently have another (different) intimate partner?
  • Does the batterer follow or spy on you, leave threatening notes, destroy your property and/or make unwanted calls to you?
  • What are your immediate concerns for you and your family?
  • What do you feel you need to do?
  • What are your fears for the future?
  • Can I help you contact your family or friends?
Baker-Tingey, J. 2021, Heart & Hope Law Enforcement Training, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, Blog Post

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Also of Interest:

A Collaborative Domestic Violence Prevention Program
This factsheet contains a collection of programs to prevent domestic violence and two-day training for law enforcement to understand the many issues surrounding domestic violence.
Powell, P., Smith, M., Riley, J., Harmon, A., Ryan, C., and Butler, J. 2010, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-10-74

Associated Programs

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Heart & Hope: Building Resilient Families

Heart & Hope provides resources and skills to victims of domestic violence who have left the perpetrator and are building a new life for themselves and their family. Workshops help parent victims gain parenting skills and confidence, build resilience for themselves and their children, avoid becoming victims in future relationships, strengthen family relationships and envision hope for the future. Workshops help children build social and emotional skills to prevent them from becoming future victi