AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office responds to situations of domestic violence on a daily basis, and they depend on the 911 operators who handle those calls and dispatch deputies.
Daniel Dunlap, director of Augusta 911 Center says dispatch has a huge responsibility to provide sheriff’s deputies with as much information as possible.
“Giving them all the information is most important,” Dunlap said. “If we fail to obtain if there are any weapons on scene, we’re setting up law enforcement or any first responder to a bad situation.”
Any scene can be dangerous, but tensions are especially high in family violence situations. Victims may end up changing their stories to protect their partners by the time officers arrive, and that’s what makes those initial calls so crucial.
“Their story might be changing a little bit, but the way the family violence laws are written in the state of Georgia is the state is actually the victim,” Maj. Steven Strickland of RCSO said. “If we can develop sufficient probable cause, we can actually go ahead and make an arrest even without the cooperation of the victim.”
But without evidence of a crime like physical violence, sheriff’s deputies cannot make an arrest or force anyone out of their home.
“You can say, ‘Hey look, this obviously isn’t working out tonight.’ And this is assuming, like I said, there was not a crime that was committed, it was just disorder and disagreement. Say, ‘Hey look, why don’t you go hang out with a friend tonight.'”
The conversation about how law enforcement handles these calls and works with the information provided by dispatch is going on nationwide because of the Gabby Petito case.
Clear lines of communication between first responders and 911 dispatch are key to help police take proper steps.
“It’s very important that they’re prepared, but it’s also very important for our staff to listen out for other key things they may hear in the background,” Dunlap said. “They could say that the individual has left the scene, and you may hear other voices in the background. It’s important for us to share that information with them.”
Deputies leave victims with information about local victim assistance programs, and how their case will go through the court system.