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Could an early warning system help or hurt accused officers

To some it may be obvious; but for others, it may not be common knowledge that the work of a police officer can be stressful. It may also be unnoticed that different police officers handle the stressors of the job differently. Some find healthy, useful outlets while others may turn to dangerous, nefarious habits. Whatever the reaction or treatment of stress, it is important for it not to manifest itself in domestic violence.

A number of police departments have instituted procedures meant to identify perilous behavior that may lead to misconduct, so that an at-risk officer may receive help before acts are committed that could irreparably affect his or her career. The San Diego Police Department recently implemented such a system after a federal review found flaws in the department’s method of identifying problem officers. 

Essentially, the new system tracks 21 different officer behaviors stemming from watershed events, including officer involved shootings, complaints regarding use of force, as well as positive commendations. If data from such events identifies potentially problematic behavior, a red flag is sent to a supervisor who can work with the officer to decide if job stress or personal problems are the root of the issue. From there the department can connect the officer with help if needed.

While the system is intended to increase officer well-being, it is not perfect, and could ensnare officers who are not at-risk, and who may be unduly accused of domestic violence. In these situations, it is important that an officer be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect their legal position as well as their reputation.

If you have questions about your legal rights in the midst of a domestic violence investigation, we invite you to contact us. 

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9.3Lisa Victoria Houle
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