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Citizens Police Academy-week 3: domestic violence & station tour

The detective had me in tears within the first ten minutes of Thursday night’s CPA class. We listened to five minutes of a 911 call from a 15-year-old girl whose drunken father was beating her mom.

No hysterics or tears for this girl. She'd been through this before.

She gave her name, address, and phone number, and calmly relayed the situation to the dispatcher (whose ability to stay composed also impressed me). When asked if she could get her little brother (age 11) and sister (age eight) away from the room where her mom and dad were, the girl said, “No. My dad will kill me.”

Not like “Dude, my parents are so gonna kill me when they find out I lost my phone.” No, she meant it literally.

Later, when the father fled the house in his car, the dispatcher asked what he drove and the teen relayed his make, model and license plate number without hesitation. How many of you know your license plate number?

How many of you could recite it under that kind of stress?

While the dad was still there, we could hear the youngest girl screaming for her mom as she watched Daddy kick Mommy in the head. And later after Dad left, Mom repeatedly moaned in pain and the little girl kept crying and screeching. “Mah-um!”

Those cries were the most heart-wrenching sound I’ve ever heard.

They were my undoing.

After listening to the call and discussing it, we learned about domestic violence laws in Virginia. You probably don’t want the details, but the most important thing is that the penalties increase for each offense, unlike standard assault or battery charges. The third offense is a felony.

The officer and detective also discussed the inherent difficulties in dealing with DV calls.

  • Deciding who’s telling the truth when both parties have injuries.
  • Dealing with battered spouses (about 20% of the abused are men) who don’t want to testify or press charges, either out of fear of their attacker, or fear of the loss of income and shelter.
  • Culture and language barriers.

After a break, we switched gears and discussed how the police station is organized and the different units within, including the bicycle cops. The police officer joked about cops and doughnuts and handed out Krispie Kreme. Yum! Then we toured the jail in-processing center.

This is where they take people after arresting them and bringing them before the magistrate who makes sure the arrest was “good”. The Mt. Vernon station has its own magistrate and jail because the main county jail is pretty far away.

The MorphoTrak PrinTrak LiveScan 4000 (

The sheriff’s department runs the jail, so they gave us an overview of the process when they get a new inmate.

Body cavity search for drug and weapons offenders. In order to prevent suicide, no shoelaces allowed. No underwire bras.

They take the prisoner’s photo and fingerprints (digitally via a MorphoTrak PrintTrak LiveScan scanner) and enter the charge into the system. The data is fed to the FBI database which returns a report on the detainee within five to ten minutes.

We ended the night with a close-up look at a police cruiser and the chance to ask questions of the police officers and sheriff’s deputies who are all really nice when you’re on the right side of the law. 😉

It was an exhausting night, but the most interesting yet.


Because the classes run so late, I'm going to move my CPA blog posts to Sundays. I need my sleep!

Tell your friends!


  1. KM Fawcett


    Wow. I almost started crying reading about it. I can’t imagine what these kids and the mom went through/ are going through. Thanks for the CPA posts!

  2. Reply

    I just about started to cry reading about that kid, too. I applied for a job with the local police department in NOVA (working the 911 line) and decided it wasn’t for me during the interview process. I’m glad I made that choice.

    I think I’ve been fingerprinted by one of those scanners – it looks just like that, but tan. No, I’ve never been arrested, but I worked on the hill when we lived in NOVA and needed a badge. The security check was impressive to say the least, and I didn’t even work for the government, my job just brought me into the Capitol with some frequency.

    • Reply

      I know what you mean, Kali. After listening to that call I know I couldn’t be a dispatcher. I’m sure they learn to compartmentalize, but I’m not sure I’d want to get to that point.

      Aren’t those scanners cool? I was amazed at how clear the fingerprints were just pressed up against the glass. Way better than ink. Except, apparently, it doesn’t work as well on older people whose skin is looser. 😉

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