Officers Often Face Unpredictability When on Civil Standby Duty

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SACRAMENTO — Law enforcement officers say civil standby duty is a preventative measure that dissuades two parties from getting into an altercation.

Sacramento Police Officer Tara O’Sullivan was killed while assisting a woman who was gathering her things after apparently ending a domestic relationship.

Officers who have done civil standby duty say domestic break-ups are emotional and can sometimes lead to confrontations.

Domestic violence agency Women Escaping a Violent Environment says some request a civil standby when ending a violent relationship because there is an inherent danger.

WEAVE’s Julie Bornhoeft says they can be unpredictable.

“Those relationships turn incredibly violent and, in some cases, deadly,” Bornhoeft said.

Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Rod Grassmann, who was a training officer and is a hostage negotiator, said he’s been on many civil standby assignments. He said officers are trained to deescalate volatile confrontations using a calm demeanor and reasoning skills.

However, Officer O’Sullivan may have been shot from a distance before she could use her mediation skills.

“There are some things that you can’t foresee,” Grassmann said. “I mean, there are times that no matter what you do, there is a danger and sometimes that danger comes right in front of you.”

If you or a loved one become a victim of domestic violence, you can call WEAVE’s 24-hour support and information line at 916-920-2952 or you can visit their website.


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