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September 13, 2010 12:48 PM   Subscribe

My godson's mother just got into an unspecified altercation with her brother about elder-care. It led to her brother (who happens to be a Police Officer in a major metropolitan US city) beating her up pretty severely. What can I do to support her?

I found out about this through my partner who called me, so while we are close with our godson's mother, we weren't there for the fight, didn't witness anything and would at best be character witnesses for her. She is on her way to the hospital now, so medical care is probably taken care of, though she may need help paying for it.

Our godson's mother already has a lot of people who are willing to help her, who are in fact helping her and who are closer to the situation and closer to the direct abilities to give her the immediate help she needs (like domestic violence shelter administrators, etc.).

My first impulses (which are confrontational and dominant - like calling his boss or confronting him directly) are obviously flawed and stupid, but what can I do instead that would be more helpful and really serve just her?

I'd like to focus, if possible, on things I can do to help her work out the legal ramifications and processes (she does plan to file charges) of all of this, though I know I can and am willing to help out with the giving comfort side of things as well.

(throwaway e-mail: patdoe1234@gmail.com)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (13 answers total)
 
Ask her.

Offer to go with her to meetings with attorneys or law enforcement. They are intimidating and it could be helpful to

Don't talk, listen. Offer to take notes for her, since she'll be busy thinking and answering questions and she can focus on that instead of taking notes.

Suggest that you work with her to compile a list of questions she has, and make sure at the end of each meeting that each question has been answered. Don't ask the questions, just point out to her that she wanted to know X, Y and Z before coming to this meeting and you don't believe that has been answered. Let HER decide to ask and let her ask.

Offer to assist her in keeping a log of any interaction with attorneys or law enforcement. Logs are vitally important so you can keep track of what was said and promised and what was not.

Ask her if there is anything else you can assist with. Ask.

These may seem like mundane things but they are incredibly powerful. Friends of mine did this for me once. It was an enormous relief. But they asked if they could do it. They didn't just do it.
posted by micawber at 12:53 PM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


check your email
posted by Ironmouth at 12:59 PM on September 13, 2010


If she wants to press charges, she should call the police ASAP so they can document the injuries (pictures, etc.) and go contact this guy (to see if he has cuts on his hands or scratches, etc., for additional evidence).

If nothing else, take some pictures yourself and any property damaged in this fight (anything, including clothing). It may be useful later.
posted by Menthol at 1:25 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


she should call the police ASAP
Actually, she needs to call a separate department (in Texas, I would call the county sheriff or the Department of Public Safety, aka State Police) to investigate, who will work with the Internal Affairs department of your godson's mother's brother's employer.
posted by SpecialK at 1:31 PM on September 13, 2010


Also, think about how to help her with care for your god son.
posted by Swisstine at 1:33 PM on September 13, 2010


From the OP:
Our godson's mother is at the ER. She's shaky, shocked, in pain, but walking. My partner is helping her deal with some small-business continuity issues. We plan to have her and our godson stay at our house tonight. I don't know how long they'll be staying. At some point we will arrange for her locks to be changed at her home.

I don't know how our godson's mother will prioritize the legal stuff. I personally hope it'll happen as soon as possible, but since she's the person she is, it's likely that some keeping-the-small-business-going issues will take priority. I will try to keep her on track with the legal stuff and thanks to SpecialK I found the proper Internal Affairs contacts for our city.

We will do whatever else we can to support her. Thank you to those of you who have responded. If you have any other ideas, please let us know.
posted by mathowie at 2:05 PM on September 13, 2010


#1 report the crime (preferably to someplace other than the department the perpetrator works at ie: if he is a city cop, call the county sheriff)
#2 document the crime yourself complete with pictures, names of witnesses, name of officer who took your report, medical reports, copy of police report, etc
#3 call you local domestic violence advocate/shelter (call 211 if you don't know who to call for this, in our area it is the YWCA that takes care of these things)
#4 was the person arrested who did this crime? if not and he knows where you live, you may want to hide her somewhere other than your home if there is a chance he will come looking for her/you
#5 file a restraining order
#6 insist on pressing charges since this was a crime (generally officers charged with a violent crime will lose thier job if they are found guilty but if the situation is as it was reported you certainly don't want someone with that sort of temper running around with a gun!)
posted by MsKim at 2:51 PM on September 13, 2010


You mentioned that this argument was over elder care. Does the elder in question need assistance of some kind- temporary shelter, intervention from your local Office for the Aging or the unit of DSS (or your local equivalent) that handles elder abuse? Providing your friend with information about those resources, if they are needed, or helping her navigate them, might be a great help.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:51 PM on September 13, 2010


It might be reasonable to report the crime and, for now, withholding who did it. That way some evidence can be collected. Also, a police department in a large city shoud have some sort of ombudsman or auditor.
posted by neuron at 5:13 PM on September 13, 2010


It's important to have someone that knows what they're doing file the restraining order. Depending on their relationship, whether they cohabitate and your state laws, the judge has the ability to restrict the target of the restraining order's access to guns. Keep in mind that this may relegate him to a desk job, or get him kicked off of the force, but it sounds like this isn't the sort of person that should be in law enforcement anyway.
posted by electroboy at 6:32 PM on September 13, 2010


From the OP:
Our godson's mother stayed the night with us. We are putting new locks on her doors (on us). I will arrange for that today. Her son stayed with a friend who's babysat him before. The night was quiet and safe (we made sure with our alarm system and secure locks).

Debriefing last night included not only a glimpse into what our godson's mother characterizes as "the family craziness" but more details on the assault. This assault is part of a pattern and all three of us agreed that her brother shouldn't be in law enforcement given these acts of rage and violence. Our godson's mother is going to pursue this issue with Internal Affairs, but is also looking into a community review board. She knows that ideally the best case for reporting the problem would have been to have Internal Affairs meet her in the ER, but she will do what she can with the guidance she has. The very good news is that she's always kept extremely good records and has good recall of events even through the lens of traumatic experiences.

The elder in question actually took her brother's side when 911 showed up last night so the police who responded dismissed our godson's mother's complaint and report. Given that she's relied on our godson's mother for care, food, medicine for the past few years, it seems odd that the elder would want to stay instead with out godson's mother's brother, but perhaps she finds the care too restrictive. Apparently the elder left with the brother last night and our godson's mother has pledged to keep it that way - she doesn't need the hassle and having the elder essentially encourage the beating she received is going too far.

Anyway, our godson's mother plans to file a restraining order (with the help of a lawyer) and make a complaint at least with Internal Affairs if not also the Community Review Board, and I plan to contact my locksmith and have them install secure locks of my choosing on our godson's mother's doors, as well as have them advise me and our godson's mother on additional security measures they'd recommend. My partner and I may both go forward assisting our godson's mother in straightening this all out. As she says, "It sure does cost a lot of money to be poor."

Thank you all for your help and advice.
posted by jessamyn at 7:32 AM on September 14, 2010


The elder in question actually took her brother's side when 911 showed up last night so the police who responded dismissed our godson's mother's complaint and report. Given that she's relied on our godson's mother for care, food, medicine for the past few years, it seems odd that the elder would want to stay instead with out godson's mother's brother, but perhaps she finds the care too restrictive.

Perhaps she is similarly frightened. Your godson's mother should not let this one act of seeming betrayal sour her on this person by itself. If I were an aged invalid unable to care for myself and had just witnessed this beating I might have (ashamedly) kept my mouth shut about it as well, at least for the time. She may less want to stay with him than she thinks that's the way it's going to end up eventually and would like to avoid being beaten along the way.

It's also possible, depending on her mental condition, that she may not be competent to make this judgment. Perhaps her senses are dull and she didn't understand what went down. Your godson's mother should make her own assessment and, I think, look after her own safety and her child's safety first since the risk to her is obviously more immediate.

This assault is part of a pattern and all three of us agreed that her brother shouldn't be in law enforcement given these acts of rage and violence.

I wince on behalf of all the rest of us to say this, but your godson's mother should prioritize her own health and safety over doing a solid for the rest of us by going after his employment - not above and beyond her own interests, that is. The blue wall is thick and strong and if this person is imbalanced then finding himself unemployed or on leave w/o pay could just be another trigger.

She should pursue this as needed with IA to document the incident and, in particular, better insure her own safety against future incidents. But making sure the police force is comprised of people best for the job isn't her duty when it puts herself in danger. We as a society need to find a way to balance protecting our officers and making sure they're the right people for the job. The job should not fall to a vulnerable person with few financial means to protect herself.
posted by phearlez at 8:17 AM on September 14, 2010


The blue wall is thick and strong and if this person is imbalanced then finding himself unemployed or on leave w/o pay could just be another trigger.

My experiences are different. For those refrencing this question later, I think IA is the better way to go. I've done dozens of these cases and IA wants collars, like any other cops. Officers are way more scared of IA, because they can get you on non-contact duty with one phone call. The rules for cooperation with the department are way stronger, and IA knows the terrain way better than civilian investigators. They're way less likely to make procedural mistakes that would get the cases thrown out.

The alleged "Blue Wall" is a myth. There are some police who cover up for partners or friends, but after thousands of lawsuits in the last 40 years, the departments themselves have changed radically. So IA is the way to go and way scarier for the officer.

All this has been passed on, but for anyone reading this later, this is my informed advice.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2010


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