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Domestic Disturbance Calls Bring Added Element of Danger

When officers respond to a domestic disturbance call, they know there could be alcohol, weapons and plenty of emotions that can escalate a situation.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Domestic dispute calls are among the most dangerous calls for service a police officer can respond to.

Recent incidences in the area have shown that to be true and now attention is being focused on the potential danger a domestic call might bring.

"There's always such an element of the unknown for our officers," said Trenny Wilson, a detective with the family crimes unit of the St. Joseph Police Department. "That's why in our tactical, training is so important."

In 2013, the St. Joseph Police Department responded to more than 3,200 domestic disturbance calls, an average of about 10 per day.

Police say domestic calls are among the most dynamic and dangerous calls they respond to.

"When you get emotions involved in anything and you maybe throw in another component of alcohol or anger, it can escalate the situation in fractions of seconds," Wilson said.

That's what happened Monday night. Police responded to a domestic disturbance call on the 1500 block of So. 41st St. Officers said 47-year-old John Weipert was intoxicated, suicidal and armed with a handgun. After a confrontation, police fatally shot Weipert.

"There is always such an element of the unknown," Wilson said. That's why, in our tactical training, it's important to have officer awareness and officer safety."

Another tool for law enforcement is their communications center. It's important in advance for officers to know as much about the situation they're going into.

"The dispatcher wants to know if there are any weapons involved," said Deputy Damian Melkowski of the Buchanan County Sheriff's Department. "If so, what kind of weapons, if there's any alcohol involved, what the relationship is between the disturbing party and the caller."

Another problem for law enforcement is uncooperative victims.

"A lot of times when we make an arrest, the other half, the victim half, will be upset with us for making that arrest," Melkowski said.

Those who work with domestic abuse victims understand why that might be.

"They know when that person gets back out there can be some pretty bad repercussions for them, so some of it is fear," said Kim Kempf, the victim services director for the YWCA of St. Joseph.

In the end, all the disturbance calls are a drain on resources.

"If it's an active disturbance, sometimes it can take three or more officers," Wilson said. "With only having 9 total patrol officers on the street or maybe a couple more at the time that depletes our resources as far as availability to answer other calls."

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is investigating the officer-involved shooting death of John Weipert. The officer involved, seven-year veteran Patrick Zeamer, has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.


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