Low Priority Domestics

This sad story was in the news during the holidays.

A 2009 criminology graduate from the University of Texas Arlington and a new officer became the second member of the Arlington (TX) Police Department to die in the line of duty this year:

ARLINGTON -- A rookie police officer was fatally shot as she apparently tried to protect an 11-year-old from an armed man who burst into an apartment as the officer was taking a domestic assault report, police officials said Wednesday.

Jillian Michelle Smith, 24, an Arlington native, was killed Tuesday night within 20 minutes of responding to a lower priority call from a woman who wanted to report the assault, officials said.

The assault suspect (Barnes Samuel Nettles) had left the apartment but returned while Smith was inside taking the report, Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said at a news conference Wednesday...Officials said it is not unusual for a lone officer to respond to a Priority 3 call...

It is important to understand that with domestic violence reports where the suspect is not on the scene, the person in question returning while one officer is there is not unusual either. 

Then, the officer has to deal with the usually confrontational individual while finding time to notify dispatch that another unit is needed at the location.  Whether the back-up officer is close or not is a different issue.

Obviously with domestic disputes, things can get dangerous quickly.

Police agencies could insist that two officers be dispatched to any domestic call, but that is expensive and cost drives decision-making no matter what the career.

In other words, it won't happen.

In the meantime, Smith's sworn colleagues and other officers in the US will continue to be dispatched alone to "low priority" and other domestic calls--keeping one eye on their written report and the other eye on the front door and windows.


Audrey Allure said...

That is so sad that happened :(

Miss Caitlin S. said...

oh no :( and only 24, how horrible and scary. I would imagine a door needs to be locked or something, I don't know- just a great loss.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
Oh, I was going to write about this sad and terrible true story, but you have a much better perspective on the underlying and proximal causes.

Thank you for teaching us about the way risks are assigned (and lives are lost) in the field.

Officer Jillian Smith is listed in my December Muster post at

I'm going to add this post's URL to the comment section of my December Muster post.

Bless you Slam!
Ann T.

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, how tragic!

Anonymous said...

Your side won't let me leave a comment in my name: http://ladyfi.wordpress.com

That Anonymous comment was really me...

Diane said...

Very sad. Praying that her sacrifice is not for naught.

Harlequin said...

Rest in peace Officer Jillian Smith, your sacrifice is not unseen.

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

That sucks! I guess it's "usally" okay so that's what they follow.

WomanHonorThyself said...

I'm so sorry..God bless them and you as well Slam...........

Hilary said...

How heartbreaking. I'm glad the child was spared but what a nightmare for her to live through. I'm so sorry for the families of those who lost their lives.

carma said...

I hadn't heard of this tragedy. What a shame - and she was so young :-(

Cricket said...

How is it more expensive?

joanny said...

Unfortunate and sad-- A courageous and honorable young woman police officer. I do not like that they called her a rookie,perhaps then they should have two officers in such cases till more experienced? Just a thought yes I know the excuse is tight budgets, so we can expect more of the same misfortune to occur.
what is the price of a human life then?

BobKat said...

I had read about this, but not in detail as I found in your post.

So I stunned; it's tragic, and I would like to think, preventable. But as you point out it's expensive.

What I would like to know is this:

1)How many officers typically respond to domestic violence disputes?

2) How many respond to a location where "drugs" are located.

I believe # 2 gets the most officers. Not always, most a majority more.

Maybe all such crimes should be considered drug/domestic related. I might also add, the majority of cases where drugs are a source of the dispute is where alcohol abuse occurs.

Touched by this story... Thank-you!

Janna Qualman said...

So sad. Maybe the solace is, she lived a life to be proud of.

SD, thanks for your continued support! I appreciate that you were the first dude to follow my new blog. :)

jodeeluna said...

This post is sobering. I often deal with students whose home lives are reflected in your post. Parents getting shot, drug dealers raiding their neighborhoods. Thanks for shedding light on a reality those of us in healthy homes often forget exits.

J. J. in Phila said...

Hugely tragic, and preventable. :(

Slamdunk said...

@ Cricket: It is more expensive if agencies either:

A) Put two officers in cars to respond to calls. That leaves fewer units overall to handle the calls for service. So the agency in theory would need to staff more two-officer cars; or,

B) Would tie up more single officer units since two would need to be dispatched to every domestic call--a common call type. The agency would need to find personnel to respond to all the other calls for service that would have been handled previously.

@ Bob: I think drug and domestic calls are responded to in a similar manner--if it is just a report, one officer goes, if there is the potential for conflict, at least two officers are dispatched.

Slamdunk said...

@ Miss Caitlin S.: You are on the right track--I would guess that command staff is discussing ways to include additional training opportunities in response to this situation.

@ Ann T.: Thanks.

CL Beck, author said...

What a tragedy, and yet what a hero that officer is for trying to protect the child.

Domestic calls are always fraught with danger, and it's a shame this one turned out like it did. Prayers go out for her family.

Thanks for posting the news for us. (And thanks for stopping by and commenting on "Hair" at my blog. :)

aconnectiontomyheart said...

It is sad to hear about any such loss.. A true hero, so much promise, it is really our loss too! SD, thanks always for the statistics!

Travel Nurse Extraordinaire said...

Tragic and wrong but when will the politicians budgeting ever listen? Budgeting with lives is not the answer.

I know several cops and I thank you all for doing your job everyday, never knowing what you may face. Thank you!

presious said...

In my experience, a suicide threat should NEVER be take lightly. Even if it turns out to be "fake", as those who failed to help her might say, it is still a cry for help. Suicide is very, very serious. If a person is "thinking" about it enough to threaten to do it, common sense would say, just take a minute to talk to the person.

Holidays can be very difficult for some of us. Perhaps she had a bad experience associated with the holidays. It may have been a temporary "feeling", none the less, enough to be so overwhelming she felt the need to take her life.

Those so called friends will have to live with their failure for the rest of their lives. Maybe a simply hug would've made her think otherwise....very sad.

Maxi said...

My heart goes out to the family.

Years ago we lived in Ft. Lauderdale and a friend was staying with us.

One night he got a long-distance call. As I walked into the kitchen, he turned pale and slumped against the wall.

His daughter's estranged husband had shot and killed her, then killed himself.

The ripple affect was far reaching and extremely painful.