A week ago, there was a domestic violence incident two doors down from me. The woman was (non-sexually) assaulted by her boyfriend; he pushed her down, twisted her arm, wrenched her neck, broke her necklace, then pushed her out the door of the apartment and locked her out. I invited her into my apartment and gave her my phone so she could call 911. They came, arrested the boyfriend, and took him for a psych eval.
The next day, an SFPD Inspector (which is what San Francisco calls Police Detectives) called me and took my statement over the phone. An hour ago, the public defender's rep came by and took it again.
Here are some realizations I've had, which come out as bits of advice if anything similar ever happens near you:
( That advice expanded... )
- Get involved.
- Stay involved.
- Keep a timelog of events as they happen.
- Use video if you have it. If not, use Voice Memos. Lacking that, write it down.
- Your smartphone probably has video and/or Voice Memos.
- Volunteer your name and contact information to one of the responding officers and state that you will testify.
- Consider carefully what you say to officials: be factual, and do not answer leading questions.
Obviously, this advice doesn't apply just to domestic violence calls -- you could do the same for a fender bender or any other situation where there are going to be legal issues involved later.
One final thing I note -- the police took my statement the next day, while my recollections were fresh; they did it over the phone and recorded it. The Public Defender's office did not get to me for a week when some details had gone fuzzy; they sent someone to my home to take my statement in person and the rep took everything down in the form of written notes. Most likely, these differences are due to different staffing levels, different workloads, the time it takes for the case to get through processing and passed from the SFPD to the PubDef office, etc. The effect, however, is that it makes it easier for the Public Defender to cast doubt in witness's minds about exactly what happened, when, and how. Keep this in mind while giving your statement.