Emergency Protective Orders: Should They Be Served in Public?

Emergency Protective Orders: Should They Be Served in Public?

In cases of domestic violence, child abuse, and abduction, emergency protective orders (EPO) serve as critical tools in addressing immediate threats. However, a recent incident at the 4S Commons Town Center has ignited a debate on whether to serve them in public spaces. San Diego Police Sergeant Anthony Elliott was tragically shot in the head during an investigation, shedding light on the need for safer enforcement. So, should these orders be served in public settings? Let’s explore the various perspectives surrounding this issue.

The Purpose and Scope of Emergency Protective Orders

In North County, securing an EPO hinges on the urgent requests of local law enforcement in response to domestic violence or emergencies. Emergency protective and restraining orders are meant to prevent immediate harm or danger and are issued promptly to halt the recurrence of abuse, abduction, or injury.

Verbal harassment, threats, sexual assault, child abuse, and other offenses merit the need for swift action. But, recognizing the delicate balance between the need for immediate intervention while upholding individual rights and public safety is not enough.

Current Practices of San Diego Police

According to law enforcement protocol, the San Diego Police must operate within a strict framework. Officers must contact an on-call judicial officer by phone, asserting reasonable grounds for the issuance. The timing of the respondent’s custody status does not alter this procedure. However, complexities arise when serving these orders in public.

Typically, officers complete EPO forms at the scene to ensure swift distribution to involved parties. Yet, the limited timeframe of most EPOs, which expire within five judicial working days or seven calendar days, poses potential risks. The sense of urgency results in potential pitfalls and unintended consequences, as illustrated by incidents like the tragic 4S Ranch-area shootout.

Criticisms and Concerns

Serving emergency protective orders in crowded or sensitive locations raises critical concerns regarding public safety. The responsibility for de-escalation lies squarely on police officers, not private citizens, emphasizing the potential risks inherent in such scenarios. However, assumptions about officers’ behavior cannot be taken for granted, leaving uncertainties that impact everyone involved.

Beyond immediate safety issues, the public service of EPOs introduces the looming specter of irreparable damage for bystanders and individuals caught in these situations. Protocols may falter, and arrests may not occur as expected, prompting questions regarding how to execute EPOs in North County.

Future Outlook for North County

Looking ahead, reevaluating and adjusting EPO service practices in North County promises significant benefits. The potential reduction in bodily harm or loss of life, not only for law enforcement officers but also for everyone in the immediate vicinity, underscores the critical importance of improving existing procedures.

A concerted effort could pave the way for a more trusting relationship between the community and San Diego Police and the Sheriff’s Department, addressing the concerns raised above. As law enforcement strategies for emergencies evolve, there’s a foreseeable positive impact on North County’s budget. In 2022 alone, San Diego spent nearly $3 million on lawsuits and legal battles.

To make San Diego safer, we must stress the necessity of balancing urgency with responsible practices and procedures within public settings. An open dialogue between law enforcement and the community may very well prevent tragedies like the 4S Ranch shopping center shooting from occurring in the future.

About Michael MacNeil

Michael C. MacNeil is a San Diego Family Law and Criminal Defense attorney. With a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law, MacNeil has a solid understanding of our justice system. As a member of the State Bar of California, MacNeal can practice before all courts in the state. MacNeil believes that the law should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. With over 20 years of experience, Michael C. MacNeil is passionate about the law and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you. Call Mr. MacNeil at 858-922-7098.