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Predominant Aggressor or Self-Defense? Making Accurate Determinations on Domestic Violence Calls

By AJ GreerJanuary 5, 2022March 2nd, 2022No Comments

The Institute for Coordinated Community Response (ICCR), in collaboration with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), has released a new, free roll call training, “Determining Predominant Aggressor & Self-Defense.” This six-part, on-demand series is geared towards law enforcement – easily viewed during shift change, or “roll call,” meetings – but useful for any practitioner working to eradicate violence against women.

Domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous and complicated scenes that officers encounter. Responding officers must understand the context of these crimes and conduct thorough, evidence-based investigations to determine if self-defense was present, who acted as the predominant aggressor, and who, if anyone, should go to jail. Arresting the wrong party can have devastating consequences not only for the victim, but for the criminal justice system’s ability to hold the offender accountable.

This concise, accessible training resource will help law enforcement in large and small communities across the country better understand the dynamics of domestic violence, make accurate on-scene determinations, and increase victims’ trust in the criminal justice system.

Hosted by Cpl. Dave Thomas, IACP, and Sgt. Denise Jones, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, each video segment is roughly 10 minutes and includes a discussion guide, along with a list of additional resources. All six videos are immediately accessible after free registration at


  • Part 1: Putting Calls into Context

“Domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous and complicated scenes that officers encounter. It is easy to assume that putting someone in handcuffs as quickly as possible means that we have kept everyone safe but domestic violence dynamics are complicated, and when treated as clear cut incident based crimes too often the victim is arrested.”


  • Part 2: The Impact of Dual & Wrongful Arrest

“We must ask ourselves, in what way is the abuser relying on social inequities, stereotypes, and pre-existing mistrust of the system to further intimidate and control their partner? Wrongful arrests further widen existing gaps, damage relationships, and show other victims that they will not be safe even if they reach out for help.”


  • Part 3: Investigative Considerations

“We must use everything at our disposal to work through these cases thoroughly, from the moment we arrive on scene, knowing that the victim may choose not to participate later on in the process. It is our job to collect facts and evidence that take the burden off the victim as much as we can.”


  • Part 4: Determining Self-Defense

When making self-defense determinations, consider the use of force doctrine. As officers, objectively reasonable use of force up to deadly force may be utilized if we honestly and reasonably believe that someone will immediately inflict unlawful bodily harm to themselves or another, as long as that force is not unreasonable or excessive. The same holds true for self-defense used by victims.


  • Part 5: Making Arrest Decisions

“We must have a firm grasp of the dynamics of domestic violence and a willingness to spend the extra time on scene to determine predominant aggressor and avoid arresting the true victim. Whether an arrest is made or not, that initial investment of time and energy will impact every step of the process from this point forward.”


  • Part 6: Report Writing & Holding Offenders Accountable

“Make no mistake, the work you do matters. A steady, compassionate, well trained response, when executed across every type of domestic violence call, can create ripple effects across entire communities.”


You can access the videos for free by visiting


Questions? Reach out to Brooke Meyer, Institute Director, at or 214-389-7736.