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Ask A Cop: What's the Point of Restraining Orders?

It can be frustrating when a court order is disobeyed. Here's what you can do about it.

Is there anything you have ever wanted to know from the police department? Well, this is your chance to ask. 

Patch has always strived to bring its readers all types of information and keep them updated on what is happening in their communities. It is with that in mind that we bring you our newest column, “Ask A Cop.” We will be teaming up with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies from around the county to answer your questions.

Whether you have a question about certain laws and how they might affect you, your family or friends or how to stay safe in certain situations, we want you to ask them. Every week we will run one question and answer. To submit a question, email Shannon.burkey@patch.com.

Question:

After obtaining two restraining orders against my neighbor, I've called police at least five times to report violations of the orders. The response was not effective in stopping the harassment. I cannot afford to move away, and the situation keeps getting worse, yet I haven't gone to court for another restraining order since it seems nothing stops his victimization from happening. Police have refused to write reports after they respond hours after an occurrence. Why bother getting a restraining order, when no resolution is achieved by it?

Answer:

Sheriff's deputy April Skalland explained that restraining orders are civil, meaning it's basically an order with the court.

"When it comes to restraining order violations, that has to be handled by the court," Skalland said. "We as police are there to keep the peace and ensure crimes don’t occur."

So if there's a violation occurring, especially something dangerous like threats or weapons, people should call 9-1-1 immediately.

“We go out. We try to keep the peace," Skalland said. "We understand people’s frustration because we get these calls often.”

If a new crime is committed, such as assault, the officer will intervene and make an arrest. If the situation is only a restraining order violation (example: you can't come within 100 feet of me) and if the officer is present, he or she could write a police report about the incident. Regardless, the victim needs to document the violations and take those back before a judge.

“Depending on what their restraining order says, they need to document it and bring it into court," Skalland said.

But, of course, continually going to court for the issue can be time-consuming and doesn't always bring the result people are seeking. Sheriff's deputies and other police in the county will help mediate some disputes if the parties involved are open to the idea.

“It makes it difficult when you have a restraining order against your neighbor," Skalland said. "It’s just breaking bread and trying to work with your neighbor."

Yes, there are several different types of orders. DV restraining orders can be complex at times and technical violations can occur with those as well. If the reporting party states the offending party called in violation of the order, the officer must determine through some type of evidence (recording, cell phone bill) that the suspect called. On rare occasions law enforcement officers are used by one party to “get back” at the other party as a means of harassment or embarrassment. Law enforcement makes every effort to ensure we are not taking sides or misinterpreting an order. If one party was shopping at Safeway and the other restrained party arrived (without any evidence that it was intentional), that would be a technical violation. A technical violation would often times be resolved by the petitioner taking the matter back to court to have the order modified.
randy July 03, 2012 at 11:34 PM
This is a very deep subject. The person that asks for and gets the restraining order should know (IMHO) that his/her responsibilty that records should be kept, photos, etc. IF the person who has the order against them continues to violate the order, the courts will be notified. Anyway this was what happened in my case. Also the person I had the order against could not have or carry a weapon. Our police and sheriff are so limited because of courts and even in this town, city government, that it is hard on them. These agents have a very tough job. Domestic Violence is one of the hardest in my opinion to deal with. Especially with children.
kate keesler July 05, 2012 at 05:12 AM
this is indeed true an officer must obey the rules. what if the person restrained is actually a person without prior record as well as an outstanding community member wth fine reputation the restraining order is in question. break the law arrest indeed however I have found the police to show compassion teach guidelines as well as point blank ask plea for the order to be followed & explain the reasons. my situation is under investigation larry ira perlin, district D.A.'s office child protective service's all under fed investigtion. this comment is to send out a thank you to the honest police forces in this case. peace be with you & yours kate Jagger Keesler kathlean j (perlin)
Nidia September 17, 2012 at 03:02 AM
i have the same exact problem with my husbands ex.she is an illegal imagrant here that lies to the courts and to social services so she can liove off the government.after 4 years with the restraing order she still harrases me and i call the police all the time and nothing is done so now i was served with paper work because she wants the court to remove the protection order!
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