Should I call 911?
Calling the police on your own child is a difficult thing to do. Most parents try to do everything they can before picking up the phone and dialing 911. Parents often feel ashamed about their youth's behavior because they feel they should be able to control it on their own. Some parents fear they will be criticized for not parenting properly and having an ‘out-of-control’ teenager. Other parents are afraid it will make their teen angrier with them and they will retaliate, making the violence worse.
Parents also fear for their teen's well-being if they call the police. They worry about how the police will respond to them and what will happen if they go to detention. Most parents do not want their child to have a criminal record.
Nonetheless, many parents do finally call the police when other responses and resources have not stopped the violence and it is becoming more dangerous. Many parents report that the violence did not stop until they called the police, because their teens finally took it seriously and were mandated to get the help they needed. Parents often say that they finally felt supported, and that it helped their teen to hear from someone else that violence in the family is a matter of concern.
Calling 911 may be critical for immediate safety reasons and is the fastest way to get help when your teen is hurting people. The police can help to calm the situation, protect family members and refer you to services. If the court becomes involved, it is a way to get help for your teen when he or she has refused needed services.
Here is important information about calling 911:
1. You can call the police if your teen is physically violent (including, but not limited to pushing, shoving, grabbing, kicking, hitting or any physical contact that is hurtful), violent with property (throwing things, hitting/punching/kicking doors, walls, cars, or destroying property of any kind), threatening to hurt or kill a person or pets. (See Washington State Domestic Violence Law)
2. If you call the police, the officers who respond to your call will talk to you about what happened and talk to your teen. They determine if a crime has occurred and decide whether to: 1) talk to your teen about it, but not arrest, or 2) arrest your teen and take him or her to detention (usually for 1 night, or 2-3 if it is on the weekend) and you will attend a hearing the next day, or 3) they will not take your teen to detention, but write a report and send it to the prosecutor’s office, and you will be contacted later by the court about whether or not the court will become involved. If your teen is 16 years or older, and has committed a domestic violence offense, the officers are required to take him or her to detention. (See Washington State Domestic Violence Law)
3. Many parents are concerned about their youth having a criminal record if they call the police. King County Juvenile Court has a mission to help youth and families obtain needed services when they come to court. There are several options for youth to avoid a criminal charge if they participate in required counseling services. First and second time misdemeanor offenses are usually referred to ‘diversion’, where charges are not filed if the youth completes recommended services. Additional offenses may have other options for avoiding a criminal charge or having charges dropped, if the youth complies with court orders.
4. If your teen goes to detention in King County and you are worried about increased violence when your teen comes home again, the court can require that your teen participate in developing a Safety Plan with you and Step-Up staff, before release from detention. The Safety Plan (link) is a guided plan your teen makes about what he or she will do instead of violent behavior when angry or escalated. It is a helpful tool for everyone to prevent violence in the home.
5. If the court becomes involved with your youth’s case (if he or she goes to juvenile detention or if a police report is sent to the prosecutor’s office) a
Victim Advocate from the King County Juvenile Court Prosecutor’s office will call you to inquire about your concerns for your youth, explain the court process and meet with you at court if there is a hearing. The Victim Advocate will attend the hearing with you and be a support for you through the process. You can email the Victim Advocate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. You have a right to call the police anytime you fear for the safety of yourself or other family members. It is not easy to call the police on your child. However, safety is the most important consideration when deciding to call 911.