Photo Courtesy of Associated Press

Advances in Police Training is Crucial for handling Domestic Violence Issues

Gabby Petito, who was missing for weeks in Utah after camping with her fiance, Brian Laundrie, her body was discovered and was deemed a homicide. Her body was discovered Sept. 19 with autopsy results later revealing death by homicide.As the family and friends of Petito grieve the death of a beautiful, young and adventurous girl, police are still on the search for Laundrie who is believed to be in the Carlton Reserve. The Carlton Reserve is about 20 miles from his family home in North Port, Florida. There is now a manhunt for Laundrie with an arrest warrant out for unauthorized access of devices such as a debit card and a personal identification number. Laundrie obtained things of value aggregating to $1,000 or more during the time of Gabbys death.

Although there was no way of knowing the outcome of this cross country road trip, a different turn of events at their traffic stop in Moab on August 12 could have steered her fate. Gabby Petito’s death could have potentially been prevented if the responding officers would have recognized the signs that indicated Gabby was the victim in this domestic dispute. With her fiancé Brian Laundrie listed as only a person of interest at this time, who could have been stopped in his tracks on site when pulled over, Gabby may still be alive.

As the investigation continues, there needs to be light shined onto the incident in Moab and how many professionals are criticizing the way the officers handled it and overlooked the signs of distress, fear and sadness Petito shows. The city of Moab has officially announced they will be conducting a formal investigation on the officers’ conduct during the possible domestic dispute. At this time, they are unaware of any breaches from the Police Department policy during the incident but will take appropriate actions if necessary.

The body camera footage that was released is over an hour long and the entirety of the incident, Petito is visually crying and hyperventilating. Many say this is because of the mental health she admittedly suffers from including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and anxiety. Professionals who have analyzed the footage believe that Gabby is showing all the signs of a victim trying to protect her abuser. After all, the initial witness 911 call was reporting Laundrie getting physical with Gabby. Gabby does admit to hitting Laundrie while he was driving the van but she claims she was not trying to hurt him. Towards the end of the interaction, the police state how they must be confident enough in their decision to be at peace with whatever happens after they leave the scene.

“If they find themselves together again, what is it to you? You separated them. You provided it [the hotel room] for his safety. If he doesn’t have enough sense to stay away and you got him separated, it’s on him,” an officer seen in the video states.

Even with sending Laundrie to a hotel room and Gabby on her way with her van, they would be destined to meet back up considering they were living and traveling in the van together across the country and would have to get back home somehow. The officer ends the conversation with, “If they don’t let it cool off and we hear about it, we’ll hear about it.”

Almost as if they knew they would hear about them again, the whole world heard about them; only Brian made it back home—without Gabby—driving her van. We must trust that police have the right training to help stop domestic abusers from further harming or even killing their partner. Although right now it has not been proven that Laundrie is the killer, he is looking very guilty after his disappearance during the investigation.

It is crucial for police officers to have this proper skillset to be able to spot when a victim of abuse needs further help. They are trained to treat domestic violence calls as a high priority situation in ways such as approaching carefully with discretion by keeping lights and sirens at a minimum, having multiple officers on scene to be able to expose, collecting as much evidence as possible and are trained to keep the victim and abuser separated to prevent them hearing and seeing one another.

42% of agencies require a risk assessment to determine the level of danger for the victim and to make a safety plan off of that. All of these steps were taken correctly in this incident, but it only goes surface level. There needs to be more training in recognizing who the victim is when both seem to play the part. Gabby Petito does admit to putting her hands on Laundrie but allegedly Brian was the first to get physical according to the 911 call made by the witness.

Abusers don’t always stop with their victims; they can be charismatic and manipulative to people in public by playing down their victim’s reactions and behaviors. This is what Brian Laundrie did to the Moab police officers on the side of the road that day. Although mental illness can have side effects that can look like someone in distress, if there is any shadow of a doubt, there should always be a further interrogation of both parties to get to the truth behind it. Both Laundrie and Petito were over the age of 18 and across the country, they should have had an option for an escort home to their families to ensure a safe return from a bad situation.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse please call 1.800.799.SAFE or text “START” to 88788.



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