Local News

The impacts of child abuse, through the eyes of an officer

SPOKANE, Wash. - As the first ones to arrive on the scene of a crime, law enforcement officers see the impacts of child abuse firsthand. 

“It's something that you don’t get over quickly- it may never leave you,” said Spokane Police Officer John O'Brien. “It doesn't get easier to deal with. It's really hard to understand what's going on in the minds of a parent or guardian that would do that to a child,” he said. 

He says child abuse can affect anyone, in any situation. It's not limited to a certain neighborhood or demographic. That's part of what makes it difficult to address. 

“A crime against an adult is horrible as it is, but when you have an innocent, defenseless child who doesn't know they're going to be victimized it's devastating. There's no way for that child to fight back or protect themselves,” O'Brien said.  

Especially when a child's life ends because of abuse. 

“Officers, you know we have this uniform and we have a tough exterior at times but we are human and we have those same emotions it's hard to see a child killed at the hands of another person,” O'Brien said. 

When law enforcement responds to a child abuse call, they have a chance to break the cycle of abuse. That's something that sticks with them. 

“You often wonder did that make a difference? Did that turn the tide for them, that they've got clean, done any of the programs that have learned how to be a parent? Because parenting is not easy at times,” O'Brien said. 

That's why -- police say--- the community's help- is so critical. 

“We can do our part, but we also want the community to help us do that part to say something to partner with us so that we can stop or do our best to at least reduce or eliminate child abuse,” O'Brien said.