Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Women campaign for changes in DV investigations ...

...when the men being investigated are police officers.

From Seattle Times

Women start campaign to change investigations

If a group of Tacoma women and their supporters have their way, police departments throughout Washington and the nation will improve the way they address domestic violence by their officers.

"We do not want any more Crystals ever," said Judy Hellstrom, the godmother of Crystal Brame, killed April 26 by her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, after her allegations of abuse became public.

Women for Justice, with the support of Crystal Brame's family, has launched a campaign to ensure that an independent agency investigates domestic- violence claims against police and city officials.

"She will be very proud that she made a difference. Unfortunately, she had to die for it," Hellstrom said.

Other women have died at the hands of officers across the country, and some of those deaths have led to changes.


The Chicago Police Department is often cited as a national model for its approach to domestic violence on the force. Until the mid-1990s, policy required officers to call in supervisors when they responded to crimes involving other officers. They didn't do so for domestic disputes, however, because they didn't think of them as crimes, said Jan Russell, the department's victim advocate.

After several officer homicide-suicides, the city created a civilian unit to investigate domestic-abuse charges. After its creation, domestic-violence complaints about cops more than doubled. One woman came to Russell's office, afraid to report her husband. Russell gave her the paper outlining new policy.

"She clutched it in her hands and wouldn't put it down," Russell said.

"Are you telling me that the police will help me when I call?" she asked Russell. "That I can get away from this man?"

I can't tell you how glad I am to see that this is already happening in Chicago, and will hopefully happen in Seattle. Hopefully it will become even more wide spread. I can't even count the number of women who have come to me (as a DV counselor) who simply couldn't call the police on their abusers -- because their abusers were the police. Either because they feared what would happen, or because they knew what would happen (based on past experiences), calling the cops is simply not an option.

Now, there are some great cops out there. I know, I've worked with them. They are truly committed to their profession and upholding the law to the best of their ability. And they are more than willing to do their job in protecting the people who need it.

But studies have shown that rates of domestic violence among police officers are significantly higher than they are among the general population. The "code of silence" among many police officers, as well as a lack of specific policies to deal with domestic violence make it that much harder to report.

Solutions such as those suggested in the above article will, hopefully, lead the way to remedying some of these problems.

1 comment:

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