Multi-Jurisdictional Approaches to Domestic Violence

Effective strategies to deal with domestic violence are critical. Each community must tailor the response to its specific needs.

The unit meets weekly with a prosecutor for the purpose of "case rounds," at which time cases are discussed and the docket is reviewed to ensure that all necessary information has been obtained. The unit meets monthly with all components of the system involved with domestic violence, including sheriff's deputies, hospital nurses, school personnel, social services, and others. In addition, the unit frequently conducts roll call training that emphasizes the need for officers to be supportive of victims and enables them to understand the reasons why victims are reluctant or fail to appear in court. Det. Amy Santiago has worked in the unit for the past nine years, and she is proactive in her leadership and outreach to victims of domestic violence.

In the nation's capitol, Lt. Michelle Robinson of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department supervises the domestic violence unit that has a liaison responsibility with other entities, including the U.S. Attorney's Office, courts, and probation and parole. Domestic violence that occurs citywide falls under Lt. Robinson's unit. Each detective unit has up to four domestic violence detectives; however, due to the nature of crime in the city, it is not guaranteed they will exclusively handle domestic violence cases.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has a domestic violence unit that has victim advocates available to interact with victims. Lt. Robinson states that it is important to "identify someone who will monitor and stay on top of these cases." A domestic violence intake center serves as a single access point for victims to enter the criminal and civil legal systems, receive crisis intervention, do safety planning, obtain assistance in pursuing protection orders, and receive assistance for legal representation. In a collaborative effort, six governmental and non-governmental agencies work together at this single access point.

In Ottawa, Kansas, Chief Dennis Butler's goal is similar when it comes to accessing the system--he wants to ensure there is always someone available to help and that proper follow-up is conducted. Chief Butler approaches the problem of domestic violence assertively. He makes it a priority to deal with the issue in a progressive manner in this rural Midwestern community, and he obtained a grant to fund development of a domestic violence program. He educates his officers on the pertinent issues and the law enforcement response vital to victims. Consequently, victims in his community are now more trusting of the police and are able to learn what options are available to them. Chief Butler sums up the entire matter succinctly when he states, "There is help out there. Law enforcement and advocacy alike need to do a better job of getting victims the follow-up support they need."

The development and implementation of effective strategies to deal with domestic violence and the impact of its victimization are critical to diminish the dysfunction that embraces the cycle of violence. The coordination and collaboration of components within the criminal justice system as well as allied agencies and the community have proven effective results not only for the identification, arrest, and prosecution of abusers but for victims' ability to make positive changes in their lives.

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