PUBLIC SAFETY/Police map new approach to domestic calls
Domestic violence affects one in every three women in the United States, according to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, San Francisco. In 1999, 24,000 cases of domestic abuse were filed in Colorado alone.
To address the issue, the Lakewood (Colo.) Police Department has implemented a system that will assist officers in processing and responding to domestic violence cases. It is funded by the 21st Century Policing Project, a public safety initiative launched in 1995 by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in Washington, D.C., in partnership with Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola.
Using process mapping technology, the department has the ability to analyze its operations and make improvements to the ways it deals with violence. It also has been able to arm its officers with detailed information about chronic offenders, and has saved more than $11,000 in wages.
Using a series of charts or maps, the process mapping visually depicts and analyzes the activities involved in domestic violence case management. The department performs the analysis annually or as needed. The process analysis maps three scenarios:
* As-Is: The map shows current methods and crime-fighting activities to identify problems. Lakewood’s initial assessment uncovered three areas of concern: the need to provide more information to the responding officer; the unsuccessful rate of prosecution in domestic violence cases; and the need for better victim services.
* Should Be: The map incorporates recommendations for solutions to the problems identified in As-Is maps.
* Could Be: The map reflects an ideal system, detailing the resources (staff, funding, etc.) required to implement the recommendations brought forth in the Should Be map.
To address the first concern — providing more information to the responding officers — the department developed a domestic violence registry, which provides officers with a profile of the residence that is reporting a disturbance. It includes previous calls, arrests, convictions, etc.
To expedite domestic violence cases once arrests are made, Colorado passed a law recently permitting officers to serve offenders with subpoenas at the crime scene. Offenders are required to appear in court the day after their arrest. Victims also appear in court the next day, prior to the offender’s arrival, to explain their cases.
Because cases are brought to court so quickly after the incidents and arrests, many offenders plead guilty at that moment, says Police Captain Al Youngs.
The analysis also revealed that the victims and children involved in domestic abuse cases were not receiving assistance immediately after the crime and/or arrests occurred. With a grant from the Jefferson County District Attorney, as well as a federal grant, the Lakewood Police Department created a mobile Victims Advocate Response Unit. The unit is called to the crime scene at the same time that officers respond to a call. The team also can transport the victim and family to another location if necessary.
“Without proper intervention, the cycle of abuse will spin on and on,” Youngs says. Since launching the domestic violence management system, the Lakewood Police Department has started to apply the technique to sex offender registration, burglary, the assessment of juvenile offenders and the pawn shop management program.