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Archive for Sunday, January 26, 1992

S ADVOCATES BACK CHANGES

January 26, 1992

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A Lawrence woman who campaigned for the Lawrence Police Department's new domestic violence policy said her work isn't done.

The LPD policy, which took effect Jan. 1, is merely 11 pages of words unless law enforcement officers are properly trained to handle the unique problems related to domestic violence, said Connie Burk, child advocacy program coordinator for Women's Transitional Care Services.

"It looks like the next thing we're going to have to do, since the training isn't outlined (in the policy), is we're going to have to push for mandatory training," she said.

Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin and local advocacy groups have locked horns about officer training on domestic violence.

To say that the officers are not trained to work in situations of domestic violence is incorrect, Olin said. Officers are trained annually and often deal with domestic violence daily, he said.

Olin said officers go through interdepartment, seminar-type training that focuses on several aspects of domestic violence. For instance, officers are instructed how to approach a house where a domestic fight is occurring, because such situations are volatile and potentially dangerous. Another part of the training keys on ways to deal compassionately with domestic violence victims.

"THERE'S NO one that works with violence in greater frequency in our jurisdiction than the LPD," he said.

But Burk contends domestic violence cannot be thrown in the pot with the rest of violent crimes.

Burk said crimes such as battery or criminal damage to property committed during a domestic dispute are unique because of the intimate relationship shared by the suspect and victim.

"That's a very different dynamic than two guys fighting in a bar," she said.

Burk said she has heard positive comments about the way Lawrence police handle domestic disturbance calls, but she said the only way officers can be sensitive to the needs of the domestic violence victim is through specialized and continual education.

"They (police officers) are very friendly, they're just not informed," she said.

OLIN SAID he feels comfortable that his officers understand not only how to handle domestic violence, but also the new policy.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells spoke to officers about the domestic violence policy in December.

Wells said he told officers about the provisions of the policy, what was expected of the officers and what happens when a complaint is sent to the district attorney's office.

"Basically I told them that historically speaking, very few cases go to trial," Wells said.

But Jean Rosenthal, who chairs the local advocacy group People Against Violence, said the department's training is inadequate. She said officers are not being educated about domestic violence.

Rosenthal said she is "floored beyond belief" by current statistics showing that 12 women have been arrested locally under new domestic violence policies.

ROSENTHAL said she is "astounded" at the number of women who have been named as supects in a crime committed during a domestic dispute, because women almost always are the victims of domestic violence.

"My guess is that they (officers) haven't been trained," she said, explaining that the officers need to be able to differentiate between the primary aggressor, commonly known as the suspect, and the victim.

Rosenthal said there is no such thing as "two aggressors" and that one person, even if he or she is violent, is trying to defend himself or herself.

Despite the work she said she sees in front of her, Rosenthal said she is happy that the measure is now in the books.

The policy puts the roles of the victim and abuser in proper perspective, she said. Now the abuser, not the victim, is removed from the abusive situation.

"Why not take the abusive party, the criminal, away from the situation?" she said. "One of the goals of this protocol is to take the abuser out of the situation."

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