Mayor Susan Golding

San Diego City Attorney's Child Abuse & Domestic Violence Unit

In 1986 the San Diego City Attorney's Domestic Violence Unit was created in an effort to address the growing crisis of domestic violence. Over the past 11 years, the unit's approach to domestic violence has become more sophisticated. This approach incorporates eight core objectives: 1) the aggressive prosecution of domestic violence cases in order to stop domestic violence; 2) early intervention at the misdemeanor level in order to prevent the escalation of offenders' behavior to felony level conduct; 3) shifting the focus from victim responsibility for prosecution to a focus on offender accountability; 4) the enhancement of victim safety; 5) the creation of a multi-disciplinary/inter-agency response to domestic violence; 6) a heightening of community awareness and appreciation for the dynamics of domestic violence; 7) prosecution without a victim which prevents victims from "dropping charges" and abusers then cannot escape prosecution by threatening them; and 8) the offenders must complete a one-year domestic violence recovery program.

Most recently, the unit has developed a personal safety plan for both heterosexual and same sex domestic violence victims in English as well as Spanish; developed a Community Resource Guide for victims of gay and lesbian domestic violence; developed a teen dating violence resource pamphlet; and finally, implemented the frequent and immediate use of the Temporary Restraining Order and Stay Away Order.

The unit is also involved in training police officers at the Regional Police Academy, advanced officer trainings and roll-call sessions. The training includes alerting officers to the need of collecting such things as 911 tapes, photos, medical records, excited utterances, admissions, child witnesses and other evidence in order to successfully prosecute without the testimony of the victim. In addition, the unit has designed and implemented a law enforcement protocol that has subsequently been adopted by law enforcement agencies in the county and many law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The protocol creates a mandatory arrest policy, procedures for on-scene investigation, steps for follow-up investigation, and standards for case preparation. The protocol includes a specialized reporting form for use by police officers during on-scene investigations.

The unit works with the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Association in the development of statewide domestic violence curriculum, national and international training. It is currently working with the United States Attorney's Office to develop similar protocols in an efforts to prosecute domestic violence offenses under federal law.

The City Attorney's Office created the San Diego Domestic Violence Council in June 1989. The Council, with a membership of over 200 agencies and individuals, functions through a network of twelve working committees, each focusing on a segment of the domestic violence intervention effort. They include a law enforcement committee, a shelter and support services committee, a medical committee, a legal action committee, a child abuse/domestic violence committee, an ethnic concerns committee, a treatments committee, a grant and data collection committee, an education committee and three geographical task forces. The purpose of the Council is to reduce and prevent domestic violence by enhancing the response of the primary service providers and increasing public awareness of the nature and scope of the problem as well as available resources for assistance. The Council holds bi-annual training conferences for professionals and, in conjunction with the Junior League of San Diego, has published an informational pamphlet and set up a info-line number for access to local domestic violence services.

The efforts extended by our Domestic Violence Unit has resulted in significant reduction in the domestic violence homicide rate in San Diego by more than 60 percent. In San Diego, only 6 percent of homicides are domestic violence-related compared to 30 percent nationally. There are more than 100 women alive today because of our innovative approach to prosecution. There has been a drop of 1,000 reported domestic violence cases. In addition, the recidivism rate has been reduced as evidenced by the fact that only 15 percent of offenders who complete the required one-year counseling program are re-arrested.

CONTACT: Gael B. Strack, Assistant City Attorney, 1200 Third Avenue, Suite 700, San Diego, CA 92101, Telephone (619) 533-5515, Fax - (619) 533-5505.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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