Mayor S. J. Schulman

Community Oriented Policing Approach Towards Domestic Violence

The City of White Plains Department of Public Safety recognizes that there are two significant problems related to domestic violence that need to be addressed. The first is the abuse and violence that family members can inflict upon each other. The department recognizes that domestic violence is not only between spouses but can be between children and parents, and also children and grandparents. Because these acts can be subtle, occur in the home, may be regarded as private, i.e. a "family matter," and may be perceived as a normal part of a relationship, they are difficult acts to prevent, difficult behaviors to treat, and difficult crimes to prosecute. The second problem is the historic inadequacy of the response on the part of some police officers to enforce domestic violence laws. Biases of both gender and culture have contributed to the failure of some police organizations to effectively respond to domestic violence. This problem of the response is just as serious as the problem of domestic violence itself. In addition, new laws and the continuing changes of society's expectations regarding the police response to domestic violence require that the department addresses these issues in a comprehensive way.

To improve the effectiveness of the White Plains Police Department's response to domestic violence, the department has employed community policing principles and strategies. The program will assist the department in ensuring that there is pro-active enforcement of domestic violence coupled with effective prosecution, and a comprehensive approach which includes prevention, victim support, and an integrated community response.

The department collaborated on this effort with Victims Assistance Services to design and implement a training program. The first phase of the project was for Victims Assistance Services to review the police department's policies and procedures relevant to domestic violence. At the completion of the review, Victims Assistance Services made recommendations to the Commissioner of Public Safety, who reviewed them and determined that some changes to the department policies were appropriate. The next phase was the Victims Assistance Services designing of a curriculum, in consultation with the police department. This curriculum is being used to train all the members of the White Plains Police Department, and is closely linked with the stated goals of the project. Central to the training is the reliance on the principles of community policing. Members of the department are being trained to identify, prevent and intervene in domestic violence situations as part of an overall community-based strategy. Every officer has or will graduate from this training with: 1) a greater appreciation for the gravity of domestic violence; 2) an increased awareness of their own prejudices that might impair their enforcement of domestic violence laws; 3) a solid understanding of the appropriate laws and regulations; 4) a "toolbox" of contacts and community services that are available to the officer to apply community policing strategies to the problem of domestic violence; and 5) improved interpersonal skills that can be used by the officer to encourage victims to seek assistance.

After the curriculum was developed, Victims Assistance Services staff members, together with members of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, conducted a "Train the Trainer" program for the police department. This was a 24-hour training session for 10 carefully selected police officers who are already New York State certified police instructors. These police instructors are now in the process of training all of the department's police officers using the newly developed curriculum. When the training is completed, Victims Assistance Services will develop and implement a follow-up review to determine the effectiveness of the program.

The program evaluation will be an integral part of the project. Victims Assistance Services and the police department will together be responsible for developing criteria, and determining a method for measuring the success of the project. Victims Assistance Service will conduct the evaluation. Victims Assistance will submit a detail report to the Commissioner of Public Safety that will, at minimum, include statistics on arrests, referrals and the total number of domestic violence calls, as well as a measure of how effective the department's community-oriented policing strategies have been in responding to and preventing domestic violence crimes.

CONTACT: Lt. Anne Fitzsimmons, 77 South Lexington Avenue, White Plains, NY 10601, Telephone - (914) 422-6222, Fax - (914) 422-6228.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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