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December 26, 1997     Cape Gazette
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December 26, 1997

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| lib Domestic Violence Part IV: Police procedures, This is the fourth in a five-part series on domestic violence. By Kerry Kester It was the holiday season, but for the Sussex County woman, the days were not filled with merri- ment. Her Christmas tree lay top- pled on the floor, her home showed signs of a struggle, her head was marked with a lump, and her lip was swollen. It wasn't the first time her lover had battered her, but it was the first time she called police. By the time she made the call, the vic- tim's boyfriend was no longer in the couple's home. The victim in- dicated the immediate threat had passed, but she wanted police to document the incident. When law enforcement officers respond to a domestic violence call, most do so with trepidation. Seldom does the dispatcher have much information to provide for the officer. Police often don't know if they are going to a home where they will need to settle a verbal dispute or if they are.walk- ing into a volatile, life-threatening situation. "A lot of things are going through your head, because we don't get a lot of information right away," said TFC Mark Gaglione of Troop 7. He said each of the officers at Troop 7 typically han- dle one domestic violence call per shift. "There's always a little bit of a fear level. We're going into a sit- new la uation almost blind. You don't know how they're going to act when you arrive," he said. "I'm the first person they come in contact with in the legal sys- tem," said Gaglione, referring to the role police have in domestic violence incidents. Sometimes, he said, if the situation is still in progress when police arrive, the sight of a police uniform may in- flame one or both parties engaged in the dispute. Other times, the uniform may have a calming ef- feet, he said. "We don't always have a histo- ry on the people," said Gaglione, so the first course of action is to determine who involved is the victim. Police physically separate the parties to conduct interviews. "At least 90 percent of the time, we get different stories," said Gaglione, but collecting solid evi- dence is crucial to successful prosecution. In the case where the woman was battered a few days before Christmas, Gaglione said police evidence included the woman's physical injuries and condition of the home. Also, the accused batterer's blood-alcohol reading measured. 15. "Over 90 percent of the time, when you go to these domestics, drugs or alcohol are a fact-0r," said Cpl. Preston Lewis, state police spokesman. Substance abuse is one of the 19 items listed on the risk assessment attached to the domestic violence provide incident report that is used statewide by all police agencies - municipal, county and state. If police determine the victim is at high risk for becoming subject to increased danger, they intensify their investigations. Procedures safety-oriented Procedure policy requires po- lice to check the computer system to determine whether a Protection From Abuse (PFA) is in effect. If an order is in place, in addition to any charges police may issue for the specific incident, they levy contempt of court charges. If children are involved, they are separated from the adults and interviewed separately. "We try to talk to the children, because we get the most honest answers from more protection for victim00 them. I think that's the toughest part for me - when there are kids involved. [Witnessing acts of do- mestic violence] is very traumatic for children." Changed laws offer more pro- tection for abuse victims. In years past, victims were required to make formal complaints to get as- sistance from the judicial system. Often, during the heat of the mo- ment, the victims would sign the complaints, but later they would recant their statements, and prose- cution would grind to a halt. No longer do victims have the choice of whether to pursue prose- cution in cases of domestic vio- lence. New laws place that onus on responding police officers. When they determine someone is abusive and has violated the law, they make an arrest, secure a no- contact or no-uninvited-contact order, and the case then proceeds through the court system. PFAs are one of the most im- portant tools available to abuse victims. Even without arrests, victims may request court-ordered protection from abuse. The ma- jority of PFAs are issued by judges in Family Court, and each order is tailored to the specific needs of the victim. To get a PFA, victims may go to Family Court in Georgetown, where courthouse employees will help them fill out necessary pa- pers and schedule time with a judge. The Domestic Violence Advocacy Center is also housed in Family Court. The center is inde- Continued on page 16 At County Bank We're Community People You live, work and play here, so why not save here, too? Now's a great time to take advantage of our Sizzling Hot 6 month term CD at 5.83% A.P.Y. with a minimum deposit of 8500. Time's limited so call or stop by one of our conveniently located branches today. Interest rates in effect until March 1, 1998 5.83% ANNUAL PERCENTAGE YIELD 5.75% INTEREST RATE 6 Month Term CD Minimum Deposit $500 A penalty may be imposed for early withdrawal. Angie Moon photoillustration Law enforcement and the judicial system are key compo- nents to curbing domestic violence. ounEy ann MEMBER FDIC Rehoboth Beach Milford 226-9800 424-2500 Long Neck Seaford 947-7300 628-4400