PCOC Meeting in a Snapshot: April Edition

Melissa Scaia, International Police Trainer for Global Rights for Women, talks to the Commission about the importance of police response to domestic violence.

The Police Conduct Oversight Commission held its monthly meeting on April 11, 2017. Highlights of the meeting included: a presentation of the draft Domestic Violence Response Study, including speakers from Global Rights for Women; Committee reports; and case review.

The meeting opened with a in-depth presentation of the draft Domestic Violence Response Research and Study. OPCR Director Imani Jaafar opened the presentation by discussing how domestic violence can happen to anyone and everyone. The victims are often women, and Director Jaafar discussed how making that first attempt to reach out and get help in a domestic violence situation often means calling the police. This is often a difficult call to make, something Director Jaafar could attest to from her own experience. This is why police response to those domestic calls is of vital importance. Director Jaafar then introduced Amy Lauricella, a staff attorney for Global Rights for Women, a partner in developing the Study. Ms. Lauricella discussed her work, and that of her organization, throughout the world to improve police response to domestic violence. She shared with Commissioners that it takes, on average, seven attempts for domestic violence victims to leave their abusers and that it is often police officers that are in the best position to provide resources to those victims. It is responding police officers who can connect victims to services, advocates and shelters. She also discussed how it is the actions of police officers, in asking questions, engaging, and writing reports, that sets up the entire system to combat domestic violence to work. It is those police reports that can lay the foundation for further protection for victims, such as filing for orders for protection.

Next, Melissa Scaia, an International Police Trainer for Global Rights for Women, spoke to the Commission about her work training the Duluth Police Department, a jurisdiction that has received an international award for its domestic response program. She talked about how abusers know if the place they live is somewhere they can get away with that abuse and how police response is never neutral, it either supports the victim or supports the abuser. Lastly, Ms. Scaia noted that no good domestic response program develops in isolation, a team is needed in order to be successful.

After these two presentations, OPCR Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick presented the Commission with data uncovered by OPCR analysts during the study. He discussed the findings that reports and arrests are happening in approximately 20% of cases but that there are many more calls that should be ending in at least reports, per the MPD policy requiring a police report for any allegation of domestic violence. He also discussed the finding that the greatest determinant for how a domestic call would be handled was not call load, precinct, or time of day, but most depended on which MPD officers responded. There appears to be officers that handle domestics more consistently with MPD policy than others. Mr. Patrick also discussed proposed recommendations which include an intervention system for officers who are regularly not following policy and not making accurate arrests or reports for domestic calls, a quality control mechanism where a group of individuals could audit domestic calls for policy compliance on a regular basis, and to address gaps in policy such as requiring the use of body cameras in all domestic calls. See the presentation here. See the draft report here. Commissioners will consider the report over the coming month and discuss any potential revisions at the May Audit Committee meeting and general Commission meeting.

Following this presentation, Commissioners made Committee reports. The Policy and Procedure Committee update is that the co-responder pilot is making progress, with the job announcement for the MPD officers to work with mental health professionals already posted. The Outreach Committee is looking into participation a Cinco de Mayo celebration and upcoming Open Streets events, and the Audit Committee informed other Commissioners that they received a preview of the Domestic Violence Response Study at their meeting.

Commissioners then reviewed case summaries 2, 4 and 8 chosen in March, and reviewed cases to be converted into summaries from the April Synopses and chose cases 4, 5, and 6. The meeting then adjourned, with another monthly meeting scheduled for May 9, 2017.

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