How local law enforcement responds to cases of domestic violence

According to Washington State law, domestic violence is: “(a) physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury or assault, between family or household members; (b) sexual assault of one family or household member by another; or (c) stalking of one family or household member by another family or household member.” 

The term “family or household members” includes a wide variety of people, such as spouses, former spouses, domestic partners, those in dating relationships, and any people who have children together. 

Raymond Chief Spoor explained that cases of domestic violence increased in Raymond from 2009 to 2012. In 2009, 46 cases were reported, in 2010 – 66, 2011 – 84, 2012 – 91, and finally in 2013, there was a decrease down to 53 cases. “This could be verbal or an assault. It kind of runs the gamut of the whole range of domestic violence cases,” Spoor said.

One possibility or one thing that links to these cases is the economy. If it’s poorer, we’ll see more cases. And it has improved a little bit. But that’s a pretty stark drop, from 2012 to 2013,” he continued.

When Raymond receives a domestic violence call, the department makes an effort to send out two officers, if they are available. After the officers determine who the primary aggressor is, they try to get information to the victim on how to get help from the CSN. 

Typically, Raymond officers receive extensive training at the academy and they get yearly training in house on domestic violence, but we do send officers to outside training for domestic violence and sexual assault,” Spoor said.

In order to further decrease cases of domestic violence, the police department is hoping to put resources from the CSN to work. “We’re hoping to build a better partnership with the CSN,” Spoor continued. “We talked about having an advocate respond to every domestic violence call. That’s something that as law enforcement leaders we have to figure out.”

Sheriff Johnson explained that all officers are trained at the academy to handle cases of domestic violence, although the CSN also sponsors additional training when laws are changed.  “We have a lengthy protocol regarding cases of domestic violence – we respond 100% of the time, every time,” he said. 

According to Sheriff Johnson, the department responds to all types of abuse. “It can simply be verbal. It’s not something we arrest on a lot of times, but you can be a victim of verbal abuse, if you feel threatened or harmed in any way.”

The sheriff described the department’s protocol in response to cases of domestic violence: “Basically, we decide who the primary aggressor is. If there isn’t someone who has been abused, we offer them the opportunity to contact CSN. We hand out pamphlets, so processes can be explained to each victim.” CSN is then requested to work directly with the victims, Johnson explained.

It used to be there weren’t any teeth to the laws, but now we have a means and a number of very good laws that allow us to go immediately in and make the determination if there is abuse,” he continued.

Sheriff Johnson met with new CSN director Kathryn Burr at the beginning of July to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the agency. Sheriff Johnson reported that he and Burr discussed a plethora of issues, ranging from the history of the CSN within the county to how the agencies want to deal with issues in the future. 

I told her that I have an open door policy and that I hope she knocks on my door at any time,” Johnson recounted. “We’re going to work on all kinds of things, including spend training dollars on the officers. As winter rolls around, hopefully she’ll be able to provide some additional training.”

Chief Eastham explained that South Bend police receive training annually to learn how to adequately respond to cases of domestic violence, in addition to training at the academy. “Sometimes it’s provided by local folks, sometimes they send someone and sometimes it comes to us,” he said. “We always strive to better ourselves by continuing training.” 

We have a protocol. We take the complaint, we take what evidence we can and we take the statements.” Victims are physically examined at the hospitals, he continued. “We contact CSN to give them any kind of legal help or advice through advocacy. . . We send the case to the city attorney, or whoever and they dish out the charges.”

Eastham explained that the majority of the time, domestic violence calls do not result in an arrest, as the incident is verbal. “We get there and either separate the people or talk them down into a less emotional setting.”