Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recognizing the work of the Domestic Violence Section

Last week, I presented our Domestic Violence Section with a Special Unit Citation and two of their leaders, Captain Mark Folsom and Sergeant James Trout, with Meritorious Service Awards. The award specifically covered their accomplishments from 2007 to 2008, but they haven't slowed down. This June, they implemented the Lethality Assessment Program, and they're undertaking other initiatives now in addition to the day-to-day investigation of cases. But here's a description of what they did in 2007 and 2008 that merited them the awards:

These two years were full of major accomplishments for the Domestic Violence Section, all of which aimed to better protect Kansas City’s victims of domestic abuse.

Three additional detectives joined the Domestic Violence Section during this time. Two were in response to a manpower study that said more detectives were needed on Watch I. The third was part of a $250,000 grant the Section secured in 2007 from the federal Office of Violence against Women. It not only paid for a detective to proactively work on domestic violence issues but also funded a bilingual victim advocate from the Rose Brooks Center to come work in the Section.

Another major project the Section completed was a study with the Kansas City Community Health Improvement Program to determine the cost of domestic violence in Kansas City in one day. This study revealed that about $58,000 is spent per day, including law enforcement hours and shelter housing.

Sergeant James Trout and Captain Mark Folsom also realized that photographic evidence for domestic violence cases was decreasing, and prosecutions suffered. So in 2008, they led the charge to outfit all patrol cars with digital cameras to better document evidence of domestic abuse. The cameras also will serve to collect evidence on other types of investigations, as well.

Captain Folsom and Sergeant Trout also helped write a new city ordinance that the City Council passed in October 2008. The Violation of Order of Protection Ordinance required a great deal of coalition building and getting support from all domestic violence shelters and service organizations, city and county prosecutors, judges, and the City Council. The ordinance allowed city prosecutors to charge violations of orders of protection instead of submitting the cases to state prosecutors, where they often slipped through the cracks. Before the ordinance, just 27 percent of violations of full orders of protection cases were prosecuted. Prosecution rates are now up to 69.4 percent. Perpetrators are now found guilty about 64 percent of the time, with the most common sentence being 180 days in jail plus two years of probation.

In addition to all of these projects, members of the Domestic Violence Section have cut down the time it takes to complete a case in which suspects were not arrested at the time of occurrence to less than 90 days, despite the fact that their number of cases has increased by about 1,200 per year over the past two years. They also meet regularly with domestic violence service organizations and are researching best practices for investigating elder abuse cases.

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