Powell, P., Smith, M., Riley, J., Harmon, A., Ryan, C., and Butler, J. 2010, A Collaborative Domestic Violence Prevention Program, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-10-74

Introduction

Prevention of domestic violence was established as a priority by the Churchill County Extension Educator as a result of interviews with local law enforcement officers, victims of domestic violence and domestic violence advocates. A gap in educational programming was identified as a result of analysis of this qualitative data. Training for law enforcement officers was identified as the focused need for domestic violence (DV) prevention. This publication describes the pilot DV training program and the curriculum outline used.

Strategies for working with law enforcement officers were discussed with the local District Attorney’s office that prosecutes DV cases. These discussions resulted in Cooperative Extension’s involvement in training for law enforcement officers who respond to DV calls.

As Nevada ranks fifth in the nation (VPC) for the number of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender homicides in 2007, continued education into the issues surrounding DV is warranted. Since the implementation of this program to a statewide audience, other law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups have encouraged further program development by Cooperative Extension to involve more law enforcement personnel. Program impacts as a result of the training are provided in another fact sheet.

The initial DV pilot training was offered at the Nevada Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training (POST) Academy in Carson City, Nev. The goal of the program was to educate cadets about the dynamics of domestic violence, appropriate response strategies to a domestic violence incident, and the role law enforcement can play in breaking the cycle of abuse as a result of domestic violence. This training approach may be of special interest to other law enforcement agencies who wish to increase officer knowledge of domestic violence and improve performance of these first responders to the domestic violence scene.

Background

According to the Nevada Attorney General, domestic violence is generally defined as a violent crime committed in the context of an intimate relationship. It is a crime characterized by the use of power, coercion and control, and is prosecutable by law enforcement. As reported by the Nevada Department of Public Safety, more than 26,000 domestic violence offenses were reported by law enforcement in 2008. According to the Nevada Network against Domestic Violence, more than 37,000 victims of abuse received services from a DV program in Nevada during the 2008-2009 fiscal year. Unlike most other crimes, domestic violence is usually not an isolated, sudden, and unexpected incident. It can involve years of emotional trauma, physical injury, and threats to victims’ lives, the incidence of which can often become more severe and frequent over time.

Law enforcement officers are normally the first to receive the report of violence, the first to respond, and the first to provide services. An officer’s knowledge about the dynamics of domestic violence, and appropriate response measures, can increase the likelihood of the successful resolution of a DV incident. To the officer who has responded numerous times to the same domestic violence scene, the efforts of first responders to help the victim cope with and recover from the victimization may seem to be of limited consequence. This is not, however, the case. Appropriate response can have a significant, incremental impact in the sometimes lengthy process of victims’ recovery and prevention of serious injury or death (OVC). 

Ensuring that law enforcement is adequately trained to respond to a domestic dispute scene is critical to building victim capacity to break the cycle of abuse. Appropriate training has been shown to save lives of law enforcement personnel who respond to DV situations. A DV response call is one of the officer’s most dangerous calls (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2005).

Overview of Training

The pilot training was conducted at POST in 2010. Domestic Violence for Field Procedures included two days of intensive training. The first day was devoted to lecture, covering topics such as dynamics of domestic violence, role of the domestic violence advocate, arrival on scene, interviewing, evidence gathering, arrest decision, stalking and harassment, and strangulation. A combination of lecture, video, hands-on activities, role playing and real-life examples are used in the training process. In addition to UNCE faculty, the training team includes experienced law enforcement officers, domestic violence investigators, juvenile probation, domestic violence advocates and victims. The day’s lecture is interactive, welcoming cadet comment and discussion.

On the second day of training, cadets respond to domestic dispute scenarios based upon real-life examples. The response team, made up of two cadets each, is sequestered from the room while the scenario is presented to the cadet audience and props for the stage are set. As the domestic dispute is acted out, the two cadets are brought back into the room to respond, simulating a more realistic experience. Once the cadet team has completed its incident response, the training staff and observing cadets assist in evaluating the response tactics used. Each cadet has the opportunity to respond to at least one scenario, and often request additional opportunities to practice strategies learned during the first day of the training.

Agenda for Two-Day Cadet Training

DAY 1

Scenario – “Setting the Scene”

Self-evaluation: How prepared am I to respond to a domestic violence dispute?

Introductions

Dynamics of domestic violence; Officer safety

Advocate Perspective

Collaboration of community services; Role of the advocate How advocates can help you help the victim

Juvenile Probation Perspective

Requirements/liabilities when dealing with juvenile offenders

Reinforcement of District Attorney Presentation*

Protection Orders; Full Faith and Credit; Liability

Arrival at Domestic Dispute Scene

Safe approach to the crime scene; Situation size-up; Crime scene control

Interviewing (Victim, Suspect, Witnesses)

Methods for determining who is the victim(s) and who is the suspect(s). The importance of your demeanor; How to interview children Obtaining information from witnesses; Lethality assessment

Evidence

Documentation, supplemental forms and writing a good report Gathering physical evidence; Photographs and taped recordings; Follow-up evidence

Arrest Decision

Methods for determining the primary aggressor; Making a safe arrest

Stalking

What is stalking? How to assist a stalking victim.

Strangulation

Signs and symptoms of strangulation; dangers of strangulation; victim assistance

DAY 2

Scenarios – Role Playing

Cadets practice strategies and techniques learned in Day 1 are Self-evaluations and Group Evaluation

Questions and Answers

Cadets complete training evaluations

*Cadets receive “Domestic Violence Prosecution Best Practices” training from the District Attorney’s Office prior to this two-day training.

Summary

Law enforcement’s understanding of the many issues surrounding domestic violence is critical to the success of victims to leave abusive situations. As law enforcement is often the first contact victims have when seeking assistance, their actions can grealy impact the victim. For more information regarding this pilot training, program impacts and resources available, readers are encouraged to contact the UNCE authors.

References and Information for Further Reading

  • Department of Public Safety (2008). Domestic Violence Reports. Nevada: Author. Retrieved from website Nov. 15, 2010. RCCD
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2005). Domestic Violence Instructor Training Program. Office of State and Local Training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center: Salinas, Calif.
  • Nevada Attorney General (2010). “What is Domestic Violence?” Nevada: Author. Retrieved from website July 1, 2010. AG
  • Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence (2009). “Domestic Violence: The Facts.” Nevada: Author. Retrieved from website November 15, 2009. NCEDSV
  • Office for Victims of Crime (2008). “First Response to Victims of Crime: A guidebook for law enforcement officers.” U.S. Department of Justice: Washington, D.C. Retrieved from website on July 1, 2010. OVC
  • Violence Policy Center (2009). “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2007 Homicide Data.” Washington, D.C. Retrieved from website on July 1, 2010. VPC

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