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One city's domestic violence policy ridiculed, under strong attack

Always volatile, and sometimes associated with tragic outcomes, is the domestic violence that can unfortunately feature in some couples' relationships. Abuse in a family -- whether spousal/partner abuse or child abuse -- is always sad and often owes to a complex interplay of factors. Regardless of the circumstances and the underlying causes relating to domestic violence, it is critical in every instance that danger be removed from the home through the proper reporting of and police response to domestic violence acts.

Although that might sound straightforward enough in itself, a number of victims -- usually women -- hesitate to report their partners, again, for myriad and sometimes complex reasons. That often makes curtailing and preventing recurrences of abusive behavior problematic.

A recent story emerging in New York City underscores how official policy can make things even more difficult for abuse victims seeking to do the right thing. In fact, the official actions of the New York Police Department (NYPD) have been termed worthy of a "knucklehead award" by an official from that state's Civil Liberties Union.

Namely, the NYPD chief of detectives recently issued a memo ordering police officers to conduct background criminal checks on abused persons reporting acts of violence. As counterintuitive as that sounds, the stated rationale provided is that an open warrant or other criminal evidence against a reporting victim might encourage that person to not get cold feet and refuse to follow through on a complaint.

Critics of that policy -- and there are many -- have immediately denounced it as illogical and flatly wrong, with one anonymous police source terming it "insane."

A city councilman stated that "a policy that could potentially lead to the arrest of a victim of domestic violence is misguided."

The fear among critics is that a battered person might balk at reporting an abuser out of fear of arrest on even an outstanding petty charge.

One commentator likened the policy to being abused twice, once by a partner and then by the police department.

Source: New York Post, "NYPD using criminal background checks to push victims in domestic-violence cases," Jamie Schram and Dan Mangan, March 16, 2013

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