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Could NYPD’s ability to arrest domestic violence victims scare them from reporting abuse?

The NYPD practice of investigating the backgrounds of domestic violence victims as well as the victims’ attackers has come under scrutiny recently, and has some domestic violence advocates calling on the department to ensure it doesn’t discourage victims from coming forward.

“[Victims] are coming here to report a crime, but then ultimately they’re scrutinized?” asked Debjati Roy, domestic violence victims’ advocate with the Brooklyn-based anti-harrassment organization Hollaback.  “It’s not going to encourage them to come forward.  Guaranteed.”

While she was not sounding an alarm about the NYPD policy of looking into victims’ backgrounds, she was responding to that policy being in the spotlight in recent published and online reports, such as this article  in the New York Post 

“[Fighting] domestic violence is a major part of law enforcement,” said 30-year veteran NYPD detective and PIX11 consultant Wally Zeins, “And it took many, many years to make it work where it is today in NYPD.”

Zeins said he wants to ensure that the recent attention placed on the NYPD practice of reviewing victims’ backgrounds doesn’t prevent  victims from coming forward to report domestic abuse.  “You want [a complainant to trust the police," the former sex crimes investigator told PIX11 News.

For its part, the NYPD issued a statement, "While it is standard practice and policy for detectives to investigate victims’ backgrounds to help lead them to the victims’ assailants, the NYPD – contrary to a published report  -- has no “must arrest” policy that applies to domestic violence victims. In fact, the discovery of open warrants on domestic violence victims often results in their warrants being vacated."

The department stressed that it does not arrest every victim who happens to have an open warrant for their arrest, a fact that Detective Zeins wants to be emphasized to victims as well.  "The name of the game," he said, "is you want people to come and cooperate with you."

However, just because victims with open warrants typically aren't arrested when they report domestic violence crimes doesn't mean they can't be arrested.   For that reason, a number of victims' advocates told PIX11 News that a key to combating domestic violence is for the NYPD to strongly reassure victims that their risk of arrest is low.

"She shouldn't be scrutinized over her experience," Roy said about victims.  "[Police] should focus solely on her experience with violence.”


5 Comments to “Could NYPD’s ability to arrest domestic violence victims scare them from reporting abuse?”

    anthony c colella said:
    March 15, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    I have a story for you.I removed a girlfriend from my home because she would drink and fight call police and say I hit her. The police arrested me and acknowledged through photos I never hit her. the courts gave her an order of protection. after the city marshalls removed her she moved in with a neighbor 50ft. from my front door. every time she saw me she would call police and I would be arrested on felony charges. even the assistant D.A. and the police said they were on my side and discussed the situation with my family ( I was arrested a total of 8 times) for absolutely nothing
    the madness gets better I filed a complaint against the domestic violence officer for not using professional judgement thats when he turned up the heat why wasn't she arrested for filing a false 911 report

    guest anon5 said:
    March 16, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    Forensic Science: not science:
    According to this PBS story tonight, everything we've been led to believe about fingerprinting & other forensic sclience is wrong, and innocent people are being convicted as a result. There is no scientific basis for the claim that no two fingerprints are the same, and no national standard for forensic science at all. And forensic scientists often get their credentials from internet diploma mills.
    Watch now: The Real CSI | FRONTLINE | PBS Video video.pbs.org
    FRONTLINE investigates the flaws in some of the best-known tools of forensic science.
    Former FBI Crime Lab Whistleblower: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detai
    Former Police Whistleblower: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n6HkF8QcRo

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