Police are involved as abusers significantly more often than other groups of people who commit domestic violence. I contend that means that family members who are abused cannot expect protection from the police departments, and are at greater risk than other domestic violence victims. But it is not only in dealing with the police departments that we have systemic failures in dealing with domestic abusers and victims, as is evident from the second article here. Courts are also sometimes part of the problem as much as they are part of the solution.
From the News Junky Journal:
Under federal law, individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence are forbidden from purchasing firearms. Known as the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, or the “Lautenberg Amendment,” persons convicted of domestic abuse or who are subject to a restraining order are prohibited from transporting or owning guns or ammunition anywhere in the United States. The law also applies to gun dealers who attempt to sell guns to such persons.While no specific permits apply to rifles and shotguns, the State of New York is notoriously strict about handgun possession. Only those holding a valid pistol license may purchase a handgun, and the weapon must be registered with the state. Also, the gun must be transported in accord with state law.However, the differences between how New York state and federal domestic violence statutes are applied has created a gap in the law where the information from those found guilty of domestic violence crimes in New York courts is not always transmitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is commonly used for background checks of those purchasing firearms.Under the new statute, when a defendant is convicted of a domestic violence offense in New York, the court will determine whether the crime is applicable to the federal domestic violence statute and if so, transmit the defendant’s information to the Division of Criminal Justice Services which passes it on to the NICS.The impact of the new law on police officers could be significant. If an officer charged with domestic assault is also subject to a restraining order, he or she would not be allowed to carry a firearm in the course of his or her work. Such would be the case Roger Roth, a Town of Newburgh police officer who was arrested and charged with assault last June. Police responded to domestic dispute at Roth’s home in Montgomery, and he was accused of hitting a woman in the face with a drinking glass.Also important is the prevalence of domestic violence in police officers’ own homes. According to the National Center for Women and Policing (NCWP), more than 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, compared to 10 percent of families in the general population. The new statute is particularly critical in situations where an accused abuser has a gun, knows where the victim lives as well as the locations of battered women’s shelters, and knows enough about the legal system to manipulate statements and accusations to avoid prosecution. The added protection of knowing that abusers cannot legally access their service weapons could change the way victims report abuse.NCWP also reports that victims often fear calling the police, because they know the case will be handled by other officers who, more often than not, know their abuser personally. They also fear that responding officers will automatically side with their abuser and fail to properly investigate or document the crime.For those officers who are investigated, the penalties are often benign. Many are assigned to attend anger management or some type of domestic violence counseling. These concessions are usually made in light of the exemption in the federal gun ban specifically created for police officers. Essentially, officers may carry their service weapon while on duty under the “official use exemption” unless a protective order specifically indicates that the officer may not carry a firearm at any time, or departmental policy prohibits him from carrying a weapon while subject to an order.Further, most police department policies require an officer to report that an order of protection was issued, so that an internal determination can be made about placing the officer on administrative duty (where no weapon may be carried). However, supervisors may see the order of protection as a marital dispute or a “he said, she said” situation that does not warrant any reassignment or disciplinary action.Also, some officers may plea to charges other than domestic violence to avoid any implications on their ability to carry a weapon. Under the new law, courts will specifically review motions for protective orders to determine if the official use exemption will apply.Illegal possession of a loaded firearm in New York is a class C violent felony, punishable by a minimum mandatory term of three and a half years and a maximum of fifteen years. As such, domestic abuse convictions and domestic violence protective orders carry considerable consequences for police officers.Accusations of abuse can have a severe impact on a person’s life, especially if that person is a law enforcement officer. If you have been accused of domestic violence, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.Article provided by Brill Legal Group, P.C.
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The enlarging and bold print is my emphasis added in the following. The surrenduring of firearms and other weapons would seem to me to be particularly pertinent in the domestic violence cases where law enforcement officers are the abusers.
Montgomery County courtroom lapses leave domestic violence victims at risk, group says
Study documents failings, recommends changes to court system
A Montgomery County woman broke out in hives and cried uncontrollably during a hearing to get a protective order from her husband this year after a District Court judge ordered the woman — who had a black eye at the time — to work out child support and visitation with her husband in a courthouse hallway, even though the husband was supposed to be under a “no contact” order from the court.
The woman’s husband had attacked her five times, requiring police intervention three times.
The incident was documented by Court Watch Montgomery, a new nonprofit that aims to improve the judicial process for abuse victims, in a report that documents serious lapses in the restraining order process in the Montgomery County District Courts and suggestions for improving the system.
Court Watch contends that lapses — such as failing to keep victims and abusers separate during judicial proceedings — leaves the victims of abuse unnecessarily at risk of violence.
The report is based on observations of 25 citizen-volunteers who monitored more than 640 restraining order hearings between mid-January and mid-July before all 11 Montgomery County District Court judges.
The report finds that:
-- Judges allowed victims and abusers to leave the courthouse at the same time in 85 percent of cases, exposing victims to potential threats and violence after court. In one instance, an alleged abuser and his new girlfriend tried to hit a victim with their car outside the courthouse. The victim wanted to file criminal charges against her abuser after the incident, but her protective order was dated incorrectly, so it was invalid.
-- 67 percent of the time, judges failed to tell abusers it is a crime to violate their protective order, even though telling them this can boost deterrence.
-- In 68 percent of the hearings observed, judges did not tell abusers to surrender their firearms. State law requires the abuser to surrender all firearms to a law enforcement agency if a Final Protective Order is issued, but not for temporary orders. Abusers are not required to turn over other weapons disclosed in court — such as knives, swords, hatchets and other objects. The group would like to see the state law expanded to require more turnover of weapons from known abusers, said Laurie Duker, Court Watch’s executive director.
The group also says three of the 11 judges observed displayed inappropriate, intimidating or belittling behavior to the parties before them. The judges are not named.
More than 4,000 women in Montgomery County are victims of domestic violence every year and national estimates suggest that more than 76,000 Montgomery County women will be attacked by an intimate partner at some time in their lives, according to Court Watch.
In 2009 fiscal year, 4,171 domestic violence and peace order cases were filed in the county’s district courts, according to the Maryland Judiciary.
The report outlines some of the violence victims went to the court for protection from: an abuser who sprayed the wheelchair-bound victim with an outside hose in winter; a man who threatened to throw the couple’s baby in the ocean so that it would drown or over their home’s balcony; a man who threatened to “cut off my face” if his partner dated anyone else.
Since July 1, 2002, 48 people were killed by their partners or ex-partners in Montgomery County, according to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, which supports the report.
In the past year, two Montgomery County residents are suspected of having been killed by their partners and the report is dedicated to them.
On Feb. 9, 2011, Elizabeth Velez Vasquez was chased by her husband into a back bedroom where he cut her 74 times and stabbed her five times. Bernardo Paz Flores-Olvera pleaded guilty to the crime and will be sentenced this week.
The second dedication is to Sue Ann Marcum of Bethesda who was found bludgeoned and strangled to death in her home on Oct. 25. Police suspect Jorge Rueda Landeros, of Juarez, Mexico, killed her.
The report includes 11 low-cost recommendations to make victims safer. Among them:
-- Judges and bailiffs should always allow the victim time to leave the court before releasing the alleged abuser.
-- A victim and abuser should never be left alone in waiting areas without a bailiff present to provide security.
-- Judges should warn every respondent that violating a protective or peace order is a crime that can lead to time in jail.
-- The courts should create a low-cost video in English and Spanish to clearly explain to all parties the complicated restraining order process. This could be played at the beginning of each docket and would save judges time.
Calls for response to the report to Montgomery County District Administrative Judge Eugene Wolfe’s chambers were referred to the Maryland Judiciary’s headquarters in Annapolis.
Angelita Plemmer, a spokeswoman, said the judiciary had received a copy of the report, which is 67 pages, but it was premature to respond Tuesday. She did not know if the judiciary would prepare a formal response.
Court Watch Montgomery’s next task will be to assess any increases in the use of best practices and possibly issue a follow-up report naming underperforming judges if no improvement is seen, Duker said.