Domestic violence plan implemented
It occurs in every socioeconomic class, and every culture. By some estimates, from one-fifth to one-half of the female population will be affected. Men are also affected, but much less commonly.
In the first six months of this year, there were 187 calls reporting domestic violence to law enforcement in Jefferson County. Those calls resulted in 54 cases of domestic violence being referred to the district attorney's office for prosecution. In 10 of those cases, women were the primary aggressors; in the other 44, men were the aggressors.
Domestic violence is a big problem that local officials are addressing in a big way.
Following an audit process conducted in late 2004 and early 2005 to look at ways to improve victim safety and offender accountability, county officials have adopted a protocol for domestic violence.
"The idea behind the audit was to see what needed to be changed, and make sure that everybody's working to ensure victim safety and offender accountability," explained Jim Epley, Domestic Violence Project coordinator.
Beginning with a call to 911 and dispatch of an officer, to arrests, prosecution, sentencing and supervision, the Safety and Accountability Audit Team found that none of the audited agencies has written domestic violence protocols.
Among other findings, the team found that most departments had insufficient staff; all indicated a need for more training on domestic violence issues; no standardized domestic violence report writing checklist was used; police officers often had limited information on offender history when they responded to a scene of domestic violence; and no local database allowed 24-hour access to records.
Notification of victims before an offender is released from jail was a problem; victim information and support was inconsistent; and translation services for the large Hispanic population in the county was not available 24 hours a day.
The new protocol was put together by a 12-member Domestic Violence Protocol Development Team, including several people who work out of the District Attorney's office: Epley, Pam Hays, a staff assistant, Annette Hillman, assistant district attorney, Tina Farrester, director of the Victim's Assistance Office, and Dan Farrester, domestic violence investigator.
Others on the team included Greg Partin, a sergeant with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office who recently retired; Denise Easterling and Carino Bautista with the Central Oregon Battering and Rape Alliance; Brad Mondoy, probation officer for the county Adult Community Justice Department; Lillie Zable, alcohol and drug counselor with BestCare Treatment Services; Nancy Dodge with Big Brothers-Big Sisters; and Roy Jackson, Department of Human Services Child Welfare supervisor.
According to Hillman, domestic violence is defined by law as violence between spouses, former spouses, those related by blood or marriage, and those cohabiting together or involved in a sexually intimate relationship.
Reports are up, Epley noted, because of increased awareness. "When people are aware there are services, they report," he said.
"The protocol outlines the responsibilities of each agency as far as domestic violence cases and how they're handled, from 911 to jail bookings to patrol officers' response to prosecution and supervision," Epley said.
For example, when a 911 call comes in, the operator obtains the standard information, but now, also makes an effort to determine and relay to officers whether or not: the suspect is present, and if not, the suspect's description; weapons are involved, the type and location; anyone has been injured, nature of injuries and if an ambulance is needed; the offender is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and what substance; there are children present; the victim has a current protective or restraining order; and there is a history of domestic violence complaints at that location.
In most cases, Hillman said, "Drugs and alcohol are a contributing factor to domestic violence. It can trigger a violent interaction. Alcohol and meth seem to be the most prevalent of those reported."
Probation officer Brad Mondoy, who is currently supervising about 65 clients, agreed. "The large majority of them have alcohol and drug problems -- probably over 70 percent," he said.
When children are involved, as in 21 of the 41 arrests made in the first six months of this year, officers coordinate with the DHS Child Welfare Office.
The protocol outlines how an officer should approach the scene, make initial contact, do the on-scene investigation, provide victim assistance, make an arrest, and book a suspect.
Those signing the protocol included: District Attorney Peter Deuel, Sheriff Jack Jones, Madras Police Chief Tom Adams, County Community Justice Director Jeff Lichtenberg, Tina Farrester, Roy Jackson, Greg Partin, and COBRA Director Toni Ryan.
"The strength of the team in coordination is minimizing the cases that fall through the cracks because we have a lot of communication between the different partners," said Mondoy.
The domestic violence team has met on a weekly basis since 1998, when the county received its first Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
"As a treatment provider," said Lillie Zable of BestCare, "I've been in the field approximately 13 years, and this is the most open team I've worked with. Jefferson County is the most workable county I've worked with."
For the current biennium, from Sept. 1, 2005 until Aug. 31, 2007, the county received $499,651 to fund its Domestic Violence Project. The grant funds the positions held by Epley, Dan Farrester, Carino Bautista, and victim advocate Lucy Ennis.