Tuesday, August 03, 1999

Grant boosts family programs




BY JANE PRENDERGAST
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — A federal grant will help Independence police officers give more comprehensive and proactive help to victims of domestic violence and child abuse.

        The department's new Family Violence Unit will start soon, thanks to more than $19,000 from the federal government. The money will pay overtime for officers assigned to the team. The unit's goal: follow-up calls to every victim within 72 hours of the incident.

        “This gives us an opportunity to do a little more than we normally do,” said Lt. Shawn Butler. “This will make us better trained in these kinds of cases and help us build stronger cases, too.”

        Family violence cases keep the department's 20 officers busier than any other kind of call except for one, criminal mischief, with a total of 208 cases last year. And it's a crime in which victims often are made to feel guilty and can be talked out of pressing charges by their attackers. Those complications, department officials hope, will lessen when they keep better contact with the victim.

        Though exact spending decisions for the grant have not been made, Sgt. Ed Bailey said some of the money probably will be spent on camera equipment officers can use to document injuries and computer software for a new case tracking system. Lt. Butler also hopes the department can work with local firefighters and emergency medical workers to help them better spot cases of family violence.

        “Any officer can go out and take a report and make an arrest,” Sgt. Bailey said. “It takes a bit more of a commitment to go back out there and follow up.”

        The idea to look for the grant, administered through the state Jus tice Cabinet, came from Chief Ed Porter, who wanted his department to do more on domestic violence cases.

        “We're kind of proud about it,” Sgt. Bailey said. “We may not make a large dent, but we'll at least help some people.” The city must contribute an additional $6,300 to secure the grant, increasing the total available for overtime to more than $25,000.

       



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