Fighting Domestic Violence as Law Enforcement
For much of our history, domestic violence was viewed not as a matter for law enforcement but as a personal or family matter. Because of that communities often stood by while women and men were being hurt or murdered. Finally, those laws have changed. Today, my former police department in Orlando has a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence. If you batter your significant other you will be arrested and you will go to jail.
What I always go back to are the raw numbers that explain how this tragic crisis hurts everyone it touches. For example, did you know that by the time you’re finished reading this blog a woman will have been beaten? And those are just the victims we KNOW about. These are the women and men who are brave enough to call the police and press charges. Twenty-five percent of all physical assaults, 50 percent of all stalking, and 20 percent of all rapes against women by intimate partners ARE reported to the police. So, you know the inverse of these numbers reflects that far too many crimes that go unreported.
Domestic violence crosses all ages, races, and economic backgrounds and continues to be a problem that all communities must work to stop. As Orlando Police Chief I was so proud of our officers who worked with our local shelters, not merely to help victims, but to be trained on the best way to work with victims to ensure offenders were brought to justice.
Harbor House is one such shelter in my city that has been a safe space for victims and has worked to train our officers. In turn, they take what they’ve learned back into our community. It was critical for police to learn firsthand what it takes to prosecute perpetrators from beginning to end, and how we can be more efficient and effective in helping the state or district attorneys.
Another step for us was adding domestic violence to the list for crime prevention for our Involvement Officers, who work with the community on raising awareness, to make sure the community knows that domestic violence is just as serious as rape and robbery. Our Deputy Chief even serves on the board of Harbor House as further recognition that Orlando takes domestic violence seriously, and that we’re committed to stopping it.
I think all of the action we’re taking in Orlando is critically important, and so much of it is working. Orlando’s crime rate dropped to a 40 year low, and arrests for domestic violence crimes increased by 15%. But it can’t end there. Stopping domestic violence is where it ends; and it must always be a priority for those of us who work in law enforcement.
Bringing awareness to these issues is a major reason I’m running for Congress. The policies coming from Washington have a real impact on our local communities. Rather than tax cuts to the rich trickling down to those who need help most, we are seeing the program cuts trickle down instead and hurt our families. In Congress, I will be a strong advocate for women and families and will fight tooth and nail to defend all of those who are being hurt by this Republican Majority.
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