It is a bold step for a city to put itself under the microscope to examine where gaps in processes and systems exist.
In 2013, under Mayor Dean's leadership, our city committed to examining its problem with domestic violence. Some of the startling findings of this assessment were:
• In 2012 there were 11,895 reported incidents of domestic violence crimes, representing 47% of all crimes against persons reported in Davidson County.
• Of all police incident reports filed in Davidson County in 2012, roughly one fourth of those reports were domestic violence related.
• In Davidson County’s General Sessions Court, 6,831 criminal domestic violence cases were filed during the 2012 fiscal year, representing a total of 4,849 unique domestic violence offenders. Those 4,849 defendants accounted for 5,449 domestic violence arrests during that year.
• In 2012, 21% of criminal defendants in General Sessions Court were charged with domestic violence crimes.
• In 2012, 4,612 Orders of Protection were granted to victims of domestic violence.
• Over a six month period beginning on May 1, 2012, 65% of all domestic violence cases heard in General Sessions Court were dismissed, retired or otherwise not prosecuted.
• On any given date, there are approximately 650 defendants on probation in Davidson County for a domestic violence crime.
• From 2008-2012, homicides related to domestic violence constituted 15% of all homicides committed. Over the course of that five year period, there were 50 domestic violence homicides, averaging 10 per year. Of these domestic violence homicides, half were of intimate partners.
• A handgun was used in 52.6% of the domestic violence homicides in 2011-12.
In a few months, Mayor Dean will return to private life after the City has elected a new Mayor, yet the problem of domestic violence will remain. The goals and recommendations of the Assessment will remain critical to achieve:
Delay and Inconvenience: At every opportunity, delay and inconvenience to the victim should be dramatically reduced or eliminated.
Shifting the Burden: The burden of successful prosecution should rest on the investigative work of the police department and prosecution strategies of the District Attorney’s Office, rather than on the appearance of the victim in court. Victims should not be referred to as the “prosecutor” on any domestic violence case.
Training: All participants in the domestic violence response process should receive significant annual Metro-sponsored domestic violence training and certification. Initial trainings should focus on improving understanding of victim and offender behavior, community resources, cultural and language barriers and the way Metro’s law enforcement and judicial systems work and interact together.
Advocacy: Metro should prioritize the use of paid advocates to assist victims at each critical juncture of the process. The work of these advocates should be standardized across departments and include the use of risk/lethality assessments.
Integrated Data: Metro should better share domestic violence data across departments in a way that will more effectively ensure offender accountability and enhance victim safety.
Risk/Lethality Assessments: Metro should have a standardized and comprehensive domestic violence risk/lethality assessment tool. When appropriate, this tool should be utilized at each point that a victim interacts with Metro in its provision of services to domestic violence victims.
Removing Language Barriers: Metro should greatly expand its ability to serve the needs of non-English speaking domestic violence victims.
Coordinated Community Response: Metro should have a coordinated community response to domestic violence that includes Metro departments and non-profit partners that serve domestic violence victims. Following the Family Justice Center model, this coordinated community response should focus on providing a single place for victims to receive police, prosecutor and civil legal assistance, talk to an advocate, plan for their safety and receive referral services.
DV Coordinator: Metro should employ a domestic violence coordinator to implement a coordinated community response to domestic violence and oversee progress made on the goals and recommendations contained in this report.
It is fair for us all to assume that no matter who gets elected, she or he will share Mayor Dean's commitment to ending domestic violence. The Metro Council has also been a long-time supporter of the YWCA's efforts to address the problem.
As Vice Mayor, I will ensure these commitments are translated into reality by appointing a Public Safety Committee dedicated to ending domestic violence and with a Chair who is a demonstrated leader committed to seeing these goals and recommendations implemented.
The current efforts to end domestic violence will not stop because of an election.