Program addresses domestic violence within ranks of law enforcement

By Zachary Summerlin
Jul. 7, 2013

I had the honor of speaking at the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police Summer Conference in Biloxi on June 20 to address an important but challenging issue: domestic violence committed by law enforcement officers.

I came to the conference to invite the state’s law enforcement agencies to use a new, free National Prevention Toolkit on Officer-Involved Domestic Violence, developed at Florida State University and funded by the Verizon Foundation. The simple but crucial message of the toolkit is that “preventing violence begins at home.”

The first phase of the national dissemination of the toolkit focuses on 10 Southern states, including Mississippi.

Domestic violence is always a tragic crime. But the tragedy to the community is compounded when the offense is committed by an officer whose job is to enforce the law. Although it is difficult to obtain precise statistics on domestic violence crimes due to chronic underreporting, we know that officers commit domestic violence at around the same rate as civilians. We want to change that.

The new national toolkit, which went live online this month, is a web-based curriculum and resource site that teaches officers about the dynamics and warning signs of officer-involved domestic violence. The toolkit also encourages command staff to lead anti-violence efforts within the agency. The toolkit provides state-by-state links to resources, videos that can be played at roll call and check-in, and posters and multimedia material that reinforce the messages of the curriculum.

Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Ken Winter told more than 250 chiefs and officers who attended the conference that he has been connected to the project for more than two years as a reviewer of the training content and website navigation while Florida State University sought external funding to expand this resource nationally. Both of us were proud of the fact that the Mississippi law enforcement community now has full access to the toolkit.

The toolkit is a multidisciplinary endeavor: It was created by a public-private partnership, connecting business to law enforcement to university. This genesis is fitting, as the complex public health crisis of domestic violence cannot be solved by a single institution or solitary agency. Rather, it will require the combined resources of myriad groups, all working in tandem, to address the terrible tragedy of domestic violence.

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