CITY OF ANN ARBOR, MI
Mayor Ingrid B. Sheldon
 

Domestic Violence Prevention Program

The Domestic Violence Prevention Program, which began in December, 1996, targets all survivors of domestic violence within the Ann Arbor city limits. The program, since its inception, has extended its resources into other areas of Washtenaw County whenever possible. The city's Domestic Violence Unit works in conjunction with Project Safe House (the domestic violence shelter for Washtenaw County), which offers support and protection for survivors of domestic assault.

The main objective of the program is to give each case the specialized attention it deserves. The domestic violence division spends significant time keeping contact with survivors and informing them about the nature of the legal process.

After a report of domestic violence is received, the victim is contacted to determine what restrictions they would like placed on their assailant whenever bond is posted. After the arraignment, contact is made again to inform victims of the judge's decision, the suspect's plea, and the pertinent dates (pre-trial, preliminary examination). Police personnel also maintain contact with Safe House on other issues of interest to the victim.

When an arrest is made, police personnel notify Safe House and they contact the victim. If police need to contact the victim directly and there is no forwarding address or phone number, they are able to establish contact via Safe House staff. The domestic violence unit also offers support at preliminary examinations/trials/etc. to the victim and family if necessary, encourages contact with the unit if other problems or possible concerns surface.

Since its inception, the focus of the domestic violence unit has been on close cooperation with the City Attorney for misdemeanor cases (since Ann Arbor has a city ordinance on domestic violence) and the Prosecutor's Office for felony or second offense cases. Efforts are continuously made to facilitate prosecution of domestic violence cases without victim testimony. Prior incidents of abuse, extent of injury, witnesses, statements, photos, etc. are all taken into consideration when signing a warrant and police attempt to provide all necessary information to the prosecution. Police have also established a system where 911 tapes can be requested by prosecutors where necessary.

Training of officers, court officers and other agency personnel is also of paramount importance. The domestic violence unit provides 8-hours of training on domestic violence during in-house academy for new recruits. The training stresses the importance of documenting what police officers see, the presence of children and their reactions, excited utterances (what is said precisely at that point and time), photos of injuries, the house, and other things police feel will help in prosecution.

The investigation is designed to prove both when a crime has been committed, and when victims are lying about the nature of their injuries. Police do not want to unjustly prosecute anyone. This equitable investigation has also contributed to the success of the program.

Another vital part of the program is communication with Child Protective Services. The domestic violence unit informs them whenever a child is abused, or when it is felt that neglect or some other negative impact is seen as harmful to the safety and well-being of a child. The department has a new program called Operation ChekPoint (Operation Cops Helping Kids Through Positive Intervention) which initiates positive contact with children who are present when a parent is arrested. This program is designed to allow children to talk to officers about what happened, thereby reducing their fear of police. When a child witnesses an assault, they are immediately referred to this program.

The domestic violence unit also promotes a positive relationship within the police department by giving feedback to officers on the disposition of their domestic violence cases, to let them know of any procedural changes, and/or to inform them on any positive outcomes as a result of their handling of the case.

Finally, the domestic violence unit handles all Violation of Bond Conditional Releases and Violations of Personal Protection Orders (PPO). The unit provides victim assistance in obtaining a PPO, where necessary, and follows up on these cases by contacting the issuing judge or probation department and they handle the situation from there.

The domestic violence unit measures its effectiveness by how safe and comfortable victims feel after having experienced a domestic violence assault. The unit receives accolades on the personal attention paid to each victim, the knowledge that victims gain about the workings of the system, and how often victims feel comfortable enough to return to unit personnel with future problems or concerns. The domestic violence unit and Safe House are planning to establish an exit survey for victims to fill out to determine their feelings on how effectively the system worked for them.

CONTACT: Lt. Jim Tieman, 100 N. Fifth Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, Telephone - (313) 994-2710, Fax - (313) 994-8291.

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