Officer Appointed to Help Domestic Violence Victims

Friday, October 1, 2010 9:53 PM EDTCharlie Santa

Domestic violence calls are a perennial law enforcement issue and Somerset Borough has a new tool to help stop the abuse.

“Somerset County is no different,” Somerset Borough Police Chief Randy Cox said.

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that there were 1,100 deaths in the state from domestic violence from 2000 to 2007. In 2008 147 people died in Pennsylvania from domestic violence. The majority were women and children.

“A whole lot of dynamics are going on (in domestic violence calls),” Cox said. “There’s the mentality of the abuser — anyone who is engaging in abuse is into power. When you are dealing with a master manipulator, officers often become manipulated — the abuser is trying to gain empathy from the officer, to pin the blame on the victim. There is no incident we respond to more frequently that the victim declines to prosecute — 80 percent are dropped by the victim. The officer may be of the mindset of here we go again. This creates an unhealthy dynamic.”

The Somerset Borough police have received $96,000 through the Women’s Help Center. The center received a three-year $500,000 Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors (STOP) grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that is administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Cox has appointed Officer Charlie Santa as the domestic violence liaison officer. A domestic violence policy based on a state model will be used. Santa will be available to travel to all municipal (not state police) departments in the county to educate officers about the policy and to be a resource for them. He will be sworn in as a county detective for jurisdictional issues.

“He will be available if the police department chooses not to pursue prosecution but if the victim wants to pursue charges,” Cox said. “He will be the point of appeal to try to break the cycle. If someone wants to file charges, Charlie is the avenue open to her, along with the district attorney. He will advocate to the police department. If the police continue to decline to prosecute and if he determines there is enough evidence to corroborate her statement, he will prosecute as a county detective.”

“Our goal is to reduce violence against women, but a subgoal is to reduce the number of prosecutions that are withdrawn,” Cox said. “To do that, we are providing the victims greater support earlier on in the process, a more timely intervention.”

Borough Designates Officer To Handle Increasing Domestic Violence Cases

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Posted: 1:25 pm EDT October 7, 2010

A local community is ramping up the fight against domestic violence by appointing an officer to deal with those volatile situations and who will train other officers how to respond.

Somerset Borough Police Chief Randy Cox said domestic violence cases are on the rise and many go unreported. He said domestic violence is also likely to happen more than once.

"Some of (the victims) are afraid to come forward; some are embarrassed. Some of them fear retribution if they do come forward, and that's the main thing that prompts victims to withdraw charges if they do come forward," Cox said.

Thanks to a grant through the Women's Help Center in Johnstown, not only will an officer be trained to deal specifically with domestic violence cases, but the district attorney and parole officers will be better equipped to ensure abusers don't get off easy. Those who commit domestic violence will be placed in anger management classes immediately and victims will have immediate access to support, counseling and relocation if necessary.

Cox said domestic violence can be an endless cycle until it's too late and lives are lost.  "They abusers are manipulative people and we're going to admit, they often manipulate our officers into not taking the best action," Cox said.  He said the grant and its subsequent resources will tackle the problem from all ends.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and on Friday, police are joining people who deal with domestic abuse first had as part of a task force to talk about other ways to combat the crisis.

Posted 10-8-10