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Ear to the Ground

New NYPD Domestic Violence Policy May Deter Reports From Victims

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Posted on Mar 17, 2013
Flickr/Todd Lappin

The NYPD is implementing a new directive that will subject domestic violence victims to criminal checks, along with those whom they accuse of harming them, according to the New York Post, which obtained a copy of the memo by Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski on the subject.

“The memo ... requires detectives to look at open warrants, complaint histories and even the driving records of both parties,” the Post reported.

An anonymous police source told the Post that victims reporting domestic violence could be arrested if they have warrants on their record, even if they’re only for minor offenses such as unpaid parking tickets. “This is going to deter victims of domestic violence,” the source added. “They’re going to be scared to come forward.”

New York Post:

Reacting to the March 5 memo, another source fumed, “There’s a lack of common sense in this department right now.”

Marilyn Chinitz, a matrimonial lawyer who often represents abused women, said the policy harms those police should be protecting.

“You’re arresting the victim?” Chinitz said. “That is crazy.

...“It would empower the perpetrator, and there’s going to be more domestic violence as a consequence, and you’re endangering children,” Chinitz said, noting that kids often live in households where one parent is being abused.

Joseph Tacopina, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, said the new policy will have a “massive chilling effect” on domestic-violence victims, particularly women reluctant to call cops on their partners.

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In response to the story, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne released a statement saying, “While it is standard practice and policy for detectives to investigate victims’ backgrounds to help lead them to the victims’ assailants, the NYPD—contrary to a published report—has no “must arrest” policy that applies to domestic violence victims. In fact, the discovery of open warrants on domestic violence victims often results in their warrants being vacated.”

But as Gawker observed, “ ‘Must arrest’ or not, by looking into records of abuse victims, the NYPD risks further discouraging reports of abuse at a time when an astonishingly few cases of domestic violence are being reported.”

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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