PRESS RELEASE STATEMENT
Thursday, March 1, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sara Molinaro, RICADV:
(401) 467-9940, Cell: (732) 546-1162
Statement by Deborah DeBare, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence
"The response of the West Warwick Police Department, regarding the arrest of one of their own, Detective Jonathan Caldwell, for domestic disorderly conduct, demonstrates progress in the field of domestic violence. At the same time, questions surrounding the policies and protocols for handling police officers accused of domestic violence need to be raised.
We believe that implementation of a defined protocol in the case of police-involved domestic violence is in the best interest of establishing community trust, victim safety and departmental consistency. We hope that in this case, the West Warwick Police Department is complying with model policies and protocols pertaining to the surrender of firearms pending the outcome of the case.
Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of power and control which begins slowly, escalates over time, and is potentially deadly. Certain risk factors can heighten the chance of lethality, including the history of violence, threats of deadly force, and the presence of firearms. In this case, it is particularly troubling to see the contrast between reports that Detective Caldwell was charged with domestic assault in a 2008 case, and the court record which shows this current case as a first-time offense.
We believe that all batterers must be held accountable, even batterers who are members of law enforcement. In cases where the batterer is also a police officer, responding officers may be reluctant to believe that a working partner or friend is capable of committing the crime of domestic violence. However, all police academy classes since 1998 have received specialized training in responding to domestic violence, and we believe that trained officers can respond appropriately to this difficult situation.
A victim of domestic violence whose abuser is a police officer often faces unique barriers. The victim may be hesitant to call law enforcement in an emergency, out of fear that she will not be believed or that the officers will “side” with the abuser. Additionally, victims in this situation are particularly vulnerable because the abuser has a gun, knows the confidential location of domestic violence shelters and knows the legal system well.
We all have a duty to stop domestic violence in Rhode Island. There are six local domestic violence agencies in our state that provide a wide array of services, including 24 hour hotline support, emergency shelter, support groups and assistance with the legal system. We urge all Rhode Islanders to remember that if they hear or see someone being hurt to call 911 immediately and if they or someone they know needs support to call the statewide Helpline at 800-494-8100."
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