Domestic Violence and Criminal Justice
The domestic violence revolution that began in the early 1980s has had its greatest impact on the criminal justice system. Domestic violence advocates consider the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 to be the crowning achievement of the battered women’s movement, and it’s instructive to note that the Act was passed as part of a sweeping anti-crime bill.
Mandatory arrest in domestic violence cases has become policy in most US police jurisdictions.
This has led to a huge increase in domestic violence arrests and to changes throughout the criminal justice system, including prosecution and the courts. Batterer intervention programs have proliferated to accommodate defendants following plea bargains and lower level offenses.
Police officers on the street lead the charge. They’re the eyes and ears, the front line in domestic violence revolution.
In His Own Words: Lt Scott Jenkins, Duluth, PD
“When the officer arrives they are now a filter or trap for the rest of the system. They take in all this information, and when you meet that batterer, the batterer has all the reason in the world to make you look in certain directions, to make you blame her for what’s happened there or to try to make things look very different then what’s actually occurred.”
KIM’S STORY: THE POLICE
Like many people in relationships with an abuser, Kim (the main subject of “Power and Control”) never called the police. When she told her husband that she would, he mocked her. Other survivors we followed during the making of the film reported widely varying experiences with the police, ranging from cops who were easily manipulated to ignore domestic abuse to officers who responded effectively.
Partner Profile: Duluth, MN Police Dept.
The police in Duluth have become accustomed to doing their jobs with guests looking over their shoulders. They’re with the department in the city of 70,000 that has become famous throughout the world for its innovative response to domestic violence, and there is a constant stream of visitors coming through who want to go on “ride alongs” with Duluth officers. The Duluth PD invited our film making team to ride with them whenever we wanted, as often as we wanted. Without their generous and open cooperation, the law enforcement part of our project would not have been possible.