As domestic violence is a subject likely to rear its head again in the near future, and I am likely to write something scathing and sarcastic about the police approach to it, instigating dozens of comments along the lines of "If you don't like it, leave" and "You murderer, you hate victims!", I have decided to reflect back on how domestic violence was dealt with two years ago, to see if we have moved on.
See below, first posted on 28th October, 2007.
But I loves him!
It is common knowledge that most police officers joined the force thinking everyone would be happy and smiling with them and that no one would ever criticise anything they did. Therefore to avoid the horror of upsetting people, they weave a web of lies and deception to play down the seriousness of the domestics they attend. It is obviously in the police officer's interests to ensure that all victims they visit get murdered later on.
To this end, an array of auditing and checking mechanisms is in place to save the officer from their destructive desires. Any domestic I attend will mean a four page questionnaire. The first "check" occurs when I ask the victim to sign it, to confirm I didn't take it away and make up the answers.
Next my sergeant checks and signs it.
Now the form is split in two directions. The "virtual" version (which is where the same information was recorded on the Crime Management System in the first place), goes one way and the paper copy another.
In the Domestic Violence Unit, the paper version is checked by a civilian. Any blanks, obvious lies or failures and it will be sent back to the officer.
Next the civilian or pregnant officer carries out a telephone follow-up. This is a five page questionnaire with many more questions. Depending on the outcome, it goes into one of three different colour folders.
Meanwhile, the virtual version is at the Crime Desk being checked by the Investigation Supervisor. This is a PC who can check the work of patrol sergeants and override it.
Before long, a Scrutineer will have glanced over the virtual version. This time it's a civilian who monitors all crime reports to make sure we aren't missing the chance to arrest someone or solve a crime.
The supervisors of both DVU and the Crime Desk then check the work of the civilians and constables to make sure it is up to standard.
Several months later, an Auditor at Headquarters (I have no idea if this is a civilian or police officer or both) will check everything that has gone before.
All of this checking and re-checking is done whether or not there has been any previous problem with the original officer's work. Whether or not they have ever been accused of lying or laziness. Whether or not they have ever made a single mistake. And it's all in place to prevent victims of Domestic Violence from dying at the hands of their partner.
Which it doesn't.
Victims of Domestic Violence stay with their partners because it's DOMESTIC violence. That's what the word means. No amount of auditing and checking is going to stop that happening. Bureaucracy isn't the way to save someone who won't save themselves.
The day they do want saving, we'll be there. If we aren't too busy filling in the questionnaire at someone else's house.
Come back soon for the updated approach. Or just re-read the above.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.