Advocate and CCR coordinator Kim Bruce, System Change Advocate, Shelterhouse, Midland, MI, describes her efforts to get consistent law enforcement adherence:
When I first began to talk about it with law enforcement, I really highlighted how it would enhance their work, and that I knew how difficult their work was and how difficult it is to respond to domestic violence. I could talk about that with a little bit of credibility because of my ride‐alongs and my conversations. I knew some stories and some situations, and so I kind of sold it as something that would give the officers a sense of having a resource out there…where they’re not just leaving somebody with no help. But I also was able to really say that it also is a good practice because the system as it is right now wasn’t meeting the needs of survivors. So there were kind of many reasons that it was a good practice and in the end, we did sign a formal agreement and we’ve had it in place for about a month.
Full audio recording: Increasing Your Program Capacity for System’s Change, October 2014
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When responding to domestic violence calls, many officers who work in communities where AIR is implemented report their job is easier because they know survivors have immediate advocacy support. They are relieved of the burden of trying to connect the survivor to additional resources because the advocacy program now does this proactively. Officers’ morale is often improved because they know someone will be working with the survivor after they leave the scene.
Praxis recently interviewed a Marquette, MI police officer about his perceptions of AIR:
What have you seen as the benefits of Advocacy-Initiated Response? To law enforcement officers? To victims? To others?
We believe that AIR benefits the victims because our experience is that the victim feels alone and does need someone to talk with or guide them. It also helps officers to know that someone will be talking with the victim about her experience in general and not only what happened that night.
Have you had any resistance from officers to doing this? Or any downsides to the practice? If so, what is this about?
Our officers are very good about contacting an advocate, and it is a necessary requirement when taking complaints of domestic violence. There are no downsides to this practice except it is another step or responsibility for the officer or “One more thing to remember.” But such is the case with any new procedure. We have been doing this practice for over 25 years, so none of our officers remember a time when we did not do this.
What would you say to other departments who are considering implementing AIR? What advice would you give them?
I would definitely recommend this procedure to other departments. It does not take but a minute to provide the victim with advocate information and for the police to call the advocate and advise them of the incident. But, I also think it is important that agencies establish this in the form of a written policy, that the action taken to connect the victim with advocacy is documented in the report, and that the reports are reviewed by supervisors to ensure compliance with the policy.
Most of the time this is an easy sell to law enforcement, but advocates may need to build the will to engage in AIR and to make adjustments when things are not going as planned.
Heather Addison, Blueprint Advocate, Marquette Co, MI describes their “community good-will” tour to problem-solve and troubleshoot inconsistencies in AIR implementation:
I think the main thing–if I have to give one tip right off the top of my head–that I would say to folks is to be very mindful of the characteristics of your community. Even though this advocacy-initiated response is a great model that works really well, and it has got a lot of proof behind it that it works well, if you keep the characteristics of your community in mind, it will help you develop that for your own community.
When we started our advocacy-initiated response program, we first discussed in our small group, and then we ran it by our women’s center and our crisis line because if we were going to get those advocacy-initiated response calls from police. So we had to make sure whatever process we came up with, obviously, worked for them.
…All the chiefs, the administrators thought it sounded fine so we actually enacted it, and it seemed too easy. And, in fact, it was. [laughs] It started off okay. The first two weeks, I think, went pretty well. And then it kind of died a very quick death. Frankly, there were two weeks in August that, when we looked at it, we realized we had not gotten any calls. And we knew for a fact that there had been DV [domestic violence] calls during that period of time. Diane and I were scratching our heads, thinking, “what happened? What went wrong?” That is when we went back to the drawing board of what are the characteristics of our community? And for us, we know there’s a big geographical distance in our community of our various towns, townships, our nine law enforcement agencies. Each one of the towns has its own unique characteristics. They have their own quirks, their own cultures. We realized that just because our Chiefs all gave us the thumbs up did not mean that boots-on-the-ground patrol were going to experience it the same way from community to community.
We put together some boxes of goodies, and we took a day to visit all nine law enforcement agencies which meant 13 dozen cookies and we traveled 98 miles by the time the day was done. We literally checked in with each and every department and we were able to have those off‐the‐cuff conversations, a little more laid back, and we discovered a lot of really interesting information. For instance, in one of the smallest communities, we learned that the person who mans the front desk had never seen the memo that laid out the program and what the different requirements are that the officers did. It turned out the front desk person is the person who puts the clipboards together for the officers. So none of them had the memo in their vehicle. They may have seen it on a bulletin board in the hallway, but they did not have it easily accessible. Then, our biggest department, they just didn’t like it. The officers thought it was cumbersome. Right then and there we discovered they had some issues with it. We brainstormed with the folks we were talking to and came up with a tweak and with the new program now or the new process is working much better.
As described in the transcript above, each law enforcement agency may have unique concerns, confusion, or challenges to fully implement AIR. When working with law enforcement to promote, implement, and monitor AIR adherence, it is important to tailor your approach to each law enforcement agency in your community.
Full audio recording: Applying the Blueprint for Safety to Your Rural Coordinated Community Response to Battering, October 2016
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