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Global Rights for Women Announces a Report on Minneapolis Police Response to Domestic Violence

June 15, 2023 — Global Rights for Women (GRW) has finished a multi-year process of interviewing survivors of domestic violence to learn how the Minneapolis police department in particular is responding. The research process started in 2016 as part of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission, since the highest number of 911 calls in violent crime hot spots were related to domestic violence. The research was supported by a grant from the Minneapolis Foundation.

GRW reviewed police policy, 911 records, and police reports; did police ride-alongs; toured domestic violence facilities; conducted focus groups and individual interviews with survivors; and interviewed everyone from 911 operators to prosecutors and probation officers.

 

The work was done in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary group based in Minneapolis consisting of criminal justice agency representatives and community-based programs. The report, released today, encompasses the period from 2020 to 2023. The mission: What do Minneapolis police do when they are called to assist in domestic violence cases? The goals included identifying gaps in policy and practice that impact survivor safety and offender accountability. “Our priority was to identify the gap between what survivors need, and what the police response provides,” according to the summary report published by GRW.

The report outlines the issue of domestic violence as a global pandemic, including the fact that most violence against women is perpetrated by current or former husbands or intimate partners. One survivor, interviewed on February 7, 2022, indicated that she was beaten throughout her pregnancy, and her mother suffered a concussion after being knocked unconscious. “I feel police didn’t care because he was my husband.”

A woman interviewed on December 7, 2022, said she was jailed in 2020, even though, when police arrived she was naked from having been dragged out of the shower. “I’m 100 pounds. He’s over six feet tall.” He had been choking her, she said, and had threatened to cut her. When the police arrived, the ex-partner had blood on him and the victim did not, so the officers interpreted the situation as having been instigated by the victim.

The report also points out that 7 percent of the Minnesota population is Black women, but 40 percent of domestic violence victims in Minnesota are Black women. A Black advocate stated: “We use our hands, we are loud. When police interact with a woman communicating that way, they say, ‘Well, maybe she did something, too.’ Their interpretation is that the perfect victim doesn’t [act] like that.”

As a result, another victim told the GRW team, many women of color do not call police much, and more of them carry and use weapons to try to defend themselves.

One woman indicated that her neighbor was killed after her partner burned her in her bed. Although her husband was physically abusive to the kids, and sexually abusive to her, she did not call the Minneapolis police because “they did not do anything” when her neighbor had contacted them about being threatened.

The report notes that 45 percent of the 26 Minnesotan’s killed due to intimate partner homicide in 2021 were involved when the woman was trying to leave their partner. Often children are witnesses to the escalating violence; in 2021, twelve minor children were at the scene when their parent was killed.

A focus group report of a survivor in January 2022 said: “Over a period of five years, he broke into her residence repeatedly … on another occasion pointing a gun at her children. He slashed the victim’s tires four times. most recently, she believes him responsible for three drive-by shootings that took place over two weeks, the last one witnessed by her son and nearly striking him in the head.”

The Prevalence of Domestic Violence

Although other types of crimes tend to take precedence in people’s minds related to public safety, GRW examined police incident reports from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2022, and found that almost a third of aggravated assaults in Minneapolis involved domestic situations. Felony cases referred to the Hennepin County Attorney General’s reports, referred to them by the Minneapolis police, are second only to drug cases in the caseload percentage. In Hennepin County, domestic abuse-related cases are the most common in family court, which also hears divorce, child custody, and child support cases.

Cornerstone and Tubman, two of the oldest community-based victim advocacy organizations in Minneapolis, provided shelter to 717 adults and children endangered by domestic or sexual violence. They offered victim advocacy and helpline support to more than 6,000 victims. That represents the latest numbers available of annual statistics, for 2021 alone.

A 2017 study of the Police Conduct Oversight Commission documented that police wrote reports or made arrests in only 20 percent of domestic violence calls from 2014 to 2016 — in a time when they received over 43,000 domestic violence-related calls.

One particular concern noted in the report is that offenders who have simply left the scene — Gone On Arrival (GOA) — before police arrive tend not to be held accountable. “Officers and follow-up investigators often did not attempt to locate them, leaving victims vulnerable to future violence. … Officers often did not interview witnesses to the abuser’s conduct, including children, or document their identity and contact information.”

The report says: “Almost everyone interviewed mentioned GOAs as a longstanding, frustrating issue. Many observed, ‘The word is out that nothing will happen if you’re gone before police get there.'”

The Hennepin County Domestic Fatality Review Team revealed that in 9 of the 14 recent domestic violence homicides, the “perpetrator had previously avoided arrest for domestic violence.” Additionally, 43 percent of these GOA cases, the suspect had three or more criminal convictions previously.

One survivor interviewed in February 2022 said: “Police could never catch him, so I started fighting back. … He kicked [in the door] and grabbed a baseball bat and smacked me in the teeth and broke them. Then he tried to take the baby. … It got to the point I sent my kids upstairs and got my baseball bat and said, ‘Let’s get it on.”

Recommendations

The report offered several suggestions for closing gaps and providing more adequate protection to victims:

  1. Better use of risk assessment tools to prioritize resources on the most dangerous offenders
  2. Examine follow-up on cases
  3. Overall, ensure offender accountability
  4. Pay attention to advocates, who have been sharing assessments and data on law enforcement response for more than two decades, yet “very little has changed.”

The report also noted that head trauma in particular should have more attention paid to it by patrol officers, investigators, and prosecutors.

One officer indicated in a survey asking for suggestions to improve response to domestic violence: “In reality, we focus more on robbers, drug dealers, and gangsters, when in fact … these are the same people committing domestic violence. Maybe our focus should be on abusers, and it would have a trickle-down effect to other violent crimes.”

We will offer a deeper dive into the findings of the full report in a future story.

 

https://www.womenspress.com/reducing-gender-based-violence-series/