Teamwork combats domestic violence

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 21, 2005

JACKSON – Teamwork and collaboration.

That was the consensus of the Roanoke Chowan Domestic Violence Task Force (RCDVTF) when it came to describing the elements needed to effect a safer environment for its citizens.

The comments came during a press conference here Monday where a panel of participating individuals from Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties shared feedback from a recent training they attended April 4-6 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The group, which consisted of Bertie County Sheriff’s Office Detective Eddie Graham, Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan, Sr., Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent Sr., Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh, Aulander Police Chief Jimmy Barmer, Garysburg Police Chief Raymond Vaughan, Probation District Manager Bill Mitchell, Chief Probation Office Lori Greene, Administrative Assistant with the District Attorney’s Office Iris Wilson, Bertie County Department of Social Services (DSS) Supervisor Gloria Braddy, Hertford County DSS Supervisor Shelia Manley-Evans, Northampton County DSS Supervisor Alice Brunson, Ronaoke Chowan SAFE Director Lorriane Lassiter and Domestic Violence Offender Program Director Jo M. Liles, had the opportunity to witness the effective operation of a program that gained national recognition as a coordinated community response effort toward domestic violence.

The program, known as DVERT (Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team) is employed by the Colorado Springs Police Department in cooperation with other agencies including DSS, victim advocates, probation officers and prosecutors.

The three-day training involved domestic violence case management, safety and support for victims, accountability of offenders as well as the basics of implementing a local domestic violence community response team.

&uot;The team concept worked magnificently and this collaborative networking between agencies is the kind of glue we need to prevent some of these incidents from falling through the cracks, but what impressed me the most was the way we were walked through every aspect of the program from beginning to end,&uot; said Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent.

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan echoed his sentiments. &uot;The training was great,&uot; he said. &uot;The Colorado Springs Police Department was fantastic and after speaking with investigators, I think it would work very well in Hertford County.&uot;

Vaughan was particularly taken with the follow through the DVERT program employed. &uot;They had three investigators primarily on call for the domestic violence team, covering two counties targeting the more intensive cases, but once they receive the case, they pick it up and work it until it’s finished,&uot; he said.

Detective Graham also weighed in feedback. &uot;I think this would be a great asset to our county. The network we have built, even in the short time we attended the training, will definitely prove effective as we work towards ensuring safer households and communities,&uot; he said.

The purpose of the trip, which was paid for through the Office of Violence Against Women (OVAW) grant funds, was to provide the group with tools needed to improve domestic violence efforts and help ensure a timely response to such issues.

&uot;We wanted to provide training to the agencies that deal with domestic violence and establish programs that will benefit our district,&uot; said District Court Judge Alfred Kwasikpui of District 6B, who conducted the press conference.

&uot;The RCDVTF has been in existence for the past nine years and has operated quite successfully, but there is always room for improvement,&uot; he said.

One aspect the group didn’t think would work in the area was a program known as &uot;fast track,&uot; which hastens the amount of time a case is left un-dealt with as a result of magistrates being licensed lawyers.

&uot;I don’t think you have to be an attorney to be a good magistrate,&uot; said Wilson, who works for the DA’s Office.

Others in the group expressed similar sentiments, citing a better understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities as well as a satisfaction in knowing they would not have to be the last agency contacted when a domestic incident arises.

&uot;Normally, we come out after the police departments have already been there, leaving us to catch up on what had already transpired,&uot; said Braddy. &uot;The DVERT approach would eliminate having to go over information already previously collected and help us meet the needs of those individuals directly involved in the situation more immediately.&uot;

Lassiter agreed, &uot;I’d like to go with them on the scene; you have the greatest impact at that point,&uot; she said, noting they often don’t see the victims until they go to court.

&uot;I have full confidence that we can do this,&uot; said Liles.

Employing the DVERT program would also make it possible to flag high-risk domestic violence offenders, making it easier to track their history and would leave room for counseling for offenders to help them understand why they exercise violent behavior consistent with state statues requiring offenders to attend such sessions if the programs are available.

&uot;We are committed to improving our response to domestic violence in our judicial district,&uot; said Kwasikpui. &uot;We have been meeting on this issue for quite some time and have been very effective, but we want to do better.&uot;

Kwasikpui said Halifax, Gates, Chowan and Perquimans counties to help address their domestic violence issues have since approached the task force and will be solicited for funds to obtain additional staff and co-facilitators.

A free, two-phase follow-up training is scheduled for May 17-19 in Ahoskie to discuss coordinated community response with the second half of the training solely dedicated to law enforcement and domestic violence issues.

To maximize the training, District Court will not be held on those days.

Time and location of the training have not yet been determined.