North Texas Daily

Denton PD chosen to participate in anti-gender bias initiative

Denton PD chosen to participate in anti-gender bias initiative

Denton PD chosen to participate in anti-gender bias initiative
February 06
13:58 2018

The Denton Police Department will be one of six police agencies to take part in a national demonstration initiative called Integrity, Action and Justice: Strengthening Law Enforcement Response to Domestic and Sexual Violence by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. 

This goal of this initiative is to address gender bias in police responses to domestic violence and sexual assault and to strengthen responses to victims of such crimes.

The effort follows 2015 guidance from the Obama-era US Department of Justice that outlined eight principles to help guide law enforcement. The DOJ outlined this specific project for the IACP and provided $5 million in funding for its implementation.

“We thought there were places we could improve, in terms of how we approach victim advocacy and investigations of sexual assault and family violence,” said Chris Summitt, a Denton PD lieutenant over criminal investigations. “Better continuity of service delivery, from report intake, initial investigation and then putting the victim in touch with therapeutic services.”

Denton PD has received a grant from the IACP which they will use to help improve their approach to domestic and sexual violence by creating a dedicated position for sexual assault investigation and investing in specialized training, which will include trauma-informed interviewing.

Infographic by Lizzy Spangler

“Trauma-informed interviewing helps you have a better understanding of the emotionality involved in the recounting of the event,” Summit said. “And emotionality doesn’t lend itself to time-sequencing very well.”

Summitt said Denton PD is hoping to do a better job in victim advocacy, which involves getting people connected to human services.

“It’s extremely important,” Andrekus Dixon, a UNT criminal justice professor, said of victim follow-through. “It’s important because a person’s perception can be correlated to their experience, so if we want to encourage people to come forward and we want to try to solve these crimes, it’s imperative that we do all that we can to show the victim that we do care.”

Denton PD is partnering with Denton County Friends of the Family, a local domestic and sexual violence shelter with whom they have a working relationship, to assist with this initiative and to improve victim advocacy.

“They’re one of our primary advocacy sources already,” Summitt said. “So it was something they were excited to be a part of. Just through our own internal diagnoses, we recognize there’s things we can probably be better at.”

DCFOF helped Denton PD with the development of the grant application for IACP funds and is serving a community partner role while the Denton PD works on the implementation of this initiative.

“DCFOF has a longstanding, robust working relationship with the Denton Police Department that has strengthened over the last several years as a result of the creation of a Domestic Violence High Risk Review Team,” said Donna Bloom, director of legal services at DCFOF. “Our goal is to provide comprehensive, holistic services to every victim of domestic and sexual violence the Denton Police Department identifies for our help.”

With a grant that expires Sept. 30, 2019, Denton PD is already making personnel moves to get up and running. The department will submit a sample budget in early March.

“Part of what helped us is the sustainability package that comes with it,” Summitt said. “The city’s committed to keeping the position that we add beyond the life of the grant, so we’re not looking at a reduction of services when the grant expires.”

DCFOF will also be available after the funding expires, continuing to offer their services.

“We believe the relationship between our agencies will be refined and further strengthened throughout the funding period,” Bloom said. “This will be a gift that keeps on giving long past the grant funding.”

Featured Image: File

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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