A baton passing between two hands: a moment of co-operation, and of peril.
That's the image of urgency embedded in the training materials for a pilot project that teaches police officers to make rigorous, consistent risk assessments in domestic violence cases – before they can escalate to homicide.
The baton is meant to impress upon officers that if they don't do their job right, they can't expect the rest of the criminal justice system to succeed in prosecuting domestic violence. “We are in a race to save lives and we cannot afford to drop the baton,” said Inspector Richard Konarski, the Langley officer in charge who helped implement the pilot project in his detachment.
If it's a race, British Columbia is falling behind. The Langley pilot project, which ended in the spring, was supposed to become the model for how police, prosecutors and community support services can work together to protect victims of domestic violence. The results, however promising, are still under review by the provincial government – with no money in the budget for a province-wide rollout.
That pilot project was launched in the wake of the April, 2008, killings of three young children from the Schoenborn family in Merritt: Kaitlynne, 10; Max, 8; and Cordon, 5.
There are two milestones being marked next week. The first is the launch of a less ambitious successor to that pilot project, a short online training program that will eventually give 4,800 police officers instruction on the essentials of investigating domestic violence. The second milestone: Allan Schoenborn, father of Kaitlynne, Max and Cordon, goes on trial in nearby Kamloops for the first-degree murder of his children.
In the spring of 2008, the attorney-general of the day, Wally Oppal, promised B.C. would do better. He pointed to the Langley pilot project as an example of progress, and said he would like to see it expand province-wide.
“We all have different standards across the country; there has to be a co-ordinated approach. We are moving toward that for British Columbia,” Mr. Oppal promised at the time. “There is no question there is a commitment to do a better job.”
Today, Solicitor-General Kash Heed echoes Mr. Oppal's sentiment, saying work is now under way to integrate the government's criminal justice, family law and child protection services. Yet, his office sent out a letter this summer to the support groups that provide front-line services for domestic violence victims, announcing funding cuts of $440,000. This week, Mr. Heed backed down, restoring funding to previous levels.
Mr. Heed concedes more needs to be done, and says his own experience as a police officer means he understands the importance of securing more funds to protect victims of domestic violence. “You have a very committed and dedicated Solicitor-General that's taking this to heart, someone who has been on the front lines, someone who has been there to deal with the tragedies in families … I guess that's a bit of a difference.”
But the government's commitment has come under fierce criticism recently from its own watchdog for children, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the representative for children and youth. In a report on another domestic tragedy – the killing of six-year-old Christian Lee by his father, Peter Lee – she blasted the government for inaction, noting there have been 70 deaths, mostly women and children, due to domestic violence in the past five years.
Jocelyn Coupal, B.C.’s only Crown prosecutor specializing in domestic violence, helped put together the training material for the Langley domestic-violence project. She has been reassigned to other duties.
Her report concluded the province's various systems responsible for tackling domestic violence are fragmented, each segment working in isolation. Child protection workers, police and lawyers who were drawn into the case as a result of Peter Lee's earlier attempt to kill his estranged wife did not ask the right questions, or they did not share what they knew with the right people. It was, Ms. Turpel-Lafond, concluded, a tragedy that could have been prevented.
She pointed to the Langley pilot project as exactly the kind of step the province urgently needs to embrace to protect other children. The online training course is the first sign of any kind of provincewide co-ordination but still falls short of the kind of changes that B.C.'s watchdog for children, police and support workers say is needed.
The training course, which starts next week, is brief, taking just three to four hours to complete. It teaches the essentials of how to investigate these crimes effectively, and how to keep victims of domestic violence safe. The course will do nothing to change the fact that every detachment in the province continues to have its own set of policies. And it doesn't provide additional resources, and it won't fast-track court proceedings. It does, however, take some of the best ideas from other Canadian jurisdictions in trying to prevent domestic disputes from escalating into potentially lethal situations.
Aside from the e-learning training program, concrete change is hard to find: The only Crown prosecutor specializing in domestic violence, Jocelyn Coupal, has been reassigned to other duties.
The training material Insp. Konarski and Ms. Coupal have put together begins with a recording of a 911 call. Getting officers to see such calls from the start as more than “just a domestic dispute” is the key to the program. “It was intense for our investigators,” he said. But as a result of the training, “they were turning up information that would perhaps never have surfaced in the past.” Better investigations meant fewer cases were thrown out of court, and conviction rates increased.
THE MERRITT CASE
As Merritt steels itself for the Schoenborn trial, the new mayor of the B.C. interior town of 16,000 says she continues to press the province for more spending on social services such as mental-health workers. Even in Merritt, the kinds of programs that are designed to combat domestic violence are under pressure.
“Our mental-health services have declined over the years and what we're finding now is we're having more and more people come into Merritt that are in need of mental-health services,” says Mayor Susan Roline.
The social-services ministry, she says, is centred in Kamloops, the regional centre. And the city's probation officer, she says, comes in from Kamloops for two days a week. “Merritt needs much more than that, but you have to keep lobbying, keep lobbying to get that back. Once it's taken away from you, it's harder to get it back,” she says.
Ms. Roline says it's easy to understand why Darcie Clarke, the mother of the slain children, made the decision to settle in the Nicola Valley town last year, after separating from Mr. Schoenborn, her common-law husband. “It was a good choice because the residents are good. Neighbours were good with her children,” says the mayor. But that tight-knit community was no substitute for the resources that larger cities can offer those threatened by domestic violence, she said.
Merritt's story is the rule in B.C., where there is no comprehensive approach to combatting domestic violence. Instead, there is a patchwork of local initiatives, pieced together wherever there is a lucky confluence of money, commitment and expertise – as there is in Langley, where Insp. Konarski just happens to be completing a PhD dissertation focused on domestic violence.
There is another lucky confluence in Victoria, where police Chief Constable Jamie Graham is launching a domestic violence unit this month. But that move comes in the face of intense budget pressures. “You can whine about it or deal with it,” Chief Graham said. He doesn't expect to find more funds from cash-strapped municipal governments right now, so it means the department will have to stop doing something else to pay for it. “I can't think of a higher need or a more important one,” he said in an interview. “We have talked about domestic violence, now the talk is over.”
Commentary by the Ottawa mens Centre
Notice they talk about "A comprehensive approach" which in plain language
means "a Brain Washing Approach", the possibility of independent thought must be
The article talks about that a 911 call, is NOT a domestic dispute but domestic violence.
Tell that to the tens of thousands of couples who argued over something stupid and called police for assistance in a desperate cry for marriage counseling. One person, most of the time a male, is going to jail and wont set foot in the home or have contact with the children for up to a year.
Thats when the man haters, the cops who appear male, until you get quite close to them and realize that you are really looking at a female trying to look as male as possible.
Domestic violence squads, Partner assault groups, what ever you want to call them, rarely ever lay charges against a female, and if they do, the charges are dismissed very rapidly, in fact, the male victim will hauled in for an explanation with leading questions, just to "justify" dropping of the charges at the earliest opportunity, that is if charges were ever laid.
Across Canada, every day, thousands of men are victims of domestic violence, and more damaging far more damaging, is the domestic abuse, it can be psychological, often the father is threatened with "you will never see your kids again" unless you do what I say.
Men very rarely lodge a complaint with police, they know what is most likely going to happen.
That distorts the statistics.
The last thing society needs, is more official promotion of hatred towards men. As it stands, Canada has a policy of Male Gender Apartheid and a two tiered legal system, one for females, and the other well, men don't have any legal rights.
If you are a male thinking of immigrating to Canada, be warned, its a country where men don't have legal rights and its plagued with family court judges who have a pathological hatred towards men.