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Courage to Change

Final Report of the

Domestic Violence Victim Safety and Accountability Audit

Implementation Committee

 

May 2010

 

By Laura Marshall, MSW

Fiscal and Policy Analyst

 

Also Available:
Courage to Change (.pdf)
Courage to Change Executive Summary (.pdf)

Table of Contents

 

I.

Introduction

II.

Completed Recommendations

 

 

Gap 1: Risk Assessment

 

 

A.

Administrative Practices

 

 

B.

Training

 

 

C.

Resources

 

 

D.

Communication

 

 

Gap 2: Stalking

 

 

A.

911 Practices

 

 

B.

Police Department Practices

 

 

C.

District Attorney’s Office Practices

 

 

Gap 3: Language and Cultural Competency

 

 

A.

Telephonic Translation

 

 

B.

Language Fluency of City Personnel

 

 

C.

Protocols for Language Access

 

 

Gap 4: Batterer Accountability

 

 

A.

Adult Probation Practices

 

 

B.

Court Practices

 

 

Gap 5: Complexity of Risk Gap 5: Complexity of Risk

III.

Recommendations to be Implemented

 

 

A.

High Priority Recommendations

 

 

B.

Moderate Priority Recommendations

 

 

C.

Low Priority Recommendations

IV.

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Appendix A:

Complete List and Status of Audit Recommendations

Appendix B:

Executive Directive 07-05

Appendix C:

Current Status of Directives outlined in Executive Directive 07-05

Appendix D:

Challenges to Implementation

Appendix E:

Tabled Recommendations

Appendix F:

Accomplishments by Department

Appendix G:

Audit Implementation Committee Members

 

 

I. Introduction

 

The Justice and Courage Oversight Panel, a committee of the Commission on the Status of Women since 2002, seeks to create a seamless criminal justice response to domestic violence. To this end, the Oversight Panel conducted an audit of the system in 2006 using highly collaborative research methods to discover gaps in San Francisco''s response to domestic violence. In March 2007, the Oversight Panel issued the report Safety for All: Identifying and Closing the Gaps in San Francisco''s Domestic Violence Criminal Justice Response.[1] The report identified 5 significant areas for continued work.

 

Gap 1: Risk Assessment

The criminal justice system is not organized to help practitioners identify key factors of safety and danger in domestic violence cases on a consistent basis, and therefore information is not available for practitioners to assess dangerousness in cases throughout the criminal justice system.

 

Gap 2: Stalking

Interveners throughout the criminal justice system response do not adequately understand the crime of stalking, and therefore do not sufficiently investigate, document, or respond to stalking cases.

 

Gap 3: Language and Cultural Competency

Limited English Proficient (LEP) speakers who are victims of battering face multiple barriers at each stage of intervention, including limited access to interpretation, translated materials, pertinent information about criminal justice system processes, and culturally competent workers.

 

Gap 4: Batterer Accountability

Criminal justice efforts to hold batterers accountable to complying with court orders are lacking and therefore compromise victim safety.

 

Gap 5: Complexity of Risk

Criminal justice system responses to domestic violence incidents do not account for the complexity of risk encountered by victims of battering from various social and cultural positions.

 

Participants on the Audit Team included the Adult Probation Department, Office of the District Attorney, Police Department, Sheriff''s Department, Department of Emergency Management (911), Department on the Status of Women, community-based organizations and domestic violence service providers, and the public.

 

The Audit Team developed 68 recommendations for the criminal justice departments and other City agencies to help close the gaps identified in the report. Some recommendations were system-wide and others were department-specific.[2]

 

In July 2007, Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Directive requiring City departments to work collaboratively with the Oversight Panel to implement recommendations from the Audit.[3] The Oversight Panel created the Audit Implementation Committee to work collaboratively with criminal justice departments and community providers to develop innovative solutions to the gaps identified in the Audit.

 

In the 2 years since the release of Safety for All, the Committee has many success stories to its credit. Though the work must continue in order to close all the gaps, this report details the courage of agencies and the power of collaboration, as well as the dedication of the San Francisco community to create a safer city.

 

Below, Section II outlines the changes made by the criminal justice departments individually and in collaboration, and the initiatives undertaken in order to improve the systemic response to domestic violence. Section III addresses those recommendations that the Committee was not able to complete, prioritized by the Committee, and suggestions for further actions.

 

San Francisco has had the courage to look at what works and what does not, and the courage to change in order to better protect the City’s vulnerable populations. The Audit Implementation Committee submits this report as its legacy for the City and County of San Francisco and beyond. What has been learned since the 2006 Audit should not be lost, and can be used by criminal justice systems elsewhere to protect victims and hold those who batter accountable.

II. Completed Recommendations

 

Of the 68 original recommendations in the Audit Report, the majority has been completed or shows significant progress toward full implementation. Discussion of the implementation of recommendations has been organized by the gaps identified in the Audit Report.

 

Gap 1: Risk Assessment

The criminal justice system is not organized to help practitioners identify key factors of safety and danger in domestic violence cases on a consistent basis, and therefore information is not available for practitioners to assess dangerousness in cases throughout the criminal justice system.

 

The Audit question asked, “If we believe that certain factors make a particular victim more vulnerable, how do we identify the presence of those factors and how do we adapt our response?” The Audit Team found that San Francisco’s criminal justice system did not systematically identify those factors that may make a victim more vulnerable to future harm and, therefore, did not adequately adapt its response based on the risk to a victim. From 911 to prosecution and probation, practitioners in all agencies routinely missed opportunities to collect information relating to risk and dangerousness that could help the system promote safety for victims.

 

The Audit Team made 23 recommendations in 4 categories: A) Administrative Practices, B) Training, C) Resources, and D) Communication. The following actions have been taken by all of these stakeholders to bridge this gap in safety and accountability.

 

 

A. Administrative Practices

 

1. 911 Practices

The Department of Emergency Management, with input from community providers and other criminal justice agencies, developed a script for 911 dispatchers to use in cases of domestic violence. Beginning in 2008, whenever a caller indicates that the perpetrator is a family member or intimate partner, dispatchers use the script to elicit the most relevant information possible in order to promote victim safety and the safety of responding officers.

 

2. Police Department Practices

The Audit Team recommended that a system of vertical investigation be implemented in the Police Department’s Domestic Violence Response Unit (DVRU): that is, assigning the same Inspector to investigate cases involving the same victim or perpetrator. The assigning officer makes case assignments each day, and an informal protocol for vertical investigation has been established. However, with limited technological resources, the assigning officer cannot track historical assignments when receiving 10-20 cases each day, and must rely on memory, anecdotal resources, and staff availability when making assigning decisions. In order to do this systematically, the Police Department needs a computer system to track victims and perpetrators, such as JUSTIS. With a better database for case tracking, a more formalized system of vertical investigation should be implemented. The JUSTIS computer hub project is expected to meet this critical need.

 

The Audit Team found that officers routinely failed to fill out the Supplemental Report section of Incident Reports accurately and completely after responding to domestic violence calls. This failure, as well as missing critical components of the reports, hindered investigations and prosecutions. Highlighting the importance of the information contained in the Supplemental Report through the Audit recommendations served to prioritize its use within the Police Department. The District Attorney’s Office has reported that this form is now consistently included in case files, and report trails show that Police captains are returning incomplete or insufficient Supplemental Reports to responding officers for completion prior to forwarding the cases to the DVRU or the District Attorney’s Office.

 

3. Risk Assessments

The Audit Team found that responders did not have consistent and thorough training in assessing cases for danger or lethality. There are a number of tools for this, and the community advocates from La Casa de las Madres assigned to the DVRU are certified in the Jacquelyn Campbell Danger Assessment tool.[4] These advocates reach out to victims of domestic violence after a criminal incident and use the Danger Assessment to measure the victim’s perception of the dangerousness of the incident and the abuser. La Casa de las Madres staff has begun training police officers in the use of this tool so that they can make more informed on-scene assessments of risk to the victim, family members, and themselves.

 

The Adult Probation Department adopted the Correctional Assessment and Intervention System (CAIS), which identifies probationer needs and risks. Probation officers perform the assessments during intake. CAIS is not a risk assessment tool. Rather, it determines the intervention needs of a probationer, such as substance abuse treatment. Adult Probation staff conducted extensive research into risk assessment tools, but determined that CAIS best meets the overall needs of the department.

 

The District Attorney’s Office does informal assessments of danger in all cases. This helps the Assistant District Attorneys argue for stay-away orders and other measures to keep the victim safe during and after the case’s progression through the legal system. The District Attorney has not adopted a formal assessment tool, but does refer all victims to the District Attorney’s Victim Services Division for additional supportive services, safety planning, and resources.

 

B. Training

Training of criminal justice personnel is an ongoing struggle, with many factors to take into account. The cost of training can be two-fold for 24-hour operations like 911. Not only must 911 pay for a staff person to receive training, that person’s position must be filled by another staff person earning overtime. In the face of shrinking budgets, departments have reduced training allocations rather than staff, and prioritized meeting state mandates for training. Though Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and Standards and Training for Corrections (STC), the two statewide certification bodies for criminal justice departments, both mandate training about domestic violence, cultural competency, and other related issues, the Audit Team found that the trainings may not be sufficient to fully inform officers about the complexities of domestic violence cases.

 

The Audit Team made a number of recommendations to better coordinate system-wide training efforts, and to identify specific areas of improvement. For example, every 2 years, Police officers must attend a 40-hour Continuing Professional Training course at the Police Academy, updating POST certifications in a number of areas, including domestic violence. Historically, the Academy conducted the domestic violence portion of this training on Friday afternoons, the final segment in the week-long training. This time slot made it challenging for participants to pay full attention to the material and thus unintentionally devalued the subject matter. On the recommendation of the Audit Team, the Police Academy not only moved this segment of the officer training program to Wednesdays, but also extended the segment to include information related to elder abuse and stalking.

 

1. Domestic Violence Response Cross-Training Institute

One very successful outcome from the Audit was the Domestic Violence Response Cross-Training Institute. In 2006, the Department received funding from the Blue Shield of California Foundation to create a new type of training, one that did not just train individuals, but rather one that helped fix the systemic problems plaguing the City’s response to domestic violence. The department sought and received funding for the Institute concurrent with the Audit process, but drew heavily on the findings from the Audit when designing the curriculum. This created a training that was highly relevant, directly addressing the gaps that the Audit Team identified.

 

The Institute was uniquely innovation because it brought together police officers, 911 dispatchers, probation officers, assistant district attorneys, victim advocates, deputy sheriffs and civilian staff from the Sheriff’s Department, as well as their supervisors, to learn about the dynamics of domestic violence from experienced community trainers, and to learn about the intersection of their job roles from one another. Though personnel from each of these agencies interact with the same victims and perpetrators, they rarely interact with one another, leading to systemic gaps, miscommunication, and increased risk for domestic violence victims. One probation officer remarked: “I had been to a ‘cross-training’ before, but I sat with others from my department. The representation from other departments at my table provided me with valuable information and perspectives.”

 

Not only was the Institute a valuable training tool for individuals, it also helped the criminal justice system as a whole improve services, protect victims, and hold batterers accountable. In a training session in the spring of 2008, a 20-year veteran of the police department indicated he had never, until that day, met a probation officer face-to-face. The Institute design built bridges between departments, allowing opportunities for learning, networking, and systems change.

 

Another valuable component of the Institute was the use of community-based service providers to conduct the trainings. Over the 2 year project, the Department drew on the expertise of Community Trainers from Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Volunteer Legal Services Program, the Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic, Donaldina Cameron House, and the Institute on Aging, as well as the consultant Audit Coordinator and additional experts in the field of domestic violence.

 

Through the Institute, the Department on the Status of Women trained 437 criminal justice staff at 20 sessions of the Institute over a 2-year period, including 67 from Adult Probation, 198 from the Police Department, 57 from the District Attorney’s Office, 66 from 911, and 54 from the Sheriff’s Department. All officers and staff members from the departments’ various domestic violence units attended the Institute, and each department assigned one or more expert staff members to serve as co-trainers. Additionally, the judge serving on the Domestic Violence Court attended the Institute, as did 3 campus police officers from San Francisco State University, and a Family Court attorney. San Francisco received a National Association of Counties Achievement Award in 2009 for this innovative training model.

 

2. Other Cross-Training and Community Training

Though the Department on the Status of Women has not been able to secure ongoing funding for the Institute, it laid the groundwork for additional cross-departmental training projects. The Audit Team recommended that the District Attorney’s Office create a training DVD about domestic violence to distribute to police stations and the Department of Emergency Management. In 2009, the District Attorney’s Office partnered with the Police Department to create a 4-hour training that Assistant District Attorneys and Inspectors from the Police Department’s DVRU presented at 2 of the 10 police stations in San Francisco for all the shifts.[5] The District Attorney’s Office analyzed case statistics and the most common reasons for rejecting cases referred by the Police Department. The training addresses these issues and attempts to improve evidence collection in domestic violence cases. For example, the training covers what officers should look for, do, and ask when arriving at the scene of a domestic violence incident. This intensive training segment will be followed by shorter DVDs providing updates to legislation or protocols, as they are needed.

 

All departments keep detailed records of the training that staff receives. Community agencies continue to fill in gaps in training resources at criminal justice departments. For example, the Mayor’s Office of Housing received a 3-year federal grant to fund a community agency to train 500 police officers and other criminal justice staff on domestic violence in later life. Service providers carry out numerous free trainings throughout the year for all criminal justice agencies without additional City funding.

 

C. Resources

None of the Audit Team’s 3 recommendations related to resources have been fully implemented, a testament to the dire economic situation facing the City. However, certain intermediate steps have been taken to address safety concerns. The District Attorney’s Office has made an additional interview room available to provide a safe space for meeting with victims, and also provides a safe waiting area for victims who are scheduled to attend Domestic Violence Court. Family Court has developed a partnership with the Sheriff’s Department to provide escort to victims to and from the courtroom upon request, but no such procedures exist in the Criminal Court, and a lack of resources may prevent such a strategy from being implemented. To account for the safety of victims when leaving the Family Court, judges have developed a policy of holding the respondent for 15 minutes to allow the petitioner time to leave the building safely. As resource constraints limit the Criminal Court’s ability to implement the recommendation for creating a safe entrance and exit to the Domestic Violence Court, the Audit Implementation Committee has requested that this policy be implemented at the Criminal Court as well.

 

The need for adequate space for DVRU Inspectors and safe spaces for victims remains a pressing concern, and will be detailed in Section III.

 

D. Communication

Recommendations in this subcategory seek to improve communication 1) between criminal justice agencies, 2) between criminal justice agencies and community-based organizations providing services to survivors of domestic violence, and 3) between criminal justice agencies and survivors.

 

1. Communication between Criminal Justice Agencies

To improve internal communication, all criminal justice agencies regularly share staff rosters with one another. All Inspectors in the Domestic Violence Response Unit (DVRU) have email and voicemail, as do all Assistant District Attorneys, Victim Advocates, Probation Officers, and Sheriff’s Department supervisors. Police officers and Sheriff’s deputies do not have individual voicemail and email contacts, hindering communication with these staff members. However, the DVRU has implemented a new form for Inspectors to use to communicate with the responding officers about the outcome of cases. The Domestic Violence Unit of the District Attorney’s Office and the DVRU have established a collegial relationship, and interact frequently to discuss cases and provide feedback.

 

2. Communication between Criminal Justice Agencies and Community Providers

Regular and systematic communication between criminal justice agencies and providers in the community serves to strengthen the connection between these 2 complementary tracks of victim support. Most critical is ensuring criminal justice interveners know about and refer victims to appropriate community agencies. The Department on the Status of Women, through the San Francisco Family Violence Council and the Department of Public Health’s Look to End Abuse Permanently (LEAP) Program, created an up-to-date Family Violence Resource List. As part of the work of the Family Violence Council, this list will be regularly maintained, translated into Spanish and Cantonese, and available in hard copy and on the Department’s website. The Department also distributes this list to the broader community, including those individuals at each criminal justice agency responsible for updating and distributing internal resources.

 

Despite these steps, community providers continue to express the need for improved communication, including the need for first responders to better understand what community providers can do and how they can be a support to first responders and the criminal justice response as a whole. Some providers, such as La Casa de las Madres, conduct regular roll call trainings with Police officers and staff Advanced Officer Training and New Recruit Training at the Police Academy. La Casa received funding to offer these trainings through a federal Domestic Violence Response Team grant with a focus on connecting victims to appropriate community resources.

 

3. Communication between Criminal Justice Agencies and Survivors

The District Attorney’s Victim Services Division is a critical player in improving communication between criminal justice agencies and victims. The Division created a flow chart for victims describing how a case moves through the criminal justice system, and the potential outcomes a victim may encounter. A simplified version of the flow chart is also available in the Victim Services brochure. Victim Services also has strong connections with community providers. Most criminal justice agencies, including 911, the Police Department, and Adult Probation, refer victims to Victim Services as a first step in receiving the more nuanced services they may require from the community and criminal justice system alike.

 

 

Gap 2: Stalking

Interveners throughout the criminal justice system response do not adequately understand the crime of stalking, and therefore do not sufficiently investigate, document, or respond to stalking cases.

 

The Audit Team found that cases of stalking or stalking-related behavior systematically “disappeared” from the criminal justice system, beginning with 911 and proceeding throughout the rest of the system. This occurred due to a lack of codes to identify stalking cases, no training on stalking for criminal justice system interveners, administrative procedures that rotate which prosecutors and investigators review police reports, and an overall focus on individual criminal incidents, which often leads to interveners downplaying the potential dangerousness of behaviors that, viewed cumulatively, indicate stalking cases.

 

The high correlation between stalking behaviors and the lethality of cases make addressing this gap in the system a high priority. The Audit Team made 8 recommendations for the entire criminal justice response, involving 911, the Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office. The following actions have been taken by all of these stakeholders to bridge this gap in safety and accountability.

 

A. 911 Practices

In 2008, the Department of Emergency Management programmed 2 new call types into the automated system used by dispatchers. The codes, 646 and 646DV identify a call as “stalking” or “domestic violence stalking.” All dispatchers have been trained on the use of these new codes and in identifying stalking cases. This is a critical component to a system-wide response to stalking, as it will determine which unit a case is assigned to in the Police Department and its priority level for investigation.

 

Additionally, and in conjunction with the Police Department, the Department of Emergency Management implemented the Premise Hazard function in the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. The Police Department may request that certain premises be flagged in the system to alert officers responding to a particular scene that there may be an increased risk to officers or others at that house due to domestic violence or stalking.

 

B. Police Department Practices

The Police Department has implemented several new procedures to better address the stalking cases it handles. A roll call training for all officers about the new stalking codes used by 911 dispatchers helped disseminate this information throughout the force. Additionally, the Police Academy included a 2-hour POST-certified stalking training to the bi-annual Continuing Professional Training course officers must take, and is included in the Basic Recruit Classes as well. The Police Department issued a Department Bulletin on stalking, further informing Inspectors and Officers about the issue and the proscribed response.

 

C. District Attorney’s Office Practices

On the Audit Team’s recommendation, the District Attorney’s Office re-started the Stalking Task Force. This policy body, coordinated by the Stalking Unit Assistant District Attorney, meets quarterly and includes participation from the criminal justice departments and community-based agencies working with domestic violence survivors. Agenda items include training about stalking, case reviews to highlight trends, and discussion of best practices for responding to survivors of stalking and investigating cases. This connection with the community is vital, as the District Attorney’s Office has a policy to refer victims to community-based organizations for services, even if a case cannot yet be charged.

 

Additionally, the District Attorney’s Office released a Stalking Resource Guide in 2009. This guide, available online and in hard copy at the District Attorney’s Office, includes tips for victims on how to stay safe and document incidents, resources and referrals for local agencies, and information about how the criminal justice system intervenes and responds to stalking cases. This is a valuable tool for victims and community advocates alike.

 

The Audit Team recommended that the Stalking Task Force create a comprehensive, system-wide protocol for stalking response. No formal protocol has been adopted system-wide, but 911, the Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and Adult Probation each have their own internal protocols for responding to these cases.

 

 

Gap 3: Language and Cultural Competency

Limited English Proficient (LEP) speakers who are victims of battering face multiple barriers at each stage of intervention, including limited access to interpretation, translated materials, pertinent information about criminal justice system processes, and culturally competent workers.

 

The Audit Team found that the gap between LEP victims of domestic violence and safety widened with each stage of criminal justice system intervention. The increased risks for LEP victims were exacerbated by a lack of in-depth cultural competence by practitioners responding to victims and their needs, as well as insufficient interpretation and translation services.

 

The Audit Team made 8 recommendations involving each of the agencies in the system’s response. The following actions have been taken by all of these stakeholders to bridge this gap in safety and accountability.

 

A. Telephonic Translation

The Audit Team found that several agencies used sub-standard telephonic translation services. With the assistance and leadership of the City Administrator’s Office, San Francisco secured a master contract with Language Line Services, a highly-rated translation service that provides translators in over 175 languages. In October 2007, AT&T donated a number of cell phones and dual-handset phones for use by criminal justice responders. For example, officers in the field responding to a domestic violence incident and needing translation can use the cell phone to access Language Line Services. This allows for immediate translation without using unsafe methods, such as relying on children, the perpetrator, or bystanders for necessary interpretation.

 

B. Language Fluency of City Personnel

Though telephonic translation is necessary in cases of emergency, such as the example above, the ideal response is to have language competent employees responding to domestic violence cases. To improve the language fluency of San Francisco City and County personnel, the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA), with the support of the Department on the Status of Women, received private grants from the Zellerbach Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to create a pilot language fluency training program, Bridges to Freedom. The intention of this program is to train criminal justice personnel with basic understanding of Spanish or Cantonese in terminology they might encounter in responding to domestic violence cases. OCEIA and the Department on the Status of Women will train up to 120 City personnel through this pilot by June 2010.

 

C. Protocols for Language Access

Every criminal justice agency, including 911, the Police Department, the District Attorney, Adult Probation, the Sheriff’s Department, and the Courts, have internal protocols for responding to LEP survivors. In general, protocols require staff to first seek bilingual staff members for translation support, if possible. If no bilingual staff members are available, telephonic translation using Language Line Services will be used. All mandatory forms used by these departments have been translated into Spanish and Cantonese, at minimum, and some departments have translated forms into other languages as well.

 

 

Gap 4: Batterer Accountability

Criminal justice efforts to hold batterers accountable to complying with court orders are lacking and therefore compromise victim safety.

 

The Audit Team found that, systematically, batterers were not being held accountable for their violence to either the criminal justice system, or, subsequently, to their victims. Victim safety is compromised when defendants repeatedly re-enroll in batterer intervention programs (BIPs) despite various probation violations, as well as when there is a lack of clear communication and protocols between intervening agencies. The Audit Team made 18 recommendations involving the Court system, Adult Probation Department, Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and community providers. The following actions have been taken by all of these stakeholders to bridge this gap in safety and accountability.

 

A. Adult Probation Practices

Adult Probation has significantly revised its protocols for working with individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes, as well as oversight of the 52-week batterer’s intervention programs. The Adult Probation Department conducts regular, unannounced site visits with each of the 8 certified BIPs in San Francisco. The Domestic Violence Unit Supervisor maintains the records of these visits, and if the officer making the site visit identifies any anomalies, the Supervisor sends a letter to the program, giving a 30-day window to address the problem. Adult Probation staff holds monthly meetings for BIP providers for training and informational updates.

 

The Court Probation Officer schedules a probation orientation appointment with each probationer during his or her initial appearance in the Domestic Violence Court. If the probation officer assigned to that probationer is unavailable for the date of the orientation, a different officer will meet with him or her so that the orientation can happen immediately. If the probationer fails to attend the scheduled orientation, the officer files a Motion to Revoke Probation.

 

Probationers are referred to a BIP at the time of the orientation. Probationers must provide proof of enrollment within 3 to 4 weeks of their initial appearance in Domestic Violence Court. The Court Officer schedules progress reports to be provided to the Court as necessary and according to the probationer''s compliance with the BIP. Adult Probation now files an electronic letter with a BIP when an officer refers a probationer to that program. If the probationer does not attend the BIP on the assigned date, the BIP must notify Adult Probation within 24 hours. This allows more immediate intervention and follow-up with that probationer, a proven factor in ensuring a probationer’s completion of the 52-week program.

 

To better serve all stakeholders, the reports used by the Adult Probation Department, the Courts, and the BIPs have been revised and refined in a collaborative process with input from judges, the Public Defender’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, BIPs, and community-based organizations. The report now includes 2 forms: a progress report and a completion report. This serves to clarify whether a probationer met pre-determined goals. The revised report is also more comprehensive, requiring BIPs to include comments about the status of each probationer, regardless of the rating that probationer receives. This revised report encourages BIP providers to be more accurate in their assessment of a probationer’s progress.

 

BIP providers submit information about the probationer to the Adult Probation Department electronically. The Adult Probation Department then submits the reports to the Court. This process corrects the previous system of probationers delivering their reports to the Court themselves.

 

If a probationer does not comply with court orders, a Motion to Revoke Probation may result in a bench warrant for that probationer’s arrest. The Adult Probation Department has developed a spreadsheet of all probationers assigned to the Domestic Violence Unit who are on warrant status. Probation officers regularly update this information and fax it to the Fugitive Recovery Enforcement Team in the Police Department within 24 hours of any bench warrant notification.

 

Probation officers consistently refer probationers to other programs deemed necessary to achieve accountability, such as drug and alcohol counseling, parenting courses, etc. BIP providers also make referrals to clients, and keep Adult Probation staff informed about what is needed for a probationer’s success in the program. The Adult Probation Department acquired funding and established a contract with an instant test vendor for substance abuse testing of probationers which will help officers make the most appropriate referrals.

 

Adult Probation staff maintains monthly records of the number of probationers sent to BIPs for trend analysis and training, and has updated the Caseload Review Form to conduct quarterly reviews of the Domestic Violence Unit. Additionally, Adult Probation created a domestic violence field protocol, now fully implemented. The protocol provides guidelines for officer safety when checking on probationers in the community.

 

B. Court Practices

In addition to the significant changes that Adult Probation has implemented in the last several years, the Courts have made some reforms to better hold batterers accountable for their crimes. The Audit Team recommended that the Court develop a local domestic violence bench book, a guide for new judges to understand the protocols and dynamics of domestic violence cases. Judges Mary Morgan and Cynthia Lee developed this bench book and distributed it to bench officers in 2009. In conjunction with this document, the Courts also use the Administrative Office of the Courts’ Recommended Guidelines and Practices for Improving the Administration of Justice in Domestic Violence Cases: Final Report of the Domestic Violence Practice and Procedure Task Force. This report, released in 2008, contains 150 recommendations. The Domestic Violence Court Committee, a monthly committee comprising family and Criminal Court officers and staff, held several open meetings in 2008 and 2009 to determine gaps in compliance. Court and Adult Probation staffs are actively working to correct the 3 to 4 gaps identified in this process.

 

The Audit Team highlighted technology and communication as areas for improvement, notably the need for real-time access to information about restraining orders, warrants, and other records. The Criminal Court has access to the California Law Enforcement Tracking System (CLETS), though the Domestic Violence Court judge, as an impartial judicial officer, cannot go onto the system on her own. Assistant District Attorneys have access and can provide the necessary information. Due to impartiality laws, the clerk can only report to the judge on violent activity and convictions. The judge does have access to Civil records, and can search these when needed. The Family Court is required to run a CLETS check on all domestic violence cases, and the Court informs the Sheriff of any outstanding warrants. If the warrant is for a low-level crime, the judge may proceed with the hearing prior to the arrest. If it is for a serious crime (such as domestic violence), the Sheriff’s deputies will arrest the party immediately, and the hearing will be held in the absence of that party.

 

The Audit Team also recommended that any judges hearing domestic violence cases should be required to receive training about domestic violence protocols and dynamics, and the Oversight Panel wrote a letter to the Presiding Judge to this effect. All new Family Court judges must attend a training that includes information about domestic violence. In Criminal Court, there is an informal understanding that new judges assigned to the Domestic Violence Court either have extensive knowledge of domestic violence through serving in Family Court, or will take the necessary training. However, there is no formal structure to this informal understanding.

 

 

Gap 5: Complexity of Risk

Criminal justice system responses to domestic violence incidents do not account for the complexity of risk encountered by victims of battering from various social and cultural positions.

 

The Audit Team found that for victims of domestic violence who either face additional barriers in life (such as those that result from being an undocumented immigrant), or those whose lives are otherwise more complex (such as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning – LGBTQ), criminal justice system responses do not adequately account for the increased risk of danger that often accompanies such complexities.

 

While the Audit question did not go in depth into any one particular area of vulnerability for domestic violence victims (for example, by examining how homelessness impacts victim safety), during its data collection, the Audit Team found many ways in which the complexities of an individual’s life impacted the criminal justice response to their domestic violence situation. In most cases that the

Team observed, these complexities typically served to widen the gaps between safety and services for the victim, rather than close them.

 

The Audit Team made 4 broad recommendations to address this gap. None have been fully implemented, generally due to the complexity of the issues at stake. However, components of these recommendations, such as the need for improved cultural competency training system-wide, have been addressed elsewhere in the Audit Implementation Committee’s work.

 

 

III. Recommendations to be Implemented

The Audit Implementation Committee met monthly for 2 years and set a new bar for collaboration and dedication to reform, as has been shown above. However, creating system-wide changes is a complex process and not all recommendations have been fully implemented.[6] The Committee has categorized the remaining recommendations as High, Moderate, or Low Priority, and a discussion of the current status and efforts has been included for each.

 

A. High Priority Recommendations

Of the recommendations remaining to be fully implemented, the Audit Implementation Committee considers the following recommendations essential for increasing the safety of victims and the accountability of batterers. Though some may be complex and beyond the immediate scope of the Committee or the Oversight Panel, the following recommendations have immediate implications for the safety of victims, and should be addressed within the next 12 to 18 months.

 

1. City-Wide Memorandum of Understanding

Though not a recommendation of the Audit Report, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Directive issued in July 2007[7] recommended creating a City-wide Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize the City’s response to domestic violence. Such a document would serve to institutionalize certain reforms that have been implemented through the Committee’s work, as well as to address high-level issues that are beyond the scope of the Committee, notably those recommendations that bridge multiple agencies. The need for buy-in from each agency could be achieved through a Department Heads Summit to highlight and clarify continuing gaps in safety and accountability and solutions and reforms to close those gaps. Certain of these remaining recommendations documented in Section III may be addressed through a City-Wide MOU.

 

2. Enhance communication between criminal justice system agencies by developing written protocols on communication and a written protocol to include the Police Department and the Courts for the issuance of Emergency Protection Orders (EPOs).

Both the Courts and Police Department have protocols for the issuance and data entry of EPOs, but no protocol for communication between agencies exists for when problems occur. A meeting between the Courts and the Police Department should be scheduled to address this gap. Additionally, the Court System has a restraining order database, but Information Technology issues on the part of the Police Department restrict the access of police officers to this information, requiring duplication of efforts and the potential for error. These technological concerns should also be addressed to allow the Police Department access to this database of information already shared between the Court, Adult Probation, Juvenile Probation, and Human Services Agency.

 

3. Create a comprehensive, system-wide protocol on identifying, documenting, and charging stalking cases. This comprehensive protocol could be developed as part of the Stalking Task Force or by a separate group, and should include a systematized way of ensuring that all stalking victims are identified as such despite the level of crime charged (e.g., misdemeanor or felony) and are connected with community-based advocacy services.

As mentioned earlier, each department has internal protocols for addressing stalking cases. However, the Audit highlighted that the gaps in safety often occur between departments. A system-wide protocol that clarifies cross-departmental communication should be created.

 

4. Identify and allocate more money for quality domestic violence, stalking, and cultural competency training across all criminal justice system agencies, including dedicated funding for ongoing, regular training that addresses domestic violence, cultural competency, serving monolingual or limited-English proficient victims, underserved and underrepresented communities, and LGBTQ victims of domestic violence and stalking.

The Audit Report, Safety for All, proposed a number of similar recommendations related to the need for improved cultural competency training system-wide. These have been condensed by the Audit Implementation Committee into this more general proposal. The complexities of the diverse populations in San Francisco should be considered independently, but the policy-level decision-making around training issues can be addressed comprehensively.

 

The Audit Implementation Committee acknowledges that new training funds are not likely to come from the City, and that most departmental training budgets are tightly tied to mandated trainings, with no additional funds available for other training activities. Regardless, all departments have taken real and meaningful steps to address gaps in training. That being said, staff turnover, new regulations, and an ever-changing population mean that training is an ongoing need that must be continually addressed.

 

The Committee recommends a qualitative audit of domestic violence and cultural competency trainings (using the broadest definition of “culture” to include underserved communities and populations with complex risk factors such as homeless victims of abuse, or LGBTQ survivors). Such an audit would examine the curricula in use by departments and the training methodologies used to convey this information. Best practices as determined by California domestic violence advocate certification training requirements can be used as a standard for evaluating curricula. A quantitative component of the proposed audit can assess the number and types of training occurring in San Francisco to highlight potential collaborations or cost-saving measures.

 

5. Ensure the safety of victims at the Hall of Justice by providing confidential and secure interview rooms for the Police Department’s Domestic Violence Response Unit (DVRU) and the District Attorney’s Office, including space for victim advocates to meet with victims, and safe waiting areas at the Domestic Violence Court and the DVRU.

The District Attorney''s Office has made available one additional interview room within the Victim Services Division. The Police Department is considering a number of solutions to this issue of victim safety at the Hall of Justice. However, all Police Department resource and space decisions are made by the Chief. Though this committee is unable to do more at this time, this recommendation will remain ongoing and a high priority until the matter is resolved.

 

A safe entrance and exit from the Domestic Violence Court is also a necessity, primarily for those victims that have not connected with a victim advocate. The District Attorney’s Victim Services Division has safe waiting areas, but some victims may not know about it. The Committee has discussed these concerns with the Court, and has considered several options, such as a 15-minute hold of the defendant after a hearing to allow the survivor time to leave the building safely.

 

6. Refurbish and devote adequate resources to the Domestic Violence Court, including personnel, technological resources, and safe waiting places for victims.

Some refurbishments have occurred, as funding has allowed, including repairs to broken chairs. Nevertheless, limited financial resources remains the primary barrier to completion of this recommendation. The Committee considers this a top priority due to the message the disrepair sends to both victims and perpetrators. The unique relationships involved and the context of this crime make the domestic violence courtroom more of a priority for repairs than other courtrooms, and funding and resources should be allocated accordingly. However, the Courts stopped any facilities projects for FY09-10 and FY10-11 due to budget cuts.

 

B. Moderate Priority Recommendations

The Committee has made significant progress toward the completion of many of the following recommendations. Their full completion is important, but may not be achievable in the near-term or without significant additional resources. However, as staff time and resources allow, the Oversight Panel and departments should continue to consider these recommendations as important to victim safety and batterer accountability.

 

1. Enhance communication between criminal justice system agencies by developing a system for notifying victims when defendants are released from jail.

Community agencies often have internal protocols to notify and support clients when they know someone convicted of domestic violence will be released from jail. However, this is not standardized across agencies. The statewide victim notification system, VINE, has too many bugs to be fully useful. A revised version is in development, but must be configured to interact with the Sheriff''s newly updated Jail Management System.

 

2. Enhance communication between criminal justice system agencies by creating a written protocol and training for all departments on victim contact. Protocols should consider victim contact by multiple criminal justice agencies and strive to reduce repeat or contradictory phone contacts with victims.

The Audit Team found that victims were asked to repeat their stories multiple times throughout their involvement in the criminal justice system, at each stage of intervention, often re-traumatizing that victim or causing confusion, and potentially diminishing her or his willingness to participate in the criminal justice process. The Audit Implementation Committee did not find an easy solution to this problem, but did raise several options to be further analyzed. For example, to help victims keep track of the multiple staff members working on their cases, members of the Committee proposed updating the Incident Report Form to include a section to record relevant information:

 

"The Police Inspector assigned to my case is ____; her/his phone number is ____. The District Attorney assigned to my case is _____; her/his phone number is _____. My Victim Advocate is ____; her/his phone number is____.”

 

To address the multiple contacts and repeated story-telling by the victim, the model of multi-disciplinary case conferencing often used in social service fields has merit, though concerns about confidentiality and victim safety must be addressed. Such a model has the potential to significantly improve case coordination and lessen victim confusion. Some repetition cannot be avoided, as the script mandated for use by 911 dispatchers requires them to ask the caller to explain what has occurred. The District Attorney’s Office schedules meetings with both the Victim Advocate and the Assistant District Attorney present to reduce the number of meetings, and all departments only schedule meetings that are absolutely necessary. This often results in multiple, and unavoidable, contacts with the criminal justice system.

 

3. Create additional linkages, communications, and accountability between Court, victims, batterer intervention programs, the community-based advocacy community, and children’s services through standing meetings, a court-watch program, or other initiatives to be developed.

Committee members would consider it good practice for all involved if there was increased attendance of the Courts at the Adult Probation Department’s batterer intervention program meetings, the BIP Community Advisory Committee, and site visits. This would help educate judges, and also show BIP providers that judges are concerned with their programs. Judge Mary Morgan, who oversees the Domestic Violence Court, has worked with the Adult Probation Department on many of these issues. The Domestic Violence Court Committee meets monthly, and invites the community to this meeting twice each year. The Courts are represented at the quarterly Family Violence Council meetings, as well as in the Safe Havens project for family visitation services. These are important steps, though the Committee would like to see additional measures taken.

 

4. Ensure that judges in Domestic Violence Court have necessary information about batterer intervention programs (e.g., location, cost for defendants, specialized groups, language access, etc.).

This recommendation applies to judges in both criminal and Family Court. Judge Mary Morgan has indicated that this recommendation may be outside her purview, as she relies on the Adult Probation Department to make appropriate referrals to BIPs after meeting with probationers. Family Court is making an effort to increase the connection between the Court and Adult Probation and the BIPs. As above, some important steps have been taken, but the Committee would like to see additional progress.

 

C. Low Priority Recommendations

Similar to Moderate Priority Recommendations, the following items may or may not have had progress made toward their completion over the past 2 years. Their full implementation is ideal. However, given a general lack of resources, additional work toward their full implementation is unlikely. The Committee considered the safety of victims and the need to hold batterers accountable, and determined that the Low Priority label is appropriate for the recommendations listed below.

 

1. Identify or develop, in conjunction with probation and community-based organizations, expanded treatment options for defendants convicted of stalking, including a specialized program to treat these defendants.

Only a single program in San Francisco is certified to treat perpetrators of stalking. This program is funded by the Department of Public Health. However, staffing and resources for this program have been cut too extensively for the program to meet the current need.

 

2. Review the certification and training requirements for the “City-certified interpreter roster” to determine if domestic violence training is included, available, and/or required for City-certified interpreters, and determine whether the roster is accessible to all Departments.

The Department Human Resources (DHR) administers the bilingual certification program. For certification, a City employee must pass the Bilingual Proficiency Test, which tests for basic oral fluency in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Russian. If a department has a business need for writing or reading, DHR can administer a proficiency exam by special request.

 

DHR does not administer bilingual proficiency exams to test for specialized knowledge and does not include domestic violence training. Once certified, employees do not need to be re-tested. Each is compensated based upon Memoranda of Understanding between the unions and the City.

 

In Fiscal Year 2007-2008, DHR listed 1,900 certified bilingual City employees, though not all employees who self-identify as bilingual have completed the certification process. Criminal justice departments track their bilingual employees by submitting annual reports to the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs to comply with the Equal Access to Services Ordinance. Though the Bridges to Freedom Language Fluency Pilot conducted by the Department on the Status of Women in partnership with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs will go some way toward training bilingual employees in issues related to domestic violence response, this is a grant-funded project, and subject matter training and testing remains absent from the certification process.

 

3. Improve linkages between community-based organizations and City departments to ensure culturally appropriate services and support, particularly regarding limited-English proficient (LEP) domestic violence victims. This includes improving awareness of existing services, ensuring materials are available in different languages, and linking victims with advocates from CBOs.

A number of steps have been taken to implement this recommendation, including the translation of materials and language access protocols at each department, as noted above. The monitoring and continuation of this work is a priority, but its continuous state of implementation leads the Committee to set the priority as “low.”

 

4. Develop a ‘flag’ to identify LEP victims in each of the criminal justice system’s computer systems, starting with the Department of Emergency Management, in order to facilitate timely interpretation services, awareness of additional time that may be needed, and linkages to community-based resources, etc.

The Committee determined that a “flag” may not be the best approach to ensuring that LEP victims receive appropriate services. However, all agencies should have a method of tracking data to support resource allocation (i.e., funding for more interpreters).

 

This may be challenging for some agencies. For example, the Department of Emergency Management’s CAD system can be modified to include a field that tracks the language used by a caller, but the cost for such a change to this complex computer system would be $57,000. Instead, dispatchers add this information to the text of the call history, a method that cannot be easily tracked for statistical purposes.

 

There is a possibility that the JUSTIS data tracking system in development could be used to gather language information. Until that time, all departments should create fields on internal tracking forms to document whether translation was used and for what language.

 

5. Establish a Task Force made up of key agencies and community-based organizations to ensure Audit Team recommendations regarding LEP victims are implemented within San Francisco and its relevant criminal justice agencies.

Ad hoc multi-agency task forces have been established over the last 2 years to support the departments in implementing certain recommendations related to serving LEP victims, such as creating a language access protocol for the Police Department. A standing Task Force would be an ideal solution to monitoring the implementation of remaining recommendations, but staffing and resource concerns make is unfeasible at this time.

 

6. Conduct additional research on criminal justice system responses to traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities in San Francisco, including how issues of victim safety and batterer accountability are or are not accounted for by city departments.

Though additional research would be beneficial, no resources currently exist to carry out this recommendation.

 

7. Convene a dialogue group with batterer intervention programs, victim service programs, criminal justice agencies, children’s groups, elder abuse groups, and others to explore the questions: What is accountability? What does safety mean in different communities?

Though building partnerships through such a group would be beneficial, no resources currently exist to carry out this recommendation.

 

 

IV. Conclusion

 

The success of the Audit Implementation Committee depended upon open communication, cross-departmental cooperation, and the support of the Mayor, Department Heads, and other stakeholders. The degree to which departments have been willing to open their doors to inspection and critique and the trust displayed by the staff and administration of these departments has been of unquestionable importance to the Committee’s work. The guidance of the Justice and Courage Oversight Panel and the leadership of the Department on the Status of Women have carried the partnerships to new levels. All players in this work are to be commended and honored for their dedication to creating a safer City and a stronger system of accountability. A number of recommendations for further work have been discussed throughout this report. The highest priority recommendations include:

 

1. Developing a City-wide Memorandum of Understanding on domestic violence response.

2. Conducting a qualitative and quantitative audit of domestic violence and cultural competency training practices.

3. Creating a system-wide protocol for addressing stalking cases.

4. Ensuring safety for victims and adequate space and resources for criminal justice staff at the Hall of Justice.

 

The Committee charges the Oversight Panel and the City and County of San Francisco with implementing these recommendations. The safety of survivors of domestic violence, and the accountability of those who batter must be a priority. Though resources are limited, San Francisco now has a strong framework to build upon to address the needs of the City’s most vulnerable, survivors of domestic violence and their families.

 

 

Appendix A: Complete List and Status of Audit Recommendations (pdf)

 

 

Appendix B: Executive Directive 07-05 (pdf)

 

 

Appendix C: Current Status of Directives Outlined in Executive Directive 07-05

 

The City makes several findings about domestic violence response by criminal justice agencies.

 

1. The Commission on the Status of Women Justice & Courage Oversight Panel shall include in its work overseeing the implementation of all recommendations related to the San Francisco Domestic Violence Victim Safety and Accountability Audit.

All departments named in the Audit Report submitted implementation plans to the Oversight Panel within the allotted timeframe. Moreover, the Police Department, the Department of Emergency Management, the Adult Probation Department, the Sheriff’s Department, and the District Attorney’s Office participated fully and actively in the Audit Implementation Committee since its formation in November 2007.

 

2. Criminal justice agencies shall conclude a City-wide Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to codify inter- and intra-departmental responses to both domestic violence and stalking incidents within the City.

As noted earlier, the creation of a City-wide MOU remains a high priority for the Audit Implementation Committee and the Justice and Courage Oversight Panel. It is critical that the numerous achievements documented in this report are institutionalized.

 

3. The Police Department shall ensure that patrol officers receive a minimum of 2-hours of POST-certified stalking training, developed in collaboration with community-based agencies over the next year.

The Police Department has implemented this item.

 

4. Criminal justice agencies shall fully support and participate in the Domestic Violence Response Cross-Training Institute.

 

All relevant criminal justice agencies participated in the Institute, both by sending staff members to the training sessions as participants, as well as by designating staff to serve as expert trainers and content consultants. Additionally, criminal justice staff members from each of the departments assigned staff to participate in the Institute’s evaluation efforts, such as attending focus group sessions and surveys. Without the full support and attendance of each agency, the Institute would not have been as successful as it was.

 

5. The Department of Telecommunications and Information Services shall develop a centralized Request for Proposal to ensure there is a single, high-quality interpretation provider for all criminal justice agencies, including the Department of Emergency Management for non-emergency calls, the San Francisco Police Department for patrol and investigations, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Adult Probation Department.

 

The General Services Agency, under direction of Ed Lee, secured a City-wide contract for telephonic interpretation through Language Line Services, a high-quality vendor now used by each of the criminal justice agencies for interpretation of over 175 languages. See Section II, Gap 3 for a detailed discussion of the implementation of this item.

 

 

6. The Police Department and the City’s Real Estate Division shall work collaboratively and expediently to locate appropriate office space for the Domestic Violence Response Unit (DVRU) to secure victim safety and include sufficient space for victim advocates.

 

The issue of safety at the Hall of Justice and adequate space remains a pressing concern for the Audit Implementation Committee and the Justice and Courage Oversight Panel. See Section II, Gap 2, under C. Resources for a detailed discussion of this item.

 

7. The Adult Probation Department shall develop a plan to ensure oversight and annual re-certification of the City’s batterer intervention programs.

 

The Adult Probation Department has significantly updated and revised its oversight mechanisms for probationers and batterer intervention programs. Changes that have been implemented include new communication systems between the Adult Probation Department, the court, and the BIPs; revised progress report forms; and clarification of standards of accountability. See Section II, Gap 4 for a detailed discussion of this item.

 

8. The Department on the Status of Women (DOSW) shall initiate a planning process around a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week victim advocate response to domestic violence calls to 911 and the police.

 

Progress has been made in informing criminal justice personnel about the community resources available to them. See Section II, Gap 4 for a detailed discussion of these efforts. Additionally, through grant funding, community-based victim advocates are stationed at the Domestic Violence Response Unit and on-call to respond to crises as they occur. The ongoing process of informing criminal justice staff members about available resources and ensuring victims receive the emergency and long-term support they need remains a priority.

 

Appendix D: Challenges to Implementation

 

Despite its many successes, the Audit Implementation Committee has faced a number of challenges over the course of its 2 years of collaborative work. The following offers a brief explanation of some of the difficulties encountered throughout the tenure of the Audit Implementation Committee.

 

A. Multi-Departmental Protocol Changes

Many of the successes include changes in forms or protocols within one department. There may be some level of cross-departmental communication involved, such as 911 working with the Police Department to implement the new stalking call codes. However, the majority of the fully-implemented recommendations needed only internal decision-making and approvals to complete, greatly reducing the time and complexity of implementations, such as approval chains and aligning disparate protocols of 2 or more departments.

 

B. Resources

Additionally, many of the recommendations require resources not currently available. There remains an ongoing need for training, in particular cross-training, of all criminal justice personnel about a variety of issues, including stalking, cultural competency, working with victims exhibiting complex risk factors, danger assessment, and other issues related to domestic violence. Training about these issues occurs, but is limited. Departments operating on a 24-hour schedule must face the added expense of overtime pay when sending staff members to workshops. Resources are scarce, and the Committee grappled with finding ways to maximize current opportunities. Linked to this, such recommendations cannot merely be checked off as complete, but must be completed each year or on a regular basis.

 

C. Broadly-Defined Recommendations

Lastly, quite a few of the recommendations are broad and wide-ranging in scope with no clear measure of success. For example, the terms “explore” and “improve” appear frequently in the list of 68 recommendations, such as,

 

“Improve linkages between community-based organizations and City departments/ agencies to ensure culturally appropriate services and support, particularly regarding limited-English proficient (LEP) domestic violence victims. This includes improving awareness of existing services through training and outreach to agency workers, ensuring materials are available in different languages, and linking advocates from community-based organizations with victims to provide safety planning, help dispel myths about the criminal justice system, and explain the legal process.”

 

Steps have been taken to improve the linkages between criminal justice and community agencies. For example, the District Attorney’s Office has translated its materials into several frequently-used languages, performs outreach to LEP victims, and has an ongoing partnership with a community-based agency to develop a comprehensive, translated resource guide for victims in San Francisco and surrounding counties. However, without clearly-defined benchmarks for each agency implementing this and other recommendations, or another audit to gauge “improvement,” the Committee struggled to complete many of the recommendations to their fullest, and most ideal, extent.

 

Appendix E: Tabled Recommendations

 

The Audit Team comprised field officers and supervisors from each criminal justice agency, community advocates, and academics. In the 2 months of analysis, the Team proposed and discussed a number of recommendations before determining the final recommendations Safety for All documents. Over 2 years of work, the Audit Implementation Committee had the opportunity to more fully consider and critique these recommendations and identified 10 that the Committee decided were either unnecessary or not a best practice for San Francisco. These have been “tabled,” with no further action expected. A list of these recommendations with rationale for tabling each has been provided below.

 

1. Cease using the “victim declination form” within the Domestic Violence Response Unit (DVRU), a form that victims sign indicating that they do not intend to participate in or “cooperate with” prosecuting the suspect in the case.

This recommendation emerged out of the Audit Team''s desire to protect victims, and to ensure that they understand all of their rights and options. When a victim signs the declination form, she may think that she has no further criminal justice recourse. However, the Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office approve of the use of this form. If a police officer does not pursue an investigation at the request of a victim and that victim wishes to proceed at some later point, the officer may be open to liability. Both the Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office indicate that they assure victims that they can change their minds at any point, even if they sign a declination form. For these reasons, the Police Department will continue using the form.

 

2. More information is needed on the number and nature of Gone on Arrival (GOA) cases (i.e., those cases where the suspect is not present when officers respond to the scene), such as the number of such cases, dispatch priority level, and follow-up by subsequent interveners, including DVRU inspectors or the District Attorney’s Office.

 

The Committee agreed that, while this recommendation is relevant, it is not immediately apparent what could be done to address this problem. The Committee acknowledged that 911 Gone on Arrivals do not receive any follow-up from the criminal justice system. Yet if a GOA involves stalking behavior, it would be important for the DVRU to follow-up and document the incident. No action is being taken on this recommendation at this time.

 

3. Create a permanent community-based Training Network between the criminal justice system and community-based organizations (CBOs) serving domestic violence survivors, with a training coordinator that includes cross-training between CBO personnel and criminal justice personnel.

 

Though this recommendation has merit, it is not feasible given staffing and resources, and as such has been tabled. The proposed work happens in a less structured format, and each department will continue to partner with CBOs for training.

 

4. Identify 2 to 3 officers to serve as on-site domestic violence experts for each police station to attend the Institute of Criminal Investigation trainings on domestic violence and other related topics, and to be available to do on-site training. In addition, these on-site experts could, in coordination with DVRU, provide 24/7 on-scene assistance to domestic violence cases, as needed.

 

The Committee believes that, while this may be a good idea in theory, this recommendation is not a best practice for San Francisco. The Police Department encourages officers in the field to call on the DVRU as the experts, rather than have part-time experts at the various stations who may or may not be available. DVRU inspectors have been instructed to be available 24/7 to visit scenes and support both officers and victims as needed. The DVRU inspectors can be trained and updated on the latest trends, procedures, and issues in a much more efficient way than a number of scattered officers in the field.

 

5. Provide intra-net and web-based domestic violence training to criminal justice system agencies.

 

No agencies currently have the capacity for such a project on their own, though this recommendation could be included in the work of the proposed training network, if resources are identified for such a body.

 

6. Enhance communication between criminal justice system agencies and community-based organizations that serve domestic violence survivors by developing a 24/7 Victim Advocacy Response System to strengthen linkages between patrol officers and advocates from all community-based domestic violence organizations, with participation by all community-based organizations, the Police Department, 911, and other relevant agencies.

 

Victim advocates staff the Domestic Violence Response Unit and are on-call after hours. There are no resources to develop additional systems of advocacy response at this time.

 

7. Develop an inter-departmental protocol between the Adult Probation Department and the District Attorney’s Office that establishes procedures for the handling of Motion to Revoke (MTR) hearings in both misdemeanor and felony cases.

 

Upon discussion among the Committee members, it is clear that such a protocol is not necessary. Both Adult Probation and the District Attorney''s Office have written protocols in place for the handling of probation violations and the filing of MTRs, and in some cases, the court will order that an MTR be filed. Each can and do proceed independently with their MTR filing, but notify the other when this happens, a process that has been successful to date.

 

8. Explore models for the creation of a crisis line and drop-in program for batterer defendants.

 

The Committee decided that this recommendation was not appropriate or a best practice for Adult Probation at this time. The model of a crisis line or drop-in center to prevent batterers from re-offending is a good one (the TALK line for parents to prevent child abuse is a good example of its value), but this is a project more appropriate for a CBO to undertake rather than a government agency charged with law enforcement. Adult Probation would support a batterer intervention program in setting up such a program, but there is no funding for such an effort at this time or in the foreseeable future.

 

9. Explore models whereby the Adult Probation Department provides all batterer intervention programs, similar to the model currently employed within the San Francisco Jail.

 

The Committee decided that this recommendation was not appropriate or a best practice for Adult Probation at this time. The intent of this recommendation was to improve the accountability of batterer intervention programs by having them offered by Adult Probation. However, the Committee believes that the role of Adult Probation in improving accountability should be through increased and improved oversight, rather than in-house service provision, and a number of steps have been taken to address accountability issues, as detailed above.

 

10. Within the District Attorney’s office, staff the Domestic Violence Court with an in-court paralegal similar to the Public Defender’s Office.

 

The Domestic Violence Unit in the District Attorney''s Office has a paralegal who is available to the attorney staffing the Domestic Violence Court. The District Attorney''s Office has stated that this staff person is sufficient for the needs of that Office.

 

 

Appendix F: Accomplishments by Department

 

This appendix summarizes the accomplishments and changes described in detail in the report, sorted by department.[8]

 

All Criminal Justice Agencies

  • All agencies regularly share staff rosters with one another.
  • All criminal justice agencies have internal protocols for addressing stalking cases, as well as for working with limited-English proficient and monolingual victims.

Adult Probation Department

  • Adult Probation adopted the Correctional Assessment and Intervention System (CAIS), which identifies probationer needs and risks, and officers perform the assessments during the intake session for each probationer.
  • Adult Probation significantly improved communication practices between the department, the batterer intervention programs, and the Courts.
  • Adult Probation strengthened accountability measures for batterers by instituting a more rigorous evaluation component for batterer intervention programs to complete for each probationer.
  • The department implemented a domestic violence field protocol for officer safety in the field.
  • To better analyze trends and outcomes, Adult Probation maintains monthly records and quarterly caseload reviews.

 

Community Providers

  • Victim Advocates from La Casa de las Madres assigned to the DVRU are certified in the Jacquelyn Campbell Lethality Assessment tool and have begun training police officers in the use of this tool.
  • The Mayor’s Office of Housing received a 3-year federal grant to engage a community provider to train 500 police officers and other criminal justice staff on domestic violence in later life.

 

Criminal and Civil Courts

  • Family Court developed a partnership with the Sheriff’s Department to provide escorts to victims when entering or leaving the court. Additionally, the Family Court adopted a 15-minute hold policy to allow the petitioner to leave 15 minutes ahead of the respondent to promote safety at the Court.
  • The Domestic Violence Court Judge developed a bench book for new judges to understand the protocols for domestic violence cases, distributed to bench officers in 2009. The Domestic Violence Court Committee held several community meetings in 2008 and 2009 to assess San Francisco’s compliance with the Administrative Office of the Courts’ Recommended Guidelines and Practices for Improving the Administration of Justice in Domestic Violence Cases.
  • The Courts have developed a San Francisco Restraining Order Database, allowing access for all criminal justice departments.

 

Department of Emergency Management

  • The Department of Emergency Management developed a script for 911 dispatchers to use in cases of domestic violence, implemented in 2008.
  • The Department of Emergency Management programmed 2 new call types for dispatchers to use: 646 and 646DV indicates stalking and domestic violence stalking. All dispatchers have been trained on their use.
  • The Department of Emergency Management worked in collaboration with the Police Department to implement a Premise Hazard function into the dispatch system to broadcast alerts regarding locations specific to suspect in domestic violence and stalking cases.

 

Department on the Status of Women

  • The Department on the Status of Women received funding to develop and conduct the Domestic Violence Response Cross-Training Institute, training over 430 criminal justice personnel through an innovative curriculum that addresses the gaps found in the Audit.
  • Through the Family Violence Council, the Department has created and distributed a Family Violence Resource Sheet that will be distributed to each of the criminal justice agencies each time it is updated to better link first responders with community providers.
  • The Department on the Status of Women, in partnership with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, received funding from the Zellerbach Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to create the language fluency training program, Bridges to Freedom, offered in 2009 and 2010.

 

District Attorney’s Office

  • In 2009, the District Attorney’s Office partnered with the Police Department to create a 4-hour training about responding to scenes of domestic violence presented at each of the 11 police stations.
  • The District Attorney’s Office has made an additional interview room available to provide a safe space for meeting with victims, and also provides a safe waiting area for victims who are scheduled to attend Domestic Violence Court.
  • The Victim Services Division created a flow-chart describing a victim’s or a case’s path through the criminal justice system to assist victims in understanding the legal system’s processes.
  • The District Attorney’s Office restarted the Stalking Task Force, which meets quarterly with criminal justice and community participants to train about stalking and analyze current trends.
  • The District Attorney’s Office released the Stalking Resource Guide in 2009 to provide tips and resources to victims and advocates.

Office of the City Administrator

  • The City Administrator secured a master contract with Language Line Services, a highly-rated translation service that can supply translators in over 175 languages. This contract pairs with a donation of mobile phones from AT&T in 2007 that officers can use in the field to connect with Language Line Services when responding to a victim who is limited-English proficient or monolingual.

 

San Francisco Police Department

  • The Police Department now consistently completes and includes Supplemental Reports in case files.
  • The Police Academy prioritized the domestic violence portion of the officer training program by moving it from Friday afternoons to Wednesdays, and extended the segment to include training on elder abuse and stalking.
  • The Domestic Violence Response Unit has implemented a new form for Inspectors to use to communicate with the responding officers about the outcome of cases.
  • The Police Department included a 2-hour POST-certified training about stalking in the bi-annual Continuing Professional Training course for officers, as well as in the Basic Recruit classes. A Department Bulletin on stalking further informed personnel about this issue.

 

 

 

Appendix G: Audit Implementation Committee Members

 

The Justice and Courage Oversight Panel formed the Audit Implementation Committee in November 2007 to coordinate the implementation of the recommendations made in the Audit Report, Safety for All. The Audit Implementation Committee met monthly for over 2 years, their dedication leading to the numerous accomplishments highlighted in this report.[9]

 

Committee Co-Chairs

 

Ken Theisen, Bay Area Legal Aid

Justice and Courage Oversight Panel Member

Kathy Black, La Casa de las Madres

Justice and Courage Oversight Panel Member

 

 

Committee Members

 

Adult Probation Department

Tina Gilbert, Specialized Division Director

Arturo Faro, Supervising Probation Officer

Andre Wood, Supervising Probation Officer

 

Department of Emergency Management

Lisa Hoffman, Emergency Communications Division Director

Anna Sop, Training Coordinator

 

District Attorney’s Office

Maria Bee, Victim Services Division Director

James Rowland, Domestic Violence Unit Director

Jean Roland, Domestic Violence Unit Director

 

San Francisco Police Department

Captain John Ehrlich, Juvenile and Family Division

Lieutenant Molly Pengel, Domestic Violence Response Unit

Inspector Art Stellini, Domestic Violence Response Unit

 

Sheriff’s Department

Susan Fahey, Public Information Officer

 

Community Partners

Emberly Cross, Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic

Erika Falk, Institute on Aging

Minouche Kandel, Bay Area Legal Aid

Hediana Utarti, Asian Women’s Shelter

 

 

 

Committee Staff

Laura Marshall, Department on the Status of Women

Jill Tregor, Department on the Status of Women

 

 

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[2] A complete list of recommendations and their status at the time of this report has been included as Appendix A.

[3] See Appendices B and C.

[4] Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell originally developed the Danger Assessment in 1986 with consultation and content validity support from battered women, shelter workers, law enforcement officials, and other clinical experts on battering. The tool is administered to victims of domestic violence in 2 stages, the first assessing the severity and frequency of battering, and the second assessing risk factors associated with intimate partner homicide. See www.dangerassessment.org for details.

[5] Staffing changes at the District Attorney’s Office halted the trainings temporarily, but plans to train officers at the remaining 8 station continue.

[6] See Appendix D for a discussion of some of the challenges to implementation encountered by the Committee. Additionally, the Committee tabled certain recommendations, with no further actions proposed. A description of these tabled recommendations is included in Appendix E.

[7] See Appendix B.

[8] The Sheriff’s Department and its processes were not officially audited, though members of that department served on the Audit Team and the Audit Implementation Committee. For this reason, few recommendations applied specifically to the Sheriff’s Department, and there are no Sheriff-specific accomplishments in this appendix.

[9] List encompasses shifting membership and representation on the Committee, 2007 – 2010.

 

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