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May 2, 2012 - Minutes

Full Panel - May 2, 2012
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
9:00 – 11:00 am
City Hall, Room 408
San Francisco, CA 94102


Members Present:
Dr. Antonio Ramirez, POCOVI
Beverly Upton, Domestic Violence Consortium (late arrival)
Dion Roberts, Mary Elizabeth Inn
Emily Murase, PhD, Department on the Status of Women
JaMel Perkins, Partners Ending Domestic Abuse
Kathy Black, La Casa de las Madres
Ken Theisen, Bay Area Legal Aid

Other Attendees/Speakers:
Captain Antonio Parra, Lieutenant Michelle Jean, Deputy Public Defender Elizabeth Hilton, Teresa Castora, Deputy District Attorney Jean Roland, Robin Brasso, Commissioner Alicia Gamez, Stacey Hoang (Department staff)

Dr. Emily Murase called the meeting to order at 9:12 am. The Oversight Panel approved the agenda.

Due to computer problems, the February 1, 2012 minutes was unavailable. The review and approval is postponed until the next meeting.

A. Department Head Meetings
1. February 22, 2012: Meeting with Human Services Agency Director Trent Rhorer
The meeting focused on talks about domestic violence survivors and CalWorks. Members expressed concerned about domestic violence survivors’ confidentiality and will send follow-up memo to Director Rhorer regarding this concern.

2. March 7, 2012: Meeting with Human Resources Director Micki Callahan
There is currently a citywide zero tolerance policy on domestic violence in the workplace, but disciplinary actions need to be included in the written policy. Members expressed this concern and will put pressure on the Department of Human Resources to take the lead in developing a policy. Suggestions on developing a formal policy includes reviewing the City of Los Angeles’ policy and adapt it to fit San Francisco’s needs.

3. March 27, 2012: Meeting with Emergency Management Director Anne Kronenberg
The meeting focused on talks about domestic violence statistics and how well the new codes are being used. Panel member Kathy Black, who attended the meeting, recommended that other panel members visit the 911 Call Center to see first-hand how 911 dispatchers respond and handle emergency calls.

4. April 5, 2012: Meeting with Public Defender Jeff Adachi
The meeting focused on recent updates on projects and the Family Violence Council 2010 report. Continued conversations to follow.

5. April 12, 2012: Meeting with District Attorney George Gascon
The meeting focused on discussion about documentation of the Crawford decision, staffing levels, and human trafficking.

6. April 18, 2012: Meeting with Interim Sheriff Vicki Hennessy
The meeting included an update on the efforts of the Justice & Courage Oversight Panel and the Family Violence Council. Discussions also focused on officer response policy regarding domestic violence cases.

Panel member Ken Theisen requests that future meetings be set at least one week in advance. The next Department Head Meeting is scheduled for May 23rd with Police Chief Greg Suhr.

Community member Robin Brasso expressed concern that if the Department of Human Resources is responsible for the workplace domestic violence policy, they should set up a policy that can be enforced.

B. Committee on Housing for Survivors of Domestic Violence
The subcommittee met with Bevan Dufty, the Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement, whose role is to address homeless services and look for better outcomes. The Housing Authority will soon do away with all types of housing preferences except for veterans and displaced individuals (both due to government action). A meeting is scheduled for May 8 regarding housing preferences. The subcommittee will send a letter to the Housing Authority requesting that the domestic violence preference be kept. Suggestions include requesting letters of support from other Departments to keep the domestic violence preference, as well as noting that domestic violence is the number two cause of homelessness. Panel member Dion Roberts to distribute a letter of support template.

C. JUS.T.I.S. Governance Council
Department staff, Stacey Hoang, attended the meeting and reported that the Police Department is scheduled to finish rolling out the system to all stations by June/July. Although live data is available, no reports will be created until all stations have been rolled out due to efficiency reasons. Dr. Murase commended Susan Griffin from the Police Department for her work on the project. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 24, 2012, 9:30-11:30 am in City Hall, Room 288.

D. Family Violence Council
May is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and the next Family Violence Council meeting will include a presentation on awareness efforts. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 3 - 5 pm, 400 McAllister Street, Room 617.

E. Batterer Accountability
The certification process is problematic because of the training requirement. Who conducts the training and not having Spanish speakers are issues that need to be addressed. A suggestion was put forth that the Probation Department review the certification process and provide feedback. Dr. Murase is scheduled to meet with Chief Wendy Still and will provide an update to the Oversight Panel.

Ms. Brasso asked whether there are any funding associated with the Congressional Act. Although there is funding, it is primarily through criminal justice agencies and there are already collaborations currently in place.

F. Current Issues in Domestic Violence (including adjudicated cases)
This agenda item was postponed.


A. SFPD Special Victims Unit and Domestic Violence Response Unit

Officer Involved Domestic Violence Policy
Panel Member Beverly Upton has contacted the Police Chief to formalize and raise the bar on officer involved domestic violence policy. The review process has started with 10 model policies being looked at for best practices that will fit the size and relevancy to the City and County of San Francisco. Ms. Upton brought copies of the Tacoma, Washington’s model policy. She would like to invite them to come and brief the panel on their progress.

Lieutenant Joe McFadden is currently reviewing the policy at a local, as well as a global, level. Progress is being made, but will take time.

B. Human Trafficking
Ms. Perkins distributed documents related to a congressional testimony and current bills on human trafficking for the panel to review. Her group met with the State Department on April 15th to discuss how the government can work with local nonprofit agencies, including local law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem.

C. Domestic Violence Response Suggestions from the Public Defender’s Office
Elizabeth Hilton, the Managing Attorney with the Misdemeanor Unit at the Public Defender’s Office, focuses on first-time offender misdemeanor cases and sees that counseling is the best approach to minimizing recidivism. Offenders engaged in counseling leads to safe families and communities, and can break cycles of violence. The current system only sees 30% of offenders receiving counseling and a new method is needed to change the system. Oftentimes, women may not want to assist in the prosecution due to the potential adverse consequence of doing so – deportation, loss of income, housing, job, etc. This nonparticipation leads to difficulty in prosecution and cases being dismissed and offenders acquitted. Although strong domestic violence laws are important, the current system has the unintended consequence of less counseling options. Ms. Hilton proposes a pre-conviction counseling as an option as it can potentially lead to more offenders participating in counseling programs. An example was provided. There are no bad people, just bad choices, and need to teach first-time minor offenders a new way through counseling.

Mr. Theisen stated that he helped get the diversion law passed due to 3-4 San Francisco judges using diversion more than half the time compared to other judges in the State. What the group saw was that first-time offenses are oftentimes not the first time domestic violence took place, but closer to up to 10 times. When asked whether the proposal is to reverse the pretrial diversion, Ms. Hilton proposes pre-conviction counseling, and if counseling is complete, the conviction will be reversed. The current system can lead to deportation because of the initial plead of guilt. When asked whether counseling is the appropriate remedy for people charge with abuse, Mr. Theisen stated no, based on his over 3 decades working with clients.

Ms. Roberts asked what the basis is for the proposal that counseling helps reduce recidivism and how to measure if someone is not a repeat offender. Ms. Hilton reiterated that counseling is a mandatory condition, and if counseling is not important, why require it?

Dr. Ramirez shared the idea of the Batterers’ Intervention Program whereby community action is organized for men to stop violence together as a whole because individual efforts do not work. Counseling is often seen as therapy, but when someone is arrested for the first time, a pattern of abuse has already been in place. Although 25% volunteer to participate in the program, only 2% finishes it. Counseling works when there is a motivation for change and when there is a combination of approaches. 70% of the people who complete the program do not get charged again, but most men would not voluntarily go through the program. Ms. Hilton posed the question as to how to get offenders into and stay in the program. The threat of a misdemeanor charge will not motivate offenders to finish program.

Ms. Upton stated that the proposal from Ms. Hilton for pretrial diversion was the system that was in place in 1995. Because of recent immigration changes that affect offenders and their families, maybe reforming immigration and not legislation for domestic violence is needed (copies of the Trust Act for Secure Communities were distributed) since offenders can already volunteer to seek counseling anytime before charges are in place. Ms. Upton reiterated that when it comes to a first-time domestic violence offender’s arrest, it is never the first time domestic violence took place.

Ms. Hilton shared the Public Defender’s Drug Court program as a successful example on how a rigorous 18-month counseling program, which leads to the dismissal of drug cases, results in participants being clean and sober with no conviction record.

Ms. Roberts asked Ms. Hilton what she hoped to gain from coming before the panel today. Ms. Hilton hoped that members consider pretrial diversion as an alternative to convictions. She would like to continue the discussion of this topic at a future meeting.

Ms. Roberts expressed concern about the ability to monitor people after they have completed counseling, who will represent victims, and who defines what a minor or a serious injury is as survivors may see the situation differently than what the police might.

Ms. Kathy Black reminded the group that there is a case where an offender completed the counseling program, but still committed domestic violence murder. Ms. Black proposed that other layers of the proposal need to be looked at also, including what happens when the perpetrator is going through the program.

There was concern that investigators were not consistent in identifying who they are to victims, and Ms. Hilton cited Penal Code 1054 as a requirement for all investigators to identify who they are and who they represent. There is a pretrial put-away order where the defendant is not allowed to contact the woman while the case is pending.

Alicia Gamez, Commission on the Status of Women Commissioner, thanks the panel and commented that the Latino Community has voted unanimously during their last meeting to write a letter of support for the pretrial diversion program. The proposed system would not diminish the work that has already been set in place, but to just address the gap of the 70% of cases that are dropped or dismissed. This may encourage more people to be helped, and provide an alternative to people who may otherwise go scot-free. For the Latino community, deportation is an unwelcome side-effect, and because immigration is a federal issue, the panel may not be able to address the issue. She reiterated that there is real support in the Latino community for the new system. Ms. Upton asked to clarify whether domestic violence was the only topic of discussion for the pretrial diversion program during the Latino community meeting, and Ms. Gamez indicated it was.

Ms. Hilton wants to open the discussion to address concerns so she can conduct further research and fine-tune the proposed new system. She would like to further her discussion with Dr. Ramirez and Mr. Theisen. Mr. Theisen did not think pretrial worked before, nor does he believe will work in the future, but would like to continue the discussion. He does not know whether counseling alone will work, and there is a need to look into what works as the only goal is to stop violence for victims.

No public comment.

The meeting adjourned at 11:54 am.

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