Halifax Regional Police have created a new role in their crime prevention unit, assigning a dedicated constable to work as a Domestic Violence Prevention Officer.
The officer will help facilitate the way police are changing their approach and philosophy to domestic violence complaints, with the goal of identifying problems in the community and working to prevent domestic abuse.
“This officer will work closely with victim’s services to hold high risk abusers accountable,” Staff Sgt. Scott MacDonald said..
HRP say they’ve received 800 complaints of domestic violence so far in 2016.
Annually, the police force responds to about 2,700 reports of domestic abuse in the Halifax Regional Municipality alone. It’s estimated only about 35 per cent of domestic violence cases are actually reported to police.
Although experts say domestic violence can occur in any relationship, women are primarily the victims and men are primarily the perpetrators.
“As police, we’re unfortunately all too familiar with the tragic consequences of men’s violence against women,” Chief Jean-Michel Blais said.
Blais says addressing gender violence is a complex issue and that men need to be the leaders on navigating change within society.
“We’re firm believers that men’s violence against women is first and foremost a men’s issue,” said Blais.
Attitudes and response changing
MacDonald, has been a police officer for 17 years, says the way police handle cases of domestic abuse is changing.
“When I first joined the policing profession, there were widely held opinions that because domestic violence usually occurred behind closed doors, there wasn’t much the police could do to impact the frequency of such events,” he said.
“We’re looking constantly at best practices that are being done across the country and adapting them for our needs here, locally,” added Blais.
For officers who work on the front lines, dealing with cases of domestic abuse is a daily occurrence. Const. Ray Turner, a member of the force for 11 years, says it takes a lot of courage for victims of domestic violence to come froward.
“It doesn’t matter what part of society you live in, domestic violence happens. So we’ve been in different parts of society, different parts of our community where we’ve seen it from all angles,” said Turner.
“We get too many of these calls. The worst are when there are children in the homes. No one wants to leave in handcuffs.”
“In a sense, they’re the city’s builders, they’re our bus drivers, they’re our students, they’re our armed forces personnel, they operate our heavy machinery, they teach our students, they’re our government employees, they’re university faculty, they’re our parents and they’re our partners,” said Eric Ross, New Start Counselling.
Ross works to counsel men who have committed violence against women. He says some of the men he deals with are able to realize what they have done and make positive changes in their lives.
On Tuesday, New Start Counselling and Halifax Regional Police launched a new campaign called “On being a better man.”
A series of posters will be placed throughout the Halifax area in the coming weeks, with the goal of creating awareness about domestic violence.
New Start says they can only offer counselling services for between 200 to 230 men in Halifax annually.
The non-profit organization relies largely on provincial funding but only receive about $235,000 to operate. The lack of funding has the organization wondering if the provincial government is taking the issue of domestic violence seriously enough.