Attorney General Lockyer's Task Force on Domestic Violence Meets in Oakland
Panel Studies Ways to Improve Local Criminal Justice Response to Family Violence
(OAKLAND) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today convened in Oakland the second regional hearing of a statewide task force studying the effectiveness of how local criminal justice agencies respond to and deal with domestic violence issues. The 26-member task force is holding public hearings throughout the state to study local policies and practices, identify those that work well and determine which ones may harm or threaten the safety of domestic violence victims.
"California leads the nation in taking steps to stop the cycle of domestic violence, yet domestic violence continues to be an epidemic," Lockyer said. "These regional hearings are providing valuable information on what is happening at the local level, and what we can do to standardize and strengthen local practices and programs to protect families from violence in the home."
The task force is focusing on four issues: How domestic violence restraining orders are obtained and enforced; how law enforcement agencies respond to mandated reports of domestic violence by health care practitioners; how courts, probation and batterer intervention programs hold batterers accountable; and how prosecutors' offices handle misdemeanor domestic violence cases.
Among those scheduled to testify today are experts from criminal justice agencies, the medical field and victim-advocacy groups in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Solano counties.
California's criminal justice agencies have taken on many responsibilities in the past 15 years to reduce domestic violence. Despite a myriad of laws aimed at protecting victims of intimate partner violence and preventing future domestic violence crimes, daily media reports document grim stories of domestic violence that devastate families and leave children without parents.
In 2002, California local law enforcement agencies received 196,569 domestic violence-related calls for assistance. During that same year, there were 153 murders committed as a result of intimate partner violence and 50,479 juveniles and adults were arrested for spousal abuse under Penal Code section 273.5.
Members of the Attorney General's "Task Force on Local Criminal Justice Response to Domestic Violence" include representatives of local and state law enforcement agencies, probation offices, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, domestic violence victims' advocates and public health officials, practitioners and researchers.
The task force will submit a report by March 2005 describing current practices, identifying critical needs, highlighting successful approaches and proposing possible legislative changes. The report will be designed to assist local criminal justice agencies and serve as a blueprint for the Attorney General's Office in its efforts to prevent domestic violence.
Lockyer's decision to appoint the task force was prompted in part by the findings of a study he and Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, commissioned to determine the effectiveness of laws and practices aimed at reducing domestic violence. Released last July, the 50-page Senate Office of Research report showed California has taken critical steps to protect domestic violence victims, but that a comprehensive assessment of those efforts is still needed.
As Attorney General, Lockyer has made fighting domestic violence one of his top priorities. Since taking office in 1999, Lockyer has:
Improved and expanded the Domestic Violence Restraining Order System linking police and sheriffs statewide to a database of people subjected to domestic violence restraining orders.
Provided training for Domestic Violence Death Review teams across the state. The teams review domestic violence homicide cases to identify and repair holes in the system to prevent future incidents.
Established monthly intra-agency meetings that bring together state agencies and organizations that deal with domestic violence, to examine how to reduce and prevent domestic violence, provide in-service training, and coordinate statewide public awareness efforts.
Mandated Domestic Violence in the Workplace training for all managers and supervisors at the California Department of Justice.
Enhanced and expanded the Spousal Abuse Prosecution Program that provides a team of prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates to develop and prosecute a domestic violence victim's case against his or her batterer. Lockyer personally lobbied legislators and the governor for full funding for the program.
Created the California Armed and Prohibited Persons (CAPP) program to identify and apprehend dangerous individuals who illegally possess firearms because they have committed a felony, were convicted of spousal abuse, are deemed to have a mental condition that makes them dangerous to themselves or others, or they are the subject of a domestic violence restraining order.
Additional information about the Attorney General's efforts to combat domestic violence and a roster and biographies of the task force members is available at the Attorney General's Crime and Violence Prevention Center website at http://www.safestate.org/index.cfm?navID=250.