EDITORIAL: Expand protection against domestic violence

2013-10-06T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Expand protection against domestic violence nwitimes.com
October 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Everyone knows domestic violence is a major problem, but determining the right response requires careful consideration.

Domestic violence has killed more than 140 women and men in Lake County since 1995, and those are only the fatalities. The toll of injuries, both physical and emotional, is far higher.

Analyzing data helps frame the problem and leads to solutions, too.

Joseph Ferrandino, assistant professor of criminal justice at Indiana University Northwest, is achieving fame for his data-driven response to public safety questions.

Ferrandino found a low number of arrests resulting from the high number of emergency calls related to domestic violence in the region.

"Why were there so few arrests considering the high volume of calls?" Ferrandino said. "The only way to get to that was to interview officers who handled the most calls."

Nine veteran officers from three local police departments shared their views on how Indiana's domestic battery statute works. They discussed discretion and their frustration.

Dan Tsataros, assistant professor at IUN, called the law "way too narrow."

"The statute in Indiana is really only protective of spouses" said Tsataros, a former Cook County deputy prosecutor.

The law is Illinois is applied to non-spousal relationships as well.

A number of events are being held this month — Domestic Violence Awareness Month — to bring attention to the issue. They are important ways to stoke emotions so this problem will be addressed.

One of those ways is to heed the domestic violence data and insights obtained by IUN researchers. Indiana has fewer arrests per domestic violence call than in other states.

Indiana's law needs to be updated so it applies not just to spouses  — or at the judge's discretion, people "living as a spouse" — but other household members as well.

Fix that flaw in the law, then expand training for law enforcement professionals.

As the domestic violence awareness events indicate, too many people have been hurt already. Behavior needs to change.

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