Issue: Domestic Violence 

Impact: Statistically, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced domestic violence, so McPherson County law enforcement officers maintain regular training to appropriately handle domestic violence situations to create best possible outcomes. 

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation reports that one domestic violence incident occurred every 23 minutes and one domestic violence murder occurred every 12 days in Kansas in 2015, the most recent data available. However, frequency of occurrence does not make these situations any simpler to handle.

Determining what steps to take can appear nearly impossible in a violent situation, so law enforcement officers regularly complete training in how to approach situations of domestic violence.

“When changes in the laws we enforce are made, we receive training to help us stay up-to-date,” said Executive Sgt. Mark Brinck, public information officer for the McPherson Police Department. “In the event changes do not occur with the laws, investigative strategies or techniques, refresher training helps us continue to provide services to help parties involved in domestic disputes and victims of domestic violence.”

Assistant Kansas Attorney General Will Manly recently presented an overview of Kansas Domestic Violence legal updates to McPherson Police Department officers, and other officers from the McPherson County Sheriff’s Office, Lindsborg and Moundridge Police Departments at the McPherson Fire Department training room.

In McPherson County, law enforcement arrested 194 individuals for domestic violence-related crimes in 2013, 200 in 2014, and 135 in 2015, the most recent data available from the KBI.

“If possible, we help resolve domestic disputes before they escalate to violence. In incidents involving domestic violence, officers use the strategies and techniques we are taught to determine whether or not a crime was committed, to identify and arrest the perpetrator of the violence,” Brinck said. “All of the officers’ actions are geared toward establishing safety, resolving conflict to the degree possible, and holding perpetrators of violence accountable, which may ultimately contribute to prevention of future incidents.”

According the KBI, the average victim is a white female between the ages of 20 and 29. The average offender is a white male between the ages of 20 and 29 and is most often the spouse or in a romantic relationship with the victim. Saturdays and Sundays are the two days when domestic violence incidents are most likely to occur, and most incidents occur between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.

Information like this can be useful to officers as they respond to potential situations, but other elements of the training ensure that officers have the right tools to assess a possibly violent situation.

The training included an overview of legal updates, investigations strategies and information on “The Arrest Decision.”

This decision is based on probable cause, which is the reasonable belief that a specific crime has been committed and that a specific person committed it.

“Law enforcement officers are mandated by Kansas law to arrests suspects involved in domestic violence incidents, when probable cause exists to show the suspect committed domestic battery,” Brinck said. “Probable cause exists when the facts and circumstances within a law enforcement officer’s knowledge, and about which the officer has reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.”

As laws change over time, regular training keeps officers up-to-date so they can enforce those new laws appropriately.

“It is important for law enforcement officers to know the laws we enforce, and those laws that dictate our actions,” Brinck explained. “It is also important for us to know up-to-date investigative strategies and techniques.”

For example, the Kansas Legislature amended the domestic battery statute with Senate Bill 112, which expands the definition of what relationships qualify as domestic. The bill went into effect July 1 of this year.

“The amended statute will expand protection under the statute to ‘a person with whom the offender is involved or has been involved in a dating relationship.’ The definition for a dating relationship is a “social relationship of a romantic nature,’” Brinck said. “Senate Bill 112 also added the crime of ‘Aggravated Domestic Battery’ to include ‘knowingly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood by strangulation or by blocking the nose, and mouth of a person, done in a rude, angry or insulting manner when the victim and offender is involved or has been involved in a dating relationship, or is a family or household member.’”

Skills like understanding legal matters and how to approach a domestic situation contribute to an officer’s ability to serve the community.

“All of this helps us better serve the public. We are tasked with responding to what happened and/or what is happening, and working with the parties involved. Our goal is safety and service,” Brinck said. 

Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at cderksen@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.