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Law Enforcement Could Better Document Domestic Violence Cases with New Equipment

May 9, 2018

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Courtesy of the District Attorney’s Office

High-quality images can serve as helpful evidence in court, however, first responders and police officers often do not have access to quality cameras for proper documentation of injuries caused by domestic violence incidents.

In an effort to improve that documentation, the District Attorney’s Office is purchasing 35 cameras for law enforcement agencies in the county through a $30,000 grant.

According to the San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan, pictures are not only worth a thousand words, they also serve as key pieces of evidence — especially in domestic violence cases — to hold the abuser accountable.

“Unfortunately, a large percentage of victims of domestic violence recant their original statements to police, because of fear, shame, embarrassment or other reasons stemming from power and control asserted by their abuser within the relationship,” Stephan said on Tuesday, May 7, according to a press release.

Stephan said the cameras will help preserve and document evidence to move forward with prosecutions. This also includes preserving and documenting cases of non-fatal strangulation, which is predictive of homicide, she said.

Over the last five years, the number of domestic violence cases submitted to the District Attorney’s Office have increased by 20 percent, according to the DA’s Office.

The DA’s Family Protection Division currently has 11 of 21 pending murder cases that involve the murder of an intimate partner, according to the release.

The awareness for the need to better document domestic violence cases comes from meetings with stakeholders and experts revealing that the lack of “good photographs” is a gap in law enforcement response to those cases.

Along with the new equipment, officers will also receive training on proper use of the cameras and what injuries to document.

According to Escondido Police Chief and President of the San Diego County Police Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association Craig Carter, there is a gap between the images documented and what the officer was seeing in person.

“Our medical professionals tell us that a good camera, along with someone who is trained in using it could best solve that problem,” Carter said in the release. “These cameras will be one more tool for our first responders to better document the evidence they are seeing in the field.”

Law enforcement agencies in the County will receive the camera packages, which were purchased through the California Office of Emergency Services Victim Services grant, in June. They will also receive a forensic photography training video.

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