Metro officers to undergo new domestic violence training - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Metro officers to undergo new domestic violence training

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

The continued increase of domestic violence in Chatham County is prompting police to make a change.

Savannah-Chatham Metro police will soon begin special training for officers to better handle domestic violence calls.

Often times, victims of domestic violence will come to the Chatham County Courthouse to get a protective order without any guidance or help. The goal of this training is for officers to better connect victims with the right resources, and that's needed now more than ever.

"I'm going into my 20th year with SAFE Shelter and I've never seen anything like 2015. I hope we don't have a repeat this year,” said Safe Shelter Inc. Executive Director Cheryl Branch.

There were 15 domestic-related homicides in Chatham County last year. That's three times more than the average. Five of those deaths were children.

"One is too many. Fifteen is way too many, and we shouldn't as a community stand for it,” said Cpt. Robert Gavin, SCMPD.

That's why SCMPD is now devoting about 5 days’ worth of training - for new and current officers - on domestic violence cases. The goal is to build consistency and for officers to connect victims directly with resources like SAFE Shelter.

"Rather than handing them a pamphlet and telling them who to call, this actually makes them talk to another human being and it rises the amount of people that use services by making that connection for them,” said Cpt. Gavin.

"Basically, the officer will ask the victim a set of questions, and based on her answers, can say, 'From what you've told me, you are at a greater risk of being killed - by his prior actions, by what happened tonight - let me call SAFE Shelter for you right now.' And if the victim agrees, services are initiated on the spot,” said Branch.

That set of questions is called a "lethality assessment" and they hope it will help drive more victims to get the help they need.

"Nationally, only six percent of domestic violence victims go in for services. With the lethality assessment, we're hoping to drive that number way up,” said Cpt. Gavin.

SAFE Shelter recently received grant money to hire a new advocate that will help their clients navigate the legal process of being a domestic violence victim.

According to the chief judge, that advocate will be based out of the courthouse. Something that has never been available here before.

Police say domestic violence is a community problem. It's not just something officers or a group like SAFE Shelter can solve alone.

The first way you can be part of a solution is to understand the signs of domestic violence. Here are a few warning signs and red flags:

  • If your partner controls who you see, where you go, or what you do.
  • Embarrasses or shames you with put-downs.
  • Prevents you from working or attending school.

These are just a few examples of many. 

If you have questions, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1.800.799.7233 or click here for more information. 

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence in the Savannah area, please contact SAFE Shelter at 912.629.8888 or email Executive Director Branch at director@safeshelter.org.

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