Good morning, everybody. Thanks for having us attend this particular committee.
Domestic violence is a major concern for the Edmonton Police Service and the community, affecting all aspects of society. Violence in the home is a leading cause of injury, and children who grow up witnessing this violence are often affected for life. The EPS is committed to providing the most appropriate and effective response to domestic violence.
Edmonton Police Service members are consistently reminded that some victims might require more information and assistance specific to their situation and that in some cases unique specialized support may exist.
The following are examples of concerns aboriginal victims might have and/or misunderstandings: resources may be limited; a support system may be in the specific community in which they live; the suspect could be an important member of the community; the suspect may have possession of the family home; suspicion about the justice system may discourage many aboriginal people from viewing it as a viable option; victims may be reluctant to send a suspect into a system that is viewed as racist; many victims in cases of domestic violence fear police will apprehend their children; and in some communities, culturally appropriate services may be limited or not exist at all.
Within the Edmonton Police Service, our policy defines domestic violence as any use of physical or sexual force, actual or threatened, in an intimate relationship. It may include a single act of violence or a number of acts forming a pattern of abuse through the use of assaultive and controlling behaviour. The pattern of abuse may include physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, and threats to harm children, other family members, pets, and property. The mandate of the Edmonton Police Service's domestic offender crimes section is to provide a timely response to the investigation of serious or complex cases of domestic violence and to provide victim-based intervention and advocacy services cooperatively with partnering agencies.
Understanding that intimate partner violence is one of the most common and potentially lethal problems dealt with by police, the domestic offender crimes section endeavours to apply risk and threat assessment strategies identifying important victim vulnerability factors in each case.
Some of the risk-enhancing factors, which we consider but do not limit ourselves to, include the following: a lengthy history, both with regard to the relationship as well as offender-specific; victims, including children, who are fearful; a significant or imminent risk of harm; issues that are culturally sensitive; a recent breakup, separation, or divorce; high-risk stalking behaviours; criminal harassment and/or breach of a court order; mental health concerns and/or a pattern of irrational or violent behaviour; recommendations from the Integrated Threat and Risk Assessment Centre, I-TRAC, respecting a safety plan or offender considerations or concerns; concerns from other sources, including community agencies that have intimate knowledge of the victims or the offenders; and concerns and recommendations from the crown.
Briefly, our investigative response starts with patrol divisions that are responsible for the initial response in all cases of domestic violence. If doing so is deemed necessary, a detective from the domestic offender crimes section can respond and assume the primary role of the investigation. Detectives from DOCS are available on a call-out basis for incidents that occur outside of their normal working hours, and the assigned on-call DOCS detective is available 24/7 for consultation on domestic violence issues or concerns. There are five detectives assigned to the domestic offender crimes section within the city of Edmonton.
With regard to advocacy and intervention initiatives, the Edmonton Police Service and the City of Edmonton community services department have established intervention details to provide services to individuals involved in domestic violence. The details comprise a divisional constable and a registered social worker. The details are responsible for the review and assessment of intimate partner domestic violence cases. Registered social workers assigned to the details may perform a risk assessment on selected cases. Intervention is tailored to meet the individual needs of the victim and/or offender of domestic violence. Intervention may include further investigative strategies addressing issues or concerns not highlighted in the original investigative report; developing a comprehensive safety plan with the victim and proactively working with other divisional members, victims services unit, and other community agencies in an effort to provide appropriate responses to cases of intimate partner domestic violence. There are five domestic violence intervention teams that work under the domestic offender crimes section.
Decisions to provide intervention may be based on but not limited to the following risk-enhancing factors: incidents involving repeat calls for service relating to couples in an intimate partner relationship; reports of domestic violence where no charges have been laid; and domestic violence cases where a common assault or assault causing bodily harm with or without a weapon charge has been laid; or in any of the above situations where children are present and exposed to domestic violence; cultural sensitivity issues, patterns of violence or abuse, including threats that appear to be escalating; financial strain; addictions and/or other stress factors; and the age of the victim or offender is under 21 years of age.
Public education is provided by the domestic violence intervention team members to a variety of professionals in agencies, services, and institutions. These include hospitals, post-secondary programs, schools, ethnic associations, churches, neighbourhood groups, business groups, and others.
The domestic violence docket court is a team that we also have within our section, and it is comprised of a constable and a City of Edmonton social worker. They attend domestic violence docket court daily in Edmonton. In consultation with the assigned crown prosecutors, the teams will review cases and perform the following duties: interview victims, the accused, family members, defence counsel, and other community agencies; assess concerns regarding family dynamics, release conditions, and counselling services, which may be required for the victim and/or accused; make appropriate risk-reducing recommendations regarding the victim, release conditions, and any other variances in previous court orders; follow up with other assisting agencies and coordinate plans for family reconciliation and safety.
Under our section we also have the elder abuse intervention team. That team is comprised of a constable from the Edmonton Police Service, a social worker from the City of Edmonton community services department, a Victorian Order of Nurses nurse, and Catholic Social Services. The team is responsible for assessing information from investigative reports about elderly adults aged 65 years of age and older to determine if they are in an abusive situation or care, and if required, provide intervention.