How should police officers conduct when they are responding to a reported case of domestic violence, was the central topic of the training that took place from 29 to 31 August 2016 at the Training Center Idrizovo, in frames of the EU funded project for “Further Institution and Capacity Building of the Police Service”.
Police officers are the first representatives of the law enforcement system encountered by domestic violence victims. The way in which officers respond to a victim can have a significant impact on whether s/he pursues legal remedies for the violence suffered or not.
“With the training we have conducted we had a goal to engage police officers in practical exercises based on different scenarios of domestic violence. The exercises were focused on improvement of their communication and interviewing skills, as well as techniques that would allow them to calm the situation without using physical force. The use of physical force by the police officer is acceptable as a last resort in his efforts to stop the violence and protect himself or the victim,” said Ms. Barbara Lapajne Predin, Slovenian expert with extensive experience in training that results in lasting skill and knowledge uptake, and behavior change.
An important element incorporated in the training focused on police officers’ abilities to empower the victim, so that s/he would proceed with reporting the offender and not withdrawing later on.
“The participants in a conflict feel weak and powerless and express emotions of sadness, anger, shame, fear, distress… Through empowerment we soothe these feelings and enable proper communication. Equally important is for the police officer to be able to make the offender understand their victim's position and respect policemen's instructions,” said trainer Ms. Ana Gracan.
She also noted that it is important police officers to realize that an empathic approach to interviewing helps gather more information for a realistic picture of situations. It also establishes a secure environment and confidence. “Using empathy does not mean you agree with the offender, it means you understand his point of view”, Ms. Gracan added.
Considering the complexity and sensitivity of the issue and the need for police officers to continually upgrade their skills, the three international experts engaged by the project, Ms. Barbara Predin, Ms. Ana Gracan and Ms. Tatjana Shikoska have developed a “Guide for Police Officers to Enhance Interviewing and Evidence Collection Skills in Cases of Domestic Violence”.
This Guide is designed to assist and facilitate the work of the police officers in the prevention of, and response to domestic violence cases. It outlines a step-by-step approach to handling a reported case of domestic violence. It also provides concise summary of standards and requirements emanating from the relevant legal framework of the country and a detailed advice on conducting interviews with the victim, the offender, children and witnesses, as well as guidelines for documenting the case.
The Guide was piloted with the training group of 32 police officers from all around the country that work directly in the area of domestic violence. It will be presented on a public discussion that will take place in Bitola on 1 September 2016 where a larger number of police officers together with representatives of other relevant institutions and civil society are foreseen to participate.