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Of all the agencies of the state, the New Zealand Police is the one with the most direct responsibility for protecting citizens from assault. Police officers play a crucial role in the enforcement of protection orders and are at the “front-end” of the criminal justice response to violence against women, including the enforcement of protection orders. We begin this chapter by briefly discussing the evolution of the police Family Violence Policy. We then draw on the experiences of the women featured in our case studies to reflect on various aspects of that policy, describing aspects which seem to be working well, highlighting problems women encountered in relation to the police and making recommendations about the implementation, and, in some cases, the revision, of the police Family Violence Policy.

The Police Family Violence Policy

Police policy in relation to domestic violence evolved quite quickly during the closing years of the twentieth century. As in most Western jurisdictions, the police response to domestic assaults for much of last century could be described as reluctant involvement,508 as police typically saw domestic assaults as private conflicts, not readily amenable to police intervention.509 During 1985 and 1986, Sergeant Greg Ford evaluated a pilot pro-arrest policy in Hamilton which was subsequently adopted nationally in 1987.510 The key features of the policy were that offenders

“should” be arrested where there was evidence of an offence having been committed without asking victims to make a formal complaint and that victims should be routinely referred to support agencies.

As noted in Chapter 1, our previous study of women’s experiences of protection orders revealed major problems in the police response to domestic violence in general and to breaches of protection orders in particular.511 That study was conducted when the 1987 pro-arrest policy was approximately three years old. Since then, the Domestic Violence Act 1995 has introduced a single protection order to replace the non-violence and non-molestation orders and a Family Violence Database has been established by the police to improve the storage and retrieval of information relating to domestic violence incidents. In addition, the police Family Violence Policy has been revised three times, in 1992, 1993 and 1996.

The current (1996) policy is an extensive 87-paragraph document.512 It includes a clear statement that “the protection of the victim is paramount” (paragraph 3) and sets out three core principles on which policy and practice are to be based, namely:

Protection of victims (which includes children who witness family violence);

Holding assailants accountable; and

Consistent practices across agencies and groups.513.

The current policy is much more comprehensive than its 1987 precursor, providing detailed guidelines in a number of areas which we review below. Our current study suggests a number of

508 Ford, G. W. (1986). Research project on domestic disputes: Final report. Wellington: Police Psychological Services, New Zealand Police.

509 Fagan, J. (1996). The criminalisation of domestic violence: Promises and limits. Washington: National Institute of Justice.

510 Police Commissioner. (1987). Domestic dispute policy changes. Commissioner’s Circular, 1987/11.

511 Busch, R., Robertson, N. R., & Lapsley, H. (1992). Protection from family violence: A study of protection orders under the Domestic Protection Act 1982. Wellington: Victims Task Force.

512 Police Commissioner. (1996). 1996/2: Family Violence Policy. Wellington: Office of the Commissioner of Police.

513 Ibid, at paragraph 4.

areas in which police practice has improved (also discussed below), but, when considered against the three principles of protection, accountability and consistency, our general conclusion is that many of the problems we identified in 1992 remain. That is, the overwhelming picture which emerges from the case studies presented in Volume 1 is that women felt that the police had failed to protect them and had failed to hold perpetrators accountable for their violence. Overall, the police response was characterised by its inconsistency. Certainly, some of the women we interviewed told us about incidents in which they were pleased with the police response, but each of these women had, on other occasions, experienced quite unsatisfactory service from the police.

In addition, it should be noted that for most of the women, there were numerous occasions on which they were assaulted and/or had their protection order breached but, for various reasons, they did not call the police. In fact, over a quarter (12 of the 43) had no contact with the police at all despite the assaults and/or breaches they experienced. Given the central role of the police in protecting citizens, it is significant how reluctant the women in our case studies were to seek police assistance. We therefore begin our discussion of the case studies by examining the barriers to accessing police services.

Barriers to Calling the Police

As the case studies show, there are multiple barriers to accessing police services. For some of the women, these barriers were the same as the factors which served to keep them in the abusive relationship. That is, a decision to call the police was tantamount to a decision to leave the relationship. For example, on one occasion when Alistair was assaulting Marjorie, her son yelled at her to call the police but she didn’t because she “couldn’t see anything happening.” She couldn’t see where she would live, how she could support herself financially, or how she could look after her disabled son. If calling the police is seen as a declaration of leaving the relationship, then the prospect of poverty, homelessness, worse violence or death, community condemnation, losing the care of one’s children and, possibly, the ability to protect the children from further violence become almost insurmountable barriers to accessing police services.

Our case studies reveal various other barriers to accessing police services – and particular patterns across the four streams. Most notable here is that while all the Māori women (8) and most of the Pākehā women (12 out of 13) contacted the police at least once, fewer of the Pasifika women did so (6 out of 9) and only half of the other ethnic minority women (7 out of 14).514 Unsurprisingly, non-residence status was an important barrier here. For example, when Amy arrived at work with bruises and scratches on her body, her workmates asked if she had been beaten by her husband and offered to call the police. But Amy pretended that she had fallen because she was concerned that if the police got involved, Peter might not sponsor her application for residence and she would have to leave the country – and lose all contact with her daughter. Eve’s partner, Richard, repeatedly threatened to “take away” her residence. Similarly, Laura was initially reluctant to call the police because her abuser was the principal applicant for residence.

Language was a barrier for some of the other ethnic women. Calling the police was never an option for Amira. Sripai and Pinky had difficulty communicating with the police: so too did Alice. In the view of her interpreter, Alice’s limited ability to make herself understood in English resulted in one police officer considering her “mad”. As the interpreter pointed out, Alice’s

514 For a discussion of some of the issues relating to policing domestic violence within immigrant communities, see Shim, W. S., & Hwang, M. J. (2005). Implications of an arrest in domestic violence cases: Learning from Korean social workers’ experiences in the US. Journal of Family Violence, 20(5), 313-328.

English deteriorated when she was upset or anxious, both very understandable feelings when dealing with police officers in the context of domestic violence.

For many of the women in our case studies, involving the police was simply too dangerous. For example, Eve was given a very specific threat not to call the police. In Sripai’s case, her partner’s father made a similar threat. Tiare was punished by Fetu for calling the police while Lyla was

“afraid that … [Steve] would catch me with the phone.” Patti’s partner made sure she did not have access to either a landline or a cell phone. He also controlled her access to the car. On several occasions, Jess was unable to call the police because her partner got to the phone first or cut the call off before she got through. Once when Sripai did go to call the police, her partner grabbed the phone and smashed it. Similarly, when Mele tried to phone the police to protect her mother, Masi had already cut the phone cable. Considering the leverage Trudy’s partner and his criminal associates were able to exert, calling the police was never an option for her, at least while she was living in Australia.

Concerns about children sometimes acted as a barrier to calling the police. Lin-Bao told us that she didn’t want to call the police because it would upset her children. For Nusrat, Titiana and Elizabeth, fear of losing their children was a major disincentive to calling the police.

Lyla faced a different sort of barrier. Because she had a criminal record from her younger days, she was not sure that she could trust the police. One of the barriers Te Rina faced was living in the local equivalent of “the Bronx”, an area which Te Rina told us was reputedly a low priority for the police.

None of these barriers is new and some of them have been mentioned in very recent local research.515 Some are beyond the scope of the police to address by themselves (although we do later make recommendations which might make it easier for women from cultural and linguistic minority groups to access effective police services). However, our analysis does serve to underline the importance of women’s experiences of the police in shaping their willingness to report future violence. That is, because it is so difficult for most women to call the police in the first place, an inadequate police response may totally discourage women from making further calls. This was exactly what happened to Maria. When she called the police, the attending officers were so taken by Eru’s good reputation that they did not arrest him. She did not call the police again. Similarly, Mele’s mother lost faith in the police and gave up calling them – as did Alofa. Roimata called the police only sometimes after she formed the impression that “they can’t be bothered.” And Rowena told us that she felt that she could not trust the police again after they failed to take action against Paul. Such experiences illustrate the importance of the police not only “getting it right” but getting it right consistently.

Police Understanding of Family Violence

To some extent, the sort of problems discussed above reflect a poor understanding of family violence. The police policy adopts a definition of family violence which is largely congruent with sections 3 and 4 of the Domestic Violence Act 1995.

The term “family violence” includes violence which is physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse, and includes intimidation or threats of violence. The term “family” includes such people as parents, children, extended family members and whanau, or any other people involved in relationships. Examples of such relationships include partners, caregivers, boarders, flatmates, and people in same-sex relationships, but does not include neighbours. This definition has the same meaning

515 Hand, J., Elizabeth, V., Rauwhero, H., Selby, S., Burton, M., Falanitule, L., & Martin, B. (2002). Free from abuse:

What women say and what can be done. Auckland: Auckland Healthcare Services.

as sections 3 and 4 of the Domestic Violence Act 1995 relating to the meaning of

“domestic violence” and “domestic relationships”.516

Potentially, paragraph 2 of the policy serves a useful purpose in reminding officers that violence should not be read narrowly as being limited to physical violence but that emotional, psychological and sexual abuse are to be included, along with threats and intimidation. Each of these behaviours is expressly forbidden under section 19 of the Domestic Violence Act 1995, and would, therefore, constitute a breach of a protection order. In the absence of a protection order, the threshold is a little higher. The Crimes Act 1961 does not specifically prohibit emotional or psychological abuse per se, but, depending on the nature of the behaviour and context, such abuse could be subject to criminal charges such as those available under sections 306 to 308 of the Crimes Act (threats to kill, threats to do grievous bodily harm, threats to destroy property, damaging property to intimidate).

However, the overwhelming impression from our case studies is that police consistently read family violence in a very narrow way. In particular, they often minimise psychological violence.

This is most obvious in the non-enforcement of breaches involving telephone calls and text messages, which continue to be trivialised as “technical” breaches,517 despite the fact that to the protected person, such calls and messages are often part of an orchestrated campaign of psychological violence and intimidation.

For example, Hilda found it very difficult to report a breach of her order when John rang her cell phone to accuse her of stalking him after a chance encounter in the street. He had obviously obtained her new number. Hilda, who was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, was devastated, given all that she had gone through. However, to the police officer who rang her late that night, it was “in the greater scheme of things … only a phone call” and took action only after Hilda insisted. Similarly, Jess was told “This isn’t really serious” when she first reported Bruce’s emails which she had found “disturbing, semi-threatening at times, and … quite destabilising to read.”

In Louise’s case, there was no follow-up to the series of text messages sent from Phillip’s cell phone, just days after he had been released from custody while on remand for several charges of assaults on her. Texts which said that Louise could relocate with the children only “over his dead body” and warning her that the children would find out that their mother had sent their father to jail were described in a POL400 as involving no direct threats – despite the fact that he had been assessed a short time earlier by the Risk and Lethality Assessment Worksheet as being a “high risk”.

In our case studies there are other examples of an overly narrow view of domestic violence being taken by the police, a view in conflict with the stated policy. For example, one of the main ways Pita maintained his power and control over Alofa was by dramatic displays of destroying property. Alofa became frustrated with the police because her husband could continue to destroy her property and face no consequences. The police told Alofa that since Pita was not physically harming her, there was nothing that they could do to help her. Similarly, the police showed little

516 Police Commissioner. (1996). 1996/2: Family Violence Policy. Wellington: Office of the Commissioner of Police, at paragraph 2.

517 As we explained in Jess’s case study, key informants (particularly, but not exclusively, police officers) often made a distinction between “real” breaches and “technical” breaches. “Real” breaches are those involving physical violence.

“Technical” breaches are those which involve contact but no violence and attract minimal sentences, or more commonly, are not prosecuted in the first place. Such a distinction makes sense only if one has no understanding of the tactics of power and control respondents employ and are completely blind to the impact of psychological violence, including the terrorising effect of such unwanted and unlawful contact. Crucially, there is no basis in law for such a distinction.

understanding of Lee-Mei’s predicament in being locked out of the house she had shared with her partner.

The police officer who responded to the one call Maria made to the police showed little understanding of domestic violence when he was so persuaded by Eru’s public reputation as a mild-mannered, gentle man that he blamed her for what had happened. The response Marjorie got from the police officer to whom she spoke was only marginally better. The officer, who was on the same trust board as Alistair, suggested that perhaps Alistair needed counselling. The officer showed no interest in dealing with the violence as a crime.

Similarly, the police officers to whom Alice reported, first, two dead rabbits lying outside her shop, and second, a bullet hole in the door to her lawyer’s office, seemed to place little importance on the fear these events engendered in Alice. Moreover, as some of the case studies show, when a lack of understanding of domestic violence is combined with gaps in cultural understanding, quite unsatisfactory service may result.

The case studies do provide contrasting examples of police showing a good understanding of psychological violence. For example, Elizabeth reported to the police that Stephen had breached his protection order by phoning her. In the course of the conversation, he had also threatened to kill her parents. Police recognised this as not only a threat against her parents but also as an act of psychological violence against Elizabeth herself. Stephen was subsequently convicted of breaching the protection order by an act of psychological violence.

Police eventually took similar action against Bruce in respect of Jess’s protection order when it was discovered that he had been monitoring her email. Although this prosecution was unsuccessful, the police did show a good understanding of psychological violence. Similarly, after being arrested for an assault on Hilda, John sent her a bunch of flowers with a note asking her to marry him. Police had no trouble recognising this as an act of psychological violence and arrested him for breaching the conditions of his bail. Similarly, Claire’s ex-partner was charged with breaching his protection order by leaving roses on the windscreen of her car.

While a lack of appreciation of the significance of psychological violence was the most obvious gap in police officers’ understanding of family violence, the case studies suggest a number of other problems in police knowledge. Some of these related to the Domestic Violence Act 1995.

For example, police reportedly told Lyla that to revive the non-contact conditions of her protection order she needed to give Steve written notice that she did not want him to contact her. There is no such requirement in the law. Neither did there seem to be any possible ambiguity about her withdrawing her consent to having Steve “living in the same dwellinghouse”:518 she had, after all, just driven him to a hotel with his belongings.

Such inconsistencies in the way police officers understand family violence suggest inadequate training. Some members of the police to whom we spoke were critical of the limited amount of time spent on family violence in the basic training of police recruits, currently six hours of the 19-week programme. It was noted that family violence does feature in in-service training from time to time but this too was considered inadequate. Family violence constitutes a very significant part of police work. In 2006, police attended 69,220 incidents of family violence.519 Violence and sexual attacks make up 10% to 12% of all recorded crime with one-third of recorded violence

518 Domestic Violence Act 1995, s. 20(3). Under the provisions of s. 20(2), the non-contact condition of a protection order is automatically suspended for any period during which the respondent, with the express consent of the protected person, is living in the same dwelling. Under s. 20(3), the non-contact condition is revived if that consent is withdrawn.

519 Commissioner of Police. (2006). New Zealand Police annual report for the year ended 30 June 2006. Retrieved 19 January 2007 from http://www.police.govt.nz/resources/2006/ annual-report.

family related.520 The amount of training in the area of family violence needs to be significantly increased so that is more commensurate with the proportion of police work which is family violence–related.

It is important that training in family violence work pays close attention to the dynamics of family violence. In particular, this needs to include the role of psychological violence, including the use of threats and destruction of property. Unless police officers have a good understanding of the tactics of coercive control, they are at risk of blaming victims and/or putting them into dangerous situations.

Moreover, given the increasing cultural diversity of New Zealand, training needs to include the consideration of domestic violence in diverse cultural contexts. For many of the women in our case studies, specific cultural values and/or the marginalised status of their ethnic or cultural communities provided additional barriers to their safety and autonomy. Effective policing requires a good understanding of relevant cultural factors, a theme we return to later in this chapter. We recommend:

THAT the New Zealand Police substantially increases the amount of pre-service and in-service training in domestic violence, and ensures that such training pays particular attention to helping police officers understand the dynamics of family violence in diverse cultural contexts. (#35)

An Interagency Approach and Providing Support to Victims According to the police Family Violence Policy:

Successful models for responding to family violence suggest the implementation of a coordinated and interagency approach within a framework of locally developed protocols. The principles of “consistent messages” and “no gaps in services” should underpin local responses. Protocols must include reference for appropriate support and protection for victims, suitable programmes to rehabilitate offenders, and procedures for local monitoring and evaluation of services. “Fast-track” options for court hearings are an option.521

This general statement is followed up with more specific guidelines, requiring, for example, district commanders to establish protocols for referring victims of family violence to appropriate agencies so that they may received “appropriate and timely support and information about services and remedies” (paragraph 27). Women’s Refuge is identified as “the primary agency delivering support for victims of family violence” (paragraph 31). In short, the policy sets out the broad framework of the sort of interagency approach recognised worldwide as best practice and is fundamental to Te Rito, the New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy.522

520 Ibid.

521 Police Commissioner. (1996). 1996/2: Family Violence Policy. Wellington: Office of the Commissioner of Police, at paragraph 5.

522 Ministry of Social Development. (2002). Te Rito: New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy. Wellington:

Ministry of Social Development. The Duluth Abuse Intervention Project was, and perhaps remains, the most influential exemplar of the interagency approach. (See Pence, E. (1989). The justice system’s response to domestic assault cases: A guide for policy development (Rev. ed.). Duluth, MN: Minnesota Program Development, Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.) Locally, the value of the model has been demonstrated in the Hamilton Abuse Intervention Project. (See Robertson, N. R. (1999). Reforming institutional responses to violence against women. PhD thesis, University of Waikato. Retrieved 11 June 2006 from http://www.nzfvc.org.nz/PublicationDetails.aspx?publication=12704.) Subsequently, the inquiry into the deaths of Saliel and Olympia Aplin argued powerfully for the need for interagency collaboration to reduce child abuse (see Grant, T. (2003). Report on the investigation into the deaths of Saliel Jalessa Aplin and Olympia Marisa Aplin. Wellington: Office of the Commissioner for Children) as did an earlier report into the death of James Whakaruru (see Office of the Commissioner for Children. (2000). Final report on the investigation into the death of Riri-o-te-Rangi (James) Whakaruru, born 13 June 1994, died 04 April 1999. Wellington: Office of the Commissioner for