By: Bethann Coldiron
BURLESON, TX – The Burleson City Council announced a new method of combating domestic violence at their meeting on Jan. 22.
The new ordinance will set in motion a protocol for law enforcement and first responders to adhere to in cases of strangulation.
Police Chief Billy Cordell said that while police officers are trained to look for injuries, in cases of strangulation, injuries may not be apparent and can lead to long-term injuries.
“If the victim is choked so hard they lose consciousness, there can be brain damage,” Cordell said. “There can also be broken bones in the neck. This protocol heightens the awareness of the need to call medical services, because police aren’t always prepared to make those kinds of decisions.”
Cordell also pointed out that this new ordinance calls attention to the fact that many more serious offenses are being prosecuted as a lesser offense when it should have been prosecuted as a felony offense.
“This will also bring up the number of professional witnesses, such as medical professionals, that can attest to what went on,” Cordell said.
Mayor Ken Shetter first got the idea for the ordinance after attending a conference this past April for family justice centers. Shetter said at the conference, he was especially interested in a workshop on strangulation.
“There was a discussion about effective protocols in place in different jurisdictions,” Shetter said. “I got to thinking about it and wanted to make it an ordinance, because an ordinance carries greater effect and permanence.”
When Shetter returned home, he started talking to other city leaders and formulating a plan into action.
The ordinance took about six to eight months to put into affect, according to Cordell.
Now, the city can call itself the first in the nation to approve such an ordinance.
“It feels great,” Shetter said. “I’m really proud of the work of our fire chief and police chief that they were willing to do this and that they saw the life-saving potential.”
Moreover, Shetter said that the ordinance has a large impact on the community.
“There are more people in our community that are victims of strangulation than most people would ever dream of,” he said.
Jerri Vaughn, director of the Family Crisis Center in Joshua, said that the new ordinance could actually help save lives.
“We get a lot of women who come here who are victims of strangulation, way more than you would think,” Vaughn said. “Strangulation is very high on the scale of family violence. Anytime that you can prevent that because people don’t necessarily want to admit it or realize how deadly it can be, or they minimize it.”
According to Vaughn, a victim of strangulation can die hours after the attack.
“You think you’re fine, and the police leave,” Vaughn said. “You can actually die from this later on. I think it’s fabulous that they are going to be looking for signs instead of just asking.”
Article Source: City Combats Domestic Violence with New Strangulation Ordinance
By: Bethann Coldiron