Story by: Brie Isom

The St. Joseph County Police Department will soon have a special team dedicated to handling domestic violence cases, thanks to a large grant.

The executive director of the Family Justice Center says domestic violence is a public health crisis right here in our community. Sheriff Bill Redman says domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous calls for police officers.

“I assisted with the funeral preparation of the Indianapolis Metropolitan officer Breann Leath who was killed responding to a domestic violence call,” said Redman.

Now, the St. Joseph County Police Department will have a Domestic Violence Incident Response and Support Team that’ll be funded by a $407,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

They are one of 22 sites in the country to get this award, and the only one in Indiana.

“We will be able to assist victims quicker,” explained Redman.

The new team will consist of a police officer and a social worker. They will go to the scene of domestic violence calls and when its deemed safe, immediately start assisting the victim.

“Traditionally, victims are referred to social services within a couple days of the incident, maybe we get a referral from a detective as they’re investigating,” said Dana Baxter.

Baxter, with the Family Justice Center, says the team will immediately link victims with mental health resources, give them shelter, food, get their locks changed, or transport them to a hospital.

“The sooner you engage victims in domestic violence services, the better the outcome is going to be and the more likely they are to stay with prosecution and get support they need to leave the relationship.”

Baxter also says officers and social workers will be trained in trauma-informed approaches.

‘Understanding the person you’re talking with has experienced trauma and they may show signs or symptoms of behaviors that come from that trauma.”

Officers will also be trained in knowing how to properly handle domestic violence situations.

“Domestic violence is not a family issue, domestic violence is not a secret, it’s not something to be swept under the rug,” said Amy Stewart Brown.

Baxter says it takes an average of seven domestic violence incidents to happen for a victim to leave the abuser, so she says interacting right away with the victim and giving them support they need is important.

This team will start working together in January.

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