By Ginnie Graham Editorial Writer
In August last year, Chadwick Andre Young was arrested by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 44 in Tulsa on a drunken driving complaint.
What the officer didn’t know was that Young’s name was in the Tulsa Police Department’s Domestic Caution Indicators database. This is a protocol developed by Tulsa Police Lt. Clay Asbill.
But it’s a TPD internal protocol that other law enforcement agencies can’t check.
Hours before that traffic stop, Tulsa Police responded to a domestic violence assault on a woman and child in east Tulsa. Young was the suspect but had fled the area.
Officers have up to 72 hours to make an arrest on probable cause on a misdemeanor domestic violence assault and battery without a warrant.
After that, a warrant could take up to a month to obtain. That is enough time for a victim’s mind to change.
“The longer it goes, the worse the odds become of making the case,” Asbill said.
The Domestic Caution Indicators was created to let officers on the entire force quickly know of suspects wanted on such domestic violence allegations.
“It’s always been my theory we run into same people on all sides of town,” Asbill said. “You would think these guys would lay low, but that is not necessarily the case. They will keep going, doing their thing. So the same guy we’ve been looking for may get a ticket 24 hours later, get in a wreck, be stopped for public drunk or get pulled over. That officer may have no idea he is suspected in a domestic violence assault.
“I knew we had to get the right hand to know what the left hand is doing.”
When an officer makes a stop, a person’s identification is checked against existing law enforcement records for any outstanding warrants or other legal issues. The Domestic Caution Indicators has been added to the TPD system.
If a person is within the 72-hour window of arrest, a number pops up with information such as a report number and responding officer.
Since its implementation in June, nearly 300 names of suspects have been entered and nearly 50 of those — almost 17% — have been arrested.
Young is among those arrested without a warrant. His case is pending. Sharing technology would have connected the dots quicker.
The OHP officer booked the 33-year-old into the Tulsa County jail on a drunken driving complaint. As part of a routine, the TPD officer who took the earlier domestic violence report checked the jail bookings at the end of his shift.
“The officer did good police work and found that the suspect was in jail,” Asbill said. “He then went to the jail and added the complaints. If he hadn’t been paying attention, we might have needed a warrant later, if one was sought at all.
“This is why it needs to be a statewide system. It’s a prime example of how we need to get all law enforcement on the same page.”
Getting a statewide system is going to be a years-long project. Each agency has different computer systems and some policies may have to be updated.
Asbill is working with lawmakers and agency heads to move Oklahoma toward a seamless system.
“What we are doing with the Domestic Caution Indicators is closing a gap,” Asbill said.
This is not the first time Tulsa Police have pioneered a domestic violence program to curb the problem.
About six years ago, Kathy Bell, TPD forensic nursing administrator, started seeing a trend of strangulation reports on victim intake forms at the Family Safety Center. Asbill noticed it almost immediately when joining the TPD family violence unit in 2017.
In 2011, Hope Alliance created the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention.
Strangulation differs from other forms of domestic violence. Perpetrators are more likely to escalate in violence against their partner and others.
Survivors become 750% more likely to die from a domestic violence homicide and suffer long-term physical ailments.
Bell said having oxygen blocked from the brain even for a few seconds can cause memory loss and other brain disorders. If an artery is damaged, it can lead to later strokes. Psychological effects can include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“We know the effects on strangulation can be long term,” Bell said. “We have been told it is one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person, but we rarely see visible injuries. That does not mean there aren’t long-lasting effects.”
Asbill said the number of domestic strangulation calls in Tulsa is stunning, an average of two a day. He also found strangulation was often misreported as assault and battery.
Adding to his concern was Tulsa County’s domestic violence homicides were higher than in Oklahoma County from 2014 to 2016 despite having about 100,000 fewer residents. Defendants of domestic homicide usually had a history of strangulation.
Working with Bell, the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office, DVIS and the Family Safety Center, Asbill developed police protocol for responding to domestic strangulation calls.
Asbill said officers went through training to understand how to treat strangulation cases differently. That includes leaving resource materials with victims, arresting on a strangulation complaint and sending information to the family violence unit so an advocate can follow up.
Strangulation reports went from 234 in 2016 to 701 last year — a 200% increase.
Starting from 2017, arrests on strangulation went up 113% (147 to 311) and the number charged increased 73% (230 to 398).
“Reporting of strangulation almost doubled, but we believe strangulation is being reported correctly now,” Asbill said. “I think we are on to something with this. I think we have a problem.”
A strangulation awareness video and information materials were placed on the Tulsa police website and distributed on social media.
Since 2017, strangulation forensic exams increased by 110% (269 to 566). Advocates see progress in that increase. Victims are paying attention to the information and are seeking help.
“We want victims to feel they are armed with the information they need to be healthy and safe,” Bell said. “They are always welcomed back. We are not going to make judgments on the decisions they make. We are going to give them choices and information. …
“This is opening up a public discussion to show the volume of domestic violence we are experiencing. I think we are at the tip of the iceberg of what we are seeing now.”
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