Frost Illustrated Staff Report
FORT WAYNE—Former Fort Wayne Police Department Deputy Chief Dorotha “Dottie” Davis is a nationally recognized expert on domestic violence with regard to law enforcement. Davis, who now heads up security for Fort Wayne Community Schools after retiring from the police department, has been teaching law enforcement professionals, prosecutors and judges on the proper response to domestic violence since 1992. She also has testified around the country about domestic violence in various arenas.
While Davis said she wasn’t able to provide an in-depth perspective on a recently released story noting that black women are victims of homicides at three times the rate of their white counterparts (click here to read the full story) because of the way Indiana doesn’t publish domestic violence statistics based on race, she offered telling observations about the issue in general.
First, she noted that the overwhelming majority of women—and men—killed in domestic incidents in Indiana are killed in shootings.
“Firearms is the number one cause of domestic homicides for men and women,” said Davis, speaking about Indiana.
The numbers, however, don’t tell the true story, she explained. While the statistics seem to say that men fall victim to such shootings in equal numbers as women in Indiana, Davis said that men are still overwhelming the perpetrators of such crimes. In most cases where a man is killed in a domestic violence incident, the man has killed the woman and then committed suicide—or the woman has moved on to a new relationship and has a new boyfriend or husband and the old partner kills her new mate, kills her and then himself. Davis said those are a couple of ways in which the numbers erroneously might lead some to believe that women commit domestic violence acts with the same frequency as men.
Although domestic violence—and violence in general—is a major problem in the community, Davis said Fort Wayne is ahead of the curve with efforts to reduce the problem. She said the city is one of only on of 17 that adapted a “lethality assessment program” in 2009. Davis explained that the program allows police officers to ask questions to see if victim is at high risk for homicides. Also, Indiana has a law on the books that allows an arrest to be made even if a suspected victim has no visible injuries but complains about pain.
“We have great resources here in the community and I truly believe that those serial batterers—someone who doesn’t care about what law enforcement—are going to know what law enforcement is going to do,” Davis.
She explained that those perpetrators often have figured out ways to attack their victims and not leave marks.
“That’s why the law was written back in 1985 to include the complaint of pain,” explained Davis.
Given such laws and increased awareness of what to look for in domestic abuse cases, she said numbers of incidences have been decreasing locally since the 1990s. And, contrary to perceptions, domestic abuse calls do not constitute the majority of police runs in the area.
Davis said the Fort Wayne Police Department averages about 200,000 calls for services a year.
“The fact is we average about 12,000 calls for domestic violence a year, even if it’s just arguing,” said Davis.
When there are real problems—problems of violence that could lead to tragic results, the department responds quickly to prevent the situation from escalating.
“I believe wholeheartedly that Allen County is doing a good job of effecting arrest when probable cause is evident and is doing its best to hold batterers accountable,” she said.
Next week: Preventative measures to curb domestic violence.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 9 print edition.