In a move that might discourage women from reporting domestic abuse, the NYPD has issued a new directive to its officers that they run a criminal check on both the accused and the accuser when responded to an abuse call. The New York Post is reporting that a new memo sent out by the Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski "requires detectives to look at open warrants, complaint histories and even the driving records of both parties."
Advocates of abused women are worried that this new directive will dissuade women form reporting abuse, frightened of possibly being arrested for offenses like an outstanding traffic violation. Marilyn Chinitz, a lawyer who represents victims of domestic abuse told The Post that the directive "is very, very frightening." She continued, "It would absolutely dissuade people. They would not report a crime because they would fear getting locked up. It would empower the perpetrator, and there's going to be more domestic violence as a consequence, and you're endangering children."
Police officers speaking anonymously to The Post that they would feel pressure to arrest abuse victims, fearful of their superior officers finding out that they had not arrested someone who had an outstanding warrant or violation. "There's a lack of common sense in this department right now," a officer told The Post.
Reacting to The Post's story, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne released this statement about the story: "While it is standard practice and policy for detectives to investigate victims' backgrounds to help lead them to the victims' assailants, the NYPD - contrary to a published report - has no "must arrest" policy that applies to domestic violence victims. In fact, the discovery of open warrants on domestic violence victims often results in their warrants being vacated."
"Must arrest" or not, by looking into records of abuse victims, the NYPD risks further discouraging reports of abuse at a time when an astonishingly few cases of domestic violence are being reported.