For the last month, some Philadelphia police officers have been documenting domestic abuse in a new and unusually detailed way, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. In a pilot program, officers have been using a specific domestic-violence form, developed with the help of advocacy groups and experts, that includes an extensive checklist of questions for the victims. Was there pushing and shoving? Punching? Biting? Hair-pulling? Were the children hurt? What about the pets? Was anything thrown or broken? Was the furniture overturned?
The old police form didn’t ask for specific documentation, and officers often wrote bare-bones narratives. “They would say things like, ‘Arrived on the scene. The guy was gone. The complainant stated that he beat her up,’ ” said Susan Sorenson of the University of Pennsylvania’s Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence. “It wouldn’t necessarily include all these contextual factors.” Deborah Harley, chief of the district attorney’s Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit said, “In cases where we have to go to court without the victim, that’s a tremendous help for us.” Police leaders and advocates hope the new form will not only help officers, but also draw out sometimes traumatized victims.