Change-up at the police department |

Change-up at the police department

by Gregory Crofton

A switch is in the works in the way South Lake Tahoe Police Department handles domestic violence, a common crime in the city.

Starting in November, two detectives will work follow-up investigations in cases of domestic violence. In the past, Charles Owens, an officer who has specialized training in dealing with domestic violence, devoted 50 percent of his time to the crime. Now he will go back on patrol and serve in an advisory role, helping other officers improve the way they handle the assault crime.

“Primarily we want to get more people involved,” said Brad Bennett, chief of police and fire. “We’re not cutting back, we just want more beat officers involved in it.”

“We’re going to continue to emphasize that this is a very important area. It’s one of my priorities. We have a great partnership with the Women’s Center and we want to continue to make sure to work together.”

In 1997, the police department created a Domestic Assault Response Team with the help of a one-year federal grant. It provided an advocate, educator and officer for each victim. The government awarded the money because statistics showed that South Lake Tahoe ranked 38 out of 552 California jurisdictions in domestic violence.

When the grant money was spent, the police department continued to give special attention to the crimes by assigning an officer part-time to domestic violence cases. Owens relieved Officer Rich Hogbin of that job in March 2000. Since then, Owens has accrued more than 200 hours of training in domestic violence. Owens declined to comment for this story.

” We will still continue to use Chuck’s expertise, we just want to get detectives and everybody else involved,” Bennett said.

Lois Denowitz, community educator/volunteer coordinator for the Women’s Center, which was established in 1977, said she is looking forward to working with the detectives but is unsure how the new system will work.

“When you have a D.A.R.T. team, the officer is trained in domestic violence,” Denowitz said. “They know how to work with victims because victims are afraid.

“It’s very important in domestic violence to follow up after the incident; get a lot more facts, have an advocate, educator and officer, and take a team approach.”

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