November 8, 2017 6:49 pm
Updated: November 8, 2017 9:33 pm

Breaking the silence: Regina Police Service taking new approach to domestic conflict

Saskatchewan has some of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country. But behind the numbers are real people, in real pain. The Regina Police Service wants to reduce the numbers -- and the suffering. Marney Blunt explains.

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The Regina Police Service (RPS) is adopting an enhanced approach to domestic conflict, with a goal of reducing the numbers and the suffering it causes.

Saskatchewan has some of the highest domestic conflict rates in Canada, and RPS says the statistics in Regina reflect that.

“It is a problem, no question about it,” Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said. “We have one of the highest rates of domestic violence and domestic-related assaults in Canada and our province is challenged with this issue as well, it’s not just our city.”

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Today, RPS is responding to about 1,000 more domestic conflict-related calls than five years ago. In 2012, officers were responding to about 14 domestic conflict-related calls a day. That rate has increased to about 17 domestic conflict calls a day.

RPS is using the term ‘domestic conflict’ because it encompasses victims who have experienced physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse.

“I’ve heard it described as a bit of an umbrella term, it really encompasses everything domestic-related,” Chief Bray said. “Domestic violence really speaks to situations where we’ve got violence happening, someone is being assaulted, someone is being injured; whereas domestic conflict could be much more.”

“Arguments, stalking, mischief happening to homes and property, (those) can really be indicators of domestic violence,” Chief Bray added. “So if we look at it as just domestic violence, we feel that that’s a bit narrow sighted. We need to broaden that perspective.”

The new improvements include:

– An updated domestic conflict policy
– Annual domestic conflict training for frontline uniformed members and communications staff
– Recognition that the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action encourage improvement in the areas of cultural competency and anti-racism training
– Identifying the need for Aboriginal-specific victim-support programs with appropriate evaluation mechanisms
– Improved supervisory oversight and enhanced officer coaching and mentoring
– More accommodating environments for victims to report domestic conflict
– Connecting victims with community-based supports sooner
– Creation of new web-based resources
– Internal communications from the Chief, executive and senior management to all RPS employees about the changes in policy, training and resources available

“We get called to an assault and it’s a domestic violence issue, there is a huge back story there, sometimes this couple has been together for 15 years and we’re responding to a single incident, there’s so much more than that,” Chief Bray said.

“Simply by holding an offender accountable and walking away, all you’re doing is putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. This training really allows our members to better understand how trauma can affect a victim’s recollection of events and a victim’s willingness to report to police.”

The new improvements also allow victims to report domestic conflict to RPS in a quiet room, rather than reporting it in the open at the RPS headquarters front desk.

“When a victim is going through perhaps some of the most traumatic moments of their life, it’s very difficult to want to do that when others can hear in an open environment,” Jen Renwick, with Family Service Regina’s Domestic Violence Unit, said. “So an environment that’s safe and a little less public would definitely help victims feel more confident in coming to the police.”

Those who have survived domestic conflict say this is a step in the right direction.

“There was nothing like this 40 or 50 years ago, you didn’t talk about it, you didn’t want people to know about it. There was no place you could go,” City Councillor Barbara Young said.

Young, who is on the Regina Board of Police Commissioners, says she has lived through domestic violence herself.

“It’s something that is part of your life and it doesn’t go away. You overcome it and you get stronger because of it if you’re lucky and if you work at it.”

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