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Police department receives award

DUVALL — Years ago, if you asked the Duvall Police how

they'd change the handling of domestic violence cases, they would have

said "more input on the prosecuting side."

Today, that's exactly how they pursue such cases.

The department realized that too many of their domestic violence

offenders were being tried in Seattle by over-burdened prosecutors.

Geography also made it difficult for Duvall officers to drive to the city and

give pertinent information to the judge about the history or specifics of

the case.

That's when the agency decided to hire its own domestic violence

advocate and prosecutor, said Sgt. Bob Akey. Now the cases are handled

at Northeast District Court in Redmond.

"Myself, the advocate, and the prosecutor do the most we can to

prevent domestic violence from happening again," he said. "Does it

always work? No, but it's a good goal."

Not only does the new way of handling domestic violence cases

help officers battle the crime, it also brings them recognition from the

King County Prosecutor's Office.

"The teamwork of police, prosecutors, and victim advocates enables

us to prosecute domestic violence cases effectively," said Prosecutor

Norm Maleng. "The preservation of evidence, the gentle handling of

victims, and the testimony at trial is crucial to moving these cases forward."

As a result, four departments - including Kirkland, Seattle, the

King County Sheriff's Office and Duvall - received the 1999 Law

Enforcement Professionalism Award to commemorate their efforts to curb domestic

violence.

"No matter how many times anyone is honored for it, it won't

go away," Akey said of the destructive crime. "We need to continue

working harder and harder to combat it as best we can."

According to the Duvall Police Department's annual report, the

number of domestic violence cases rose from 32 in 1995 to 71 incidents

last year. And those numbers are just the cases that are reported.

"Mostly the beginning [stages] go unreported. When an officer

knows, it's because of an assault situation," Akey commented.

By that time, the aggressor has already slashed the victim's self

esteem and the problem has probably been "festering for years," he added.

"Their self image is garbage so they think they can't leave," he

said. "How do we get a person to admit that they're in a bad relationship and

need to get out?"

That's where the victim's advocate can help. The department

contracted a person who can talk with the victim and alleviate any fears they might

have about leaving their violent environment.

"[As an officer] your heart is wrenched for an hour, but the

advocate is in contact with the victim until the case is solved," Akey said.

There are many organizations in the area that specifically handle

domestic violence situations including the Eastside Domestic Violence

Program (EDVP). Everyday EDVP helps families understand domestic

violence and its dangers and finds safe places for victims to live. Last year,

EDVP took 5,000 calls on their crisis-line and provided more than 8,000

shelter spaces for victims and their families.

For more information about EDVP, call their 24-hour crisis-line

at (425) 746-1940 or 1-800-827-8840.

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