By Bianca Caputo, Social Media Placement Student at WomanACT
On February 24th, 2016, Harmy Mendoza, Executive Director of WomanACT, requested a deputation be placed on the Board’s meeting records. The deputation was in support of City Council’s recommendation that the Toronto Police Service Board review policies related to responding to intimate partner violence, mandatory charging policy, enforcement of no-contact orders, and probation conditions. Harmy gave a valuable and articulate explanation of issues relating to these policies and enlisted many requests that if pursued, will ensure greater protection of women, children and families.
Harmy noted that the role of the police is critical in domestic violence cases and although very thankful for the work that the Toronto Police have done to address these cases, she points out that several policies currently in place have unintended consequences that are concerning. As an example, the Pro-Charging Policy was intended to increase reporting, laying of charges, and reduce re-offending, however, concerns have been raised about the consequences that women face where they have been arrested and charged either alone or with their partner when acting in self-defense or trying to protect themselves or their children from abuse. Some of the unintended effects of the policy that Harmy highlighted were:
“...when I walked in the apartment, he was physically pushing me away, and I was trying to grab the phone... while he was pushing me, I grabbed the phone and I hit him with the phone, which is my ‘assault with a weapon’. I tried to run from him, and he grabbed, and got me on the ground, and smashed my head onto the ground...”
“He started hitting me, throwing me on the floor. I grabbed the empty bottle and hit him on the side of his head.”
Reports have reviewed spousal abuse policies and legislation and points to the fact that police are not able to use discretion in IPV cases and have lack of sufficient training in these circumstances. Dual and sole charging of women who are victims is occurring at an increased frequency despite the adoption of the dominant aggressor model of investigation. Due to the serious and increasing impact of dual and sole charging, Harmy notes her request that the Toronto Police Service assess the implementation of the dominant aggressor model of investigation to determine what is leading to these outcomes.
In addition, Harmy requested that the Toronto Police Service make clear data publicly available on the outcome of domestic violence cases such as the number of charges laid, the number of cases in which both partners were charged, the number of males and females charged as dominant aggressors, etc. She called for action on better understanding of police charging patterns within domestic violence incidents and factors affecting such situations. With understanding comes the need for improved data and police-reported incidents that is currently limited in terms of quality information.
Overall, Harmy put forth an effective deputation that outlines the issue at hand, the effects of the problem, and multiple requests on her behalf that will assist in ensuring women, children, and families that their safety is our priority. By engaging in this deputation, Harmy supports that there is a high degree of importance on examining how the policies are actually understood and applied in the Toronto region by police that needs to be recognized by the Toronto Police Services Board.