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RPD sued for not giving reports to victims of domestic violence

Berkeley Brean
Updated: October 15, 2019 06:53 PM
Created: October 15, 2019 06:44 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A new class action lawsuit says Rochester Police Department officers are leaving thousands of domestic violence victims at their home without the one piece of information that can help keep them safe.

Every time a police officer goes to a domestic violence call, they have to give the victim a domestic incident report or DIR. It's a record of what happened and includes information for the victim to get help. It's not just helpful information, it's the law.

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The lawyers who filed the lawsuit on behalf of victims say RPD failed to do that almost nine out of 10 times.

The victim in this case goes by the initials "DS". The lawsuit says that in June, DS was attacked by her children's father. RPD arrested the father, but failed to give DS her domestic incident report.The lawsuit says the officer gave DS a "report number" and told her to go to the Public Safety Building in downtown Rochester to get it.

"My understanding is that she still doesn't have it nearly four months later," said Cindy Carroll, an attorney at Legal Aid.

Carroll is one of the lawyers suing the Rochester Police Department on behalf of DS and other victims. 

Carroll says Legal Aid looked at a sample of 51 cases. The Rochester Police Department did not give the victim the DIR 44 times. Legal Aid says that in 2018 there were more than 3,000 domestic violence calls in the city.

"So our feeling is that it's widespread and likely has impacted thousands of victims," Carroll said.   

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Why is it important that someone have one of these reports?"

Jennifer Sullivan, Willow Domestic Violence Center Assistant Dir. of Community Programs: "One of those reasons being that they have the opportunity to verify that the story they're verifying with police and the allegations are accurate."

Brean: "There's a safety factor here too if and when they have to go downtown to get this report."

Sullivan: "That might not be safe for every individual especially if the abuser is watching their every move which is highly likely in these scenarios."

The RPD General Orders say officers "will complete a DIR... whether or not an arrest is made."

The orders, though, don't say the report has to be given to the victim immediately. New York State Executive Law 837, passed 25 years ago, does.

"To then refuse to give it to the victims, make them take the extra step, go to the Public Safety Building to get it. Get it, perhaps not get it," Legal Aid CEO Carla Palumbo said. "It starts to dismantle the system that we've worked over the past 20 years to put together."

I wanted to know why RPD doesn't give the reports on scene. The city and RPD told me they don't comment when they're getting sued.
Legal Aid said they've tried to get RPD to follow the law for years. It didn't work, so they sued. 

The lawsuit isn't looking for money. It wants the court to order RPD to follow state law and get every victim the report they're entitled to get.


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