Police needs help breaking up fights

Illustreeriv foto.

PHOTO: Liis Treimann/Postimees

As uncovered by Estonian Institute for Open Society research published in March, police investigators indeed deem inability of men to control their aggressiveness the chief cause for violence against women – while not discounting thoughtless behaviour by the ladies themselves. A more recent study on assessment by police shows the same: often, they claim, it’s also thoughtless actions by women that may lead to physical or sexual violence.   

Also: while deeming mental and sexual violence a very serious problem, they lack the time and the needed support services to alleviate it and impact the violent one.

What’s more, they underlined it was hard for a police worker to decide if what is happening is the usual family feud or a serious case of violence. Also, collecting evidence may pose a problem if the victim is intoxicated. Another hindrance to that is heavy work load of policemen, and the lack of time.  

A slightly smaller hindrance is incompetence of patrolling policemen. Namely, turns out close to a half of them are under 30 years of age. «They have less experience, but are having to make decisions regarding highly complex conflicts,» said Ivi Proos, an author of the study.

Policemen also pointed out that they must often assume the role of a psychologist – without the needed time and knowhow.

«It seems as the first instance where information on domestic violence reaches is the police, and from there it moves onward. But it ought to be the other way round – a social worker gets the information and will decide if intervention is needed or not,» observed Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) deputy head Joosep Kaasik, adding that while in 2005 they had about seven notices of domestic violence a day, last year it was 34 a day already.

A comparable study was also conducted among social workers last year. As pointed out by Ms Proos, for social workers dealing with domestic violence is of lower priority – for the problem, policemen spend more working time. Also, only 53 percent of social workers thought that prevention of domestic violence was their domain. Meanwhile, a whopping 78 percent of police workers think it is.

The studies reveal a discord regarding how much information is shared between social workers and the police. While policemen say (over 90 percent) that they often inform social workers or child protection workers, the social workers claim only 58 percent of cases reach then via police. Often, information spreads thru the (village) grapevine.

At that, police and social workers are unanimous regarding problems with getting home violence information from family doctors. «They are afraid to pass information on to police, if not thus requested by the victim,» noted Kati Arumäe, prevention and surveillance bureau head at police.

Victims shy away from seeking police help, due to shame and embarrassment. While 68 percent of police workers think that women will not seek help fearing that social workers will lay the blame on them, among the police the idea was less prevalent. Even so, 32 percent believe that the victims are hampered by the fear they will end up accused by policemen.

Conducted this February and March, Estonian Institute for Open Society research covered 217 police workers. Questionnaires were distributed to 806.

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