Attorney general works against domestic violence

A task force seeks to decrease the number of reoccurring domestic violence incidents.

Attorney General Chris Koster released a set of recommendations Tuesday that would offer greater protection to victims of domestic violence.

The Domestic Violence Task Force, a unit seeking to re-evaluate and update domestic violence laws, created the recommendations.

“Our goal is to decrease the incidence of domestic violence, to make it more difficult for the defendant to repeat and to make it more possible for the woman involved so that the situation won’t reoccur,” Columbia. State Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said.

It would also make it easier for victims to seek help and legal guidance.

“Our victims of domestic violence are already stressed to the limit,” Columbia Police Department Detective Bob Dochler said. “They ought to be able to seek protection without jumping through more hoops to get that protection extended.”

The first domestic violence laws were created in 1980, and the recommendations are an update to that.

“After thirty years, it was time to examine the overall impact of the laws and practices, to identify problems and to suggest possible improvements,” Koster said in a news release.

The task force unit was assembled last fall, and through a series of meetings the group came up with 12 recommendations.

“We got the work done now,” Kelly said. “This work has been overdue for years. Koster took the bill bull by the horns, and I’m very proud of him.”

But local law enforcement still recognizes there is more room for change.

“One of the big things we would like to see is that we could somehow implement a 24-hour hold period,” Dochler said.

That hold period would allow victims time to get out of an abusive relationship while the abuser was forced to stay in jail for 24 hours. Current law allows suspected offenders to bond out immediately.

“But as much as we want that, the jail and the county has concerns they want to meet — jail overcrowding and increased cost of having to hold them 24 hours,” Dochler said. “We look at ways we can improve.”

Kelly said domestic violence is important particularly among college students and is prevalent across college campuses. Although it does include abuse between spouses or couples, it also can include physical violence between roommates.

“College girls are less likely to complain about the issue,” Kelly said. “I think they may be slightly less subject to abuse because they’re more able and knowledgeable about sticking up for themselves. College girls are no less susceptible to it. As soon as you hear the word ‘bitch’ come out of his mouth, you need to walk away and stay away.”

CPD was an instrumental part in launching the Domestic Violence Enforcement Unit (DOVE), which investigates, prosecutes and aids victims of domestic violence in Columbia.

“Most of the stuff is already kind of in place here,” Dochler said. “We’re kind of ahead of the curve.”

If approved, the legislation will come into effect in September, Kelly said.

“These recommendations seem like a good start toward expanding protections,” Dochler said. “Hopefully it’ll be the first step toward more change.”

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