Stop Criminal Background Checks on Domestic Violence Victims

Target: New York Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski and Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Goal: To stop the requirement of conducting criminal background checks on victims of domestic abuse.

The New York Police Department recently issued a new directive that requires police officers to run criminal background checks not only on the accused, but also on the victims of domestic abuse. The directive, written by Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski, orders cops to examine the victim’s criminal background, open warrants, and criminal complaint history when investigating domestic abuse cases. Due to the new directive, even minor offenses such as unpaid parking tickets could lead to the arrest and imprisonment of the victims.

Domestic violence is already one of the most underreported crimes in the country; only 25 percent of domestic physical assaults are reported to the police. Domestic abuse victims face a complex combination of fear, shame, isolation, and intimidation. This directive will only compound the fear and hopelessness of victims making it even less likely that the crime will be reported. It also enables the abuser to easily exploit knowledge of the victim’s criminal background, leading to further isolation and intimidation. Because this directive would decrease the likelihood of reporting domestic abuse, children involved in the situation are also put at even greater risk.

Helping victims escape the nearly impenetrable world of fear created by domestic abuse is already an arduous undertaking. This new policy is completely counterintuitive by threatening the very group that police are supposed to protect. It empowers abusers, threatens the health and safety of children, and further alienates domestic abuse victims. Sign the petition below to tell Mayor Bloomberg and Chief Pulaski that this directive must be struck down.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski,

The new directive recently issued by Chief Pulaski requiring officers to examine victims’ criminal backgrounds, open warrants, and criminal complaint history when investigating domestic abuse cases is dangerous, disgusting, and completely counterintuitive.

Domestic violence is already one of the most underreported crimes in the country; only 25 percent of domestic physical assaults are reported to the police. Domestic abuse victims are enmeshed in a complex combination of feelings towards their attackers. Victims face a daily reality of shame, isolation, intimidation, guilt, and psychological and physical abuse within their own homes. They are filled with terror for their own lives and the lives of their children. They are scared of not being believed by authorities, of being judged or blamed, of losing child custody, of becoming homeless. This new directive only compounds victims’ fear by threatening them with arrest over even the most minor offenses. It also empowers abusers, who could now easily exploit knowledge of the victim’s criminal background.

All too often domestic abuse results in tragedy. Helping victims escape the nearly impenetrable world of fear created by domestic abuse is already an arduous undertaking. The new directive only exacerbates the difficulty and further alienates the very group the police are supposed to protect. We demand that you strike down this harmful directive.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: kenfotos via freedigitalphotos

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Signatures

  • Enoch C. Gould
  • Christine Needham
  • Stefano Serpico
  • Marcy Boyd
  • Ginger Hill
  • Beverly Jensen
  • Nicole Chorney
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