Barbados Police should have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy when it comes to domestic violence and threats to women
Sylvester Henderson Dear went to a woman’s home and threatened to do her violence. The reaction of the Royal Barbados Police Force was to warn Dear that he shouldn’t threaten violence to the woman.
Then… they let him go.
Five days later Dear returned to the woman’s home and again threatened her. Only then was he arrested and charged by police.
Do we see a pattern here?
First let me say that the Nation newspaper article about this incident Threats land man time is limited in information and background. Maybe the officers had their doubts about the veracity of the victim’s story. Maybe they thought the man was being “set up” by the woman. The article doesn’t even say that this was a domestic situation. Maybe we’re wrong when we guess it might be a domestic situation. Maybe it was a business deal gone bad.
What we do know is that the victim reported the first threats to the police, who then found Dear and “warned him”. Now that Dear is in jail after a second threat, the prosecution is claiming that the first threat was valid.
And therein lies the problem. The first threat was valid but the police let the man go with a warning. They gave him a second chance.
How many women have been injured or murdered because police gave the man “a second chance”?
Many jurisdictions have adopted a “zero tolerance” to domestic violence that removes the ability of police officers to caution and release the person who is alleged to have made threats or used violence. Once a complaint is made the police must take a proper signed statement from the victim, and the police must then act upon that statement by bringing the accused before a court immediately. No longer are the police required to be “judges on the street” because it is not the business of police to be judge and jury.
The balance is that the victim reporting the threats must carry through with testimony in court. No withdrawal of charges is allowed and if the victim does not appear in court or recants (usually “her”) accusation, the victim goes to jail. While that sounds like a tough prescription for victims it is necessary to prevent (usually women) from falsely claiming threats or violence to gain advantage in divorce and child custody matters.
The police may not appreciate having their options limited by being forced to act in what they judge to be “borderline” situations, but after a period of adjustment the police, society and men and women will treat domestic violence with the seriousness it deserves. Doing violence or making threats of violence are serious matters – but so is making complaints of the same.
In this case the victim is lucky that the man didn’t return with a knife on his second chance. The police are lucky too.
At least the man was arrested on the second occasion. I guess that means we’re making progress if the police are no longer waiting outside gated communities for four days because a security guard wouldn’t let them in to answer a domestic violence call.
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