Domestic Abuse: When Police Can Step In - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Domestic Abuse: When Police Can Step In

Laviza Matthews, Family Support Services Laviza Matthews, Family Support Services

By Megan Moore
NewsChannel 10

AMARILLO, TEXAS - The recent murder of an Amarillo woman reportedly by her husband prompted NewsChannel 10 to ask how far a domestic situation must go before law enforcement can get involved.

After the weekend death of Sherri Gilltte, allegedly at the hands of her husband, we learned authorities had been called to the couple's property before.

In order for an officer to make a report on a domestic call, there has to be some evidence of assault - like a slap mark or a bruise.

A report can also be made if things in a home are out of place or look to have been thrown around.

Amarillo Police Cpl. Jerry Neufeld says, "if we see visible signs of physical assault, we will arrest what we believe to be the offender. In some cases we arrest both parties."

In 2009, Amarillo police responded to 2,600 domestic dispute calls, which can be a conflict between anyone whether they be married or brother and sister.

Neufeld says not every call results in a report or an arrest.

He says if they arrested someone at every domestic call, the jail would fill up in a day.

But there are changes coming to the way local law enforcement handles domestic cases because both advocates and law enforcement agree the old way is not effective enough in curbing domestic violence.

Over the weekend, the home of Paul and Sherri Gillette - where authorities had responded to domestic calls before - escalated into a crime scene.

Starting soon, every domestic call will be investigated the same way.

Family Support Services' Laviza Matthews says, "it will be investigated like a homicide. There will be pictures. They're going to do picture training. They'll go all over that house to look for signs of domestic violence. Are things flipped over? has she been crying? what is her state right now?"

Another change in protocol: removing the term "mutual combat" to make sure the victim is treated like a victim.

Matthews asks, "how fair is it for a guy that is 230 pounds fighting with me? I weigh 126. How fair is that? mutual combat should be used in boxing."

Also, all victims will be notified when their abuser is let out of jail.

The changes are in response to what Matthews calls a community problem: rampant domestic violence.

The new protocols are a joint effort among Potter and Randall counties, the police department, Family Support Services and other agencies.

Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas says, "they're trying to make sure everyone is on the same page. It's just kinda giving us guidelines and those kinds of things. It really follows what the law says, really."

The sheriff says the new guidelines will keep everyone on their toes.

The changes are not in place yet.  They will be signed off on soon and then go into effect.

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