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New Domestic Violence Bill Signed Into Law

8/10 - On Friday, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill on domestic violence.  The bill has an "emergency preamble" which means it went into effect immediately.  The bill is lengthy and has many positive features, such as a requirement that assistant district attorneys receive training (we are certain that in Norfolk County they already do), that domestic violence victims are allowed time off from work to attend court appearances, and that information on batterers programs is made available to victims and defendants.

The bill creates the new crime of strangulation (we actually never had that before) and allows most adults to buy and carry protective sprays like mace without first obtaining a Firearms Identification Card.  It also provides that people arrested for a domestic assault may not be bailed from a police station for at least six hours after an arrest.

There is one provision that might give some people pause, and we wanted to put it out there before we are asked.  Effective immediately, the police may no longer release information about radio calls related to domestic violence, or the name of a person arrested for a domestic assault or for violating a protective order.  Previous to last Friday, police departments were required to maintain a log reflecting the name and address of every person arrested and the charges against them.   While we must still maintain such a log, we must not include information about people arrested for domestic assault or for violating a protective order in the version that is public.

The reason behind the change is that people who work with domestic violence victims have told legislators that some victims hesitate to call 911 when they have been assaulted for fear that the batterer's name will appear in the local newspaper.  It is not an embarrassment issue, they tell us, but the fact that the children in the household are ostracized when they get to school, because everyone has read about the case in the paper.  It is this concern for the children that makes some victims avoid asking the police for help.

You can think about this, and make up your own mind about whether you like the change or not, but we are implementing changes immediately to comply with the new law.  So, to the press, you will no longer see arrests for domestic offenses in the logs we give you.  And if you ask about cases that involve a domestic crime, we can't talk to you.  We are concerned that people will think we are covering up for people who have battered their spouses, but that's not the case.  It's now the law. Like it or not, that's where we are today.

More on Domestic Violence

NORWOOD P.D. BLUE Available now! has made past episodes of Norwood P.D. Blue available for viewing on their website. The monthly public access show features a look at the day to day operation of the department and includes a Q&A with Chief Brooks.   Episodes can be found here.


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