Emily Jurmu, Alliance Against Violence and Abuse, said the task force is a community collaboration of about a dozen local agencies, including law enforcement, probation/parole, the prosecutor’s office and community service organizations.
“We’re working on some community-wide efforts to educate the public and curb the incidence of domestic violence locally,” said Jurmu. “We’re starting in Delta County but hoping to make it more regional, to reach out to Menominee and Schoolcraft and possibly Marquette.”
At the meeting task force members discussed a pamphlet in the works for victims of domestic violence to give them a general idea of what will happen at each point in the legal system when they report the abuse to authorities.
“We don’t have anything like it. The pamphlet started out as a tool to help victims or people who were looking at getting a no contact order (issued from the court),” said Jurmu.
She added the pamphlet does still talk about no contact orders, but it gives a better idea of the whole court process, such as who victims need to meet with and when they can expect a plea or sentencing to take place.
“It gives a general explanation of what’s going to happen as they go through the court system,” she said. “It also includes all the contact information for all the agencies that are able to help.”
Jurmu explained the task force is in the process of having students from Bay College design a graphic illustrating the problem in order to help increase awareness.
“I like it because every agency at our task force was involved, so all areas of law enforcement and (other agencies) had a hand in it,” she said.
“Once we print it it’s going to be distributed at all of these points.”
The task force includes: Delta County Sheriff’s Department, Escanaba Public Safety, Gladstone Public Safety, Delta County Prosecutor’s Office, Catholic Charities of the Upper Peninsula, Bay College, The Counseling Center, Child Protective Services, Families First, Teaching Family Homes and OSF St. Francis Hospital.
At the meeting the task force also discussed a police training session with Herb Tanner, member of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan, discussing how all agencies can collaborate throughout the whole process. Jurmu said the task force wants to get to the point where anyone can identify a victim and refer them correctly to the proper agency.
“For instance, the police should be doing the correct paperwork that the prosecutors need,” she said.
Jurmu said this is important so offenders eventually get sent to jail and “are actually being punished, not just getting probation and violating again.”
Kim Pepin, Hannahville Police, said the four- or eight-hour trainings would show officers scenarios and examples so they can learn to look deeper into some situations.
“Teaching the officers how to notice an expression, look at the things (suspects) say or how they say something and to look at the demeanor of a person, they can start to see patterns and read the aggression level of an offender,” he said.
Pepin said he thought eight hours of training would be more beneficial to local police officers than only four.
“The benefit you would give to your officers as far as knowledge of domestic violence and how they use that (would be) excellent,” Pepin said.
Steve Howes, probation and parole agent, said the monthly meeting of the task force is a way to offer input on ways to to improve the awareness of domestic violence in our area.
“We want to make sure that victims are aware and that they’re not fearful to make a complaint,” said Howes. “We work together to make sure they know the processes pertaining to the court systems.”
Dr. Rosemary Hakes represents The Counseling Center, a private counseling and consulting practice in Escanaba. She brings over 17 years clinical experience in both mental health and substance abuse treatment to the task force.
Hakes said domestic violence is a complex issue, and the task force is a tool to deal with it.
“The task force exists to provide leadership in developing and implementing a coordinated community response that promotes safety for victims, holds abusers accountable, improves community awareness and education, and works to ultimately stop domestic violence in our area.” said Hakes.
Jonas Beversluis of Catholic Charities of the U.P., Delta County Sheriff Gary Ballweg and Escanaba Public Safety Capt. Alan O’Dell, left to right, listen as Gladstone Public Safety Director Paul Geyer talks about ways to improve awareness of domestic violence in the local communities. (Daily Press photo by Audrey LaFave)