Need for Domestic Violence Resources Not Taken for Granted

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COLUMBIA - A recent grant for the Columbia Domestic Violence Enforcement Unit, or DOVE Unit, will let the department hire an assistant to help detectives spend more time in the field by splitting up the heavy workload.

The DOVE Unit is made up of local detectives, prosecutors, social workers, advocates, counselors and probation and parole officers. The Columbia Police Department has two detectives that are  part of the group.

The department applied for the grant at the end of last year and plans to hire a part-time civilian with the funding. Randy Nichols is one of two DOVE Unit detectives and said the civilian will help with clerical work the job requires.

"A lot of the times domestic violence prosecutors need copies of pictures and other office work quickly which prevents us from actually getting to talk to victims and witnesses," Nichols said. "So the civilian would be able to do all of that and free us up to do other things."

Nichols said the extra help is especially important in domestic violence cases.

"These cases really depend on the victim being cooperative," Nichols said. "If we have more time to go and talk to them, we think we will be able to get them to follow through with the case."

Mark Koch is a domestic violence victim advocate and said he thinks there is a need for more domestic violence resources in Columbia.

"There's more work than resources," Koch said.

Nichols also said he thinks the number of domestic violence cases is a cause for concern.

"Only one out of seven people report domestic violence reports, and we still get about 1,000 reports a year," Nichols said. "It's a pretty prominent issue that we're getting that many reports."

Nichols said a third detective dedicated to domestic violence cases would help break up the work, but said he doesn't think there will ever be funding to hire one.

"We'd like to have three at least because we could always use more help," Nichols said. "Our job is funded by grant money though, so I think two is about all we're ever going to get."

The grant is funded by the Department of Public Safety through the STOP Violence Against Women Act Formula Grant Program. Nichols said it is easier to hire a civilian than another detective because of issues like pension. He said the department hopes to have someone hired by the end of February or March.