GREENFIELD — Local law enforcement leaders are implementing new procedures for investigating domestic violence cases, which they hope will lead to more effective prosecution of such crimes.
The Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office is working with local police departments to change how officers collect evidence while responding to domestic violence calls.
They’re working together to update forms investigators use to note what they encounter at the scene, such as injuries, witness information and statements from those involved.
The change is part of an ongoing effort to bolster cases against alleged abusers. That process began in October when Deputy Prosecutor Georgeanna Teipen was hired to specialize in prosecuting crimes against women and children. One of Teipen’s duties was to put protocols in place that would standardize domestic abuse investigations across the county.
The Greenfield Police Department recently started using the new forms— called “the purple sheet” by prosecutors — and officials are hoping to take the paperwork county-wide over the next few months, Teipen said.
The purple sheet is already used by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department as well as law enforcement in Beech Grove, Lawrence and Speedway, and it’s helped those offices streamline their investigations, according to the central Indiana-based Domestic Violence Network, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
For years, Greenfield’s officers relied on forms that required lengthy portions to be filled out by the victim, and there was little space for officers to add their observations, Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said. The old paperwork also required the victim to state whether or not they wanted charges to be pressed against their alleged assailant, which made some victims uncomfortable, he said.
The new forms will be filled out completely by the officers on scene, allowing for more detailed evidence collection, Teipen said. Even if the victim decided not to cooperate with the investigation, the form will offer a blueprint for prosecutors to move forward with the case, she said.
Depending on victims who have been through something traumatic for information increases the potential for inaccuracies; the new forms empower officers to take the lead on documentation, Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.
Reports of domestic violence, particularly domestic batteries, are investigated at least once a week, officials say. Statistics show 53 domestic battery cases were filed in 2015; up from 38 the year before.
Too many domestic violence cases are dismissed, whether because the victim’s written statement isn’t detailed enough or because the victim withdraws the allegations, Eaton said.
Thirty-eight of the cases filed in 2014 resulted in convictions and 14 were dismissed, local statistics show. Of the cases filed in 2015, 19 ended with convictions and nine were dismissed, records state.
Eighteen cases that were filed in the last two years are still pending with the court. In 14 cases, the defendant qualified for a diversion program, records show.
Eaton hopes the new investigation procedures will ensure more convictions and fewer cases being dismissed.
Greenfield’s officers will test the new forms and determine how helpful they are to officers. If they prove effective, the prosecutor’s office hopes to take the forms county-wide in the weeks that follow so that every local agency is using the same investigation protocol.