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Domestic violence explainer

An overview of HPD policies, State laws and annual statistics related to domestic violence.

in Domestic Violence
Domestic-abuse-and-addiction

HPD policies regarding domestic violence cases.

Abuse of Family or Household Members (Policy 4.18): “The abuse of family or household member calls will be given the same priority as other life threatening incidents.”

Whenever possible, at least two officers will be dispatched to the scene. Officers must prepare written reports for all incidents involving abusive relationships, including incidents where abuse can be substantiated, where abuse cannot be substantiated but can be inferred, when abuse is suspected to have occurred be either a third party witness or the officer himself. The officer must make a reasonable effort to get the victim and witnesses to make a written statement. Officers must also submit a victim’s injury report and get a physician to sign it.

With regard to arrests, the officer shall arrest for abuse of a family or household member whenever the officer witnesses abuse occurring, or whenever the abuser is at the scene and one or more of the following criteria is met:

1. The victim has visible injuries.
2. The victim complains of pain and makes a written statement.
3. The victim complains of pain and makes a verbal statement that is witnessed by more than one officer.
4. The suspected abuser refuses to comply with the officer’s lawful order to leave the scene for a 48-hour “cooling off” period.
5. The suspected abuser returns to the scene before the cooling off period ends.
6. The suspected abuser initiates contact with the victim either by phone or in person before the cooling off period ends.


When two people make opposing claims of abuse against one another, the officer must determine who the predominant, or initial, aggressor in the situation is. Officers should try avoid dual arrests, but in a case where the predominant aggressor cannot be determined, an officer may arrest if the situation is ongoing or recurring.

Domestic violence incidents can become felonies if the abuser has already been convicted for a misdemeanor domestic violence crime, if the incident involves an abuser who has choked the victim until he or she loses consciousness, or if the seriousness of any injuries sustained by the victim warrant a Second Degree Assault charge or more serious.

Employees Involved in Domestic Violence (Policy 3.26): “In keeping with it’s mission and values, the Department recognizes that some of its employees may commit acts of violence against their family and household members. Such violence is unacceptable.”

The Professional Standards Office (PSO) (formerly Internal Affairs) is responsible for completing investigations into HPD employees suspected of committing domestic violence. There is an administrative side to each investigation, to determine if HPD policy was violated, as well as a criminal side to each investigation, to determine if the HPD employee broke any laws.

Any calls received concerning an HPD employee involved in domestic violence shall be reported by the dispatcher immediately, without fail, to the on-duty supervisor in the communications division. The supervisor must then prepare a written report to be sent to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of PSO no later than the end of watch.

When an officer is a suspect in a domestic violence case, a supervisor who is at least one rank higher than the suspect shall be called to the scene. When an officer is arrested for any sort of domestic violence related offense, the case shall be referred to the CID, PSO by the supervising officer from the scene, whenever possible. The PSO Criminal Investigator shall respond to all cases in which an arrest has been made and shall notify the accused officer’s commander as soon as is practical.

When an officer is a suspect in a domestic violence case, but no arrest is made, notification should still be made, from the scene, to the PSO, which shall notify the accused officer’s commander as soon as is practical.

Command enforcement shall result in the removal of police powers from the suspected officer, including his badge and gun.

When an officer is suspected of a domestic violence offense but an arrest is not warranted, the division-level or higher commanding officer may consider action under policy, including restriction of police authority.

Overview of Domestic Violence laws.

Cornerstone law: Section 709-906: Prohibits familial violence and gives police officers the authority to issue 48 hour separation and no contact orders.

If an officer believes there has been abuse against a person and there is likely to be abuse in the future, the officer is empowered to order the suspected abuser away from the residence, for at least 48 hours.

Essentially, if an officer has probable cause to believe abuse is taking place, that officer has the power to order the 48 hour separation. This includes a “no contact” order, which prevents the suspected abuser from tracking down the victim at work or school.

This includes exes. According to Loretta Sheehan, an attorney with the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC), the moment a relationship is terminated is actually the most dangerous moment for a potential victim.

Sections 586-11 and 586-4 prohibit the violation of restraining orders.

HRS 571-46 section 9: A Rebuttable Presumption that states that if there is a finding of domestic abuse within a family court case, it is detrimental to the child for the abuser to be given any custody over the child whatsoever. However, it is up to the victim to present evidence to invoke that presumption. If they do not have the paper trail to back it up, they will not be able to use that presumption. Managing Attorney for DVAC Nicole Edwards Masuda said that’s why it is so important for HPD to create a paper trail documenting each incidence of reported domestic violence or abuse, even if no arrests are made.

HRS 587-25, section 9. In determining whether it is safe for a child to remain in a home, the victim must be able to demonstrate that he or she has the ability to protect the child from further harm.

Annual Statistics and data.

Statistics from the State Attorney General’s Office, State of Hawaii Implementation Plan for Stop Violence Against Women formula grant.

According to Cindy Spencer, Vice President of DVAC, gathering domestic violence data can be difficult because of how cases are filed. “A case can be charged as a burglary, but has everything to do with domestic violence,” she said. Additionally, cases filed under 709-906 can be—and are—routinely downgraded to an Assault 3 charge or harassment. “Again, the DV factor is lost.”

All arrests in all counties are entered into the HCJDC.

Between 2008–12, there has been an 18 percent increase in domestic violence arrests statewide (3,044 arrests during that time). The highest increase has been in Maui County, which saw a 40 percent increase in that time. Protection Order filings statewide during this time totaled 5,169. Arrests for violations of protection orders increased statewide by around 5 percent. Maui County, however, saw a 50 percent increase. The number of TOR-violation arrests statewide totaled 698. Violations of Orders of Protection arrests totaled 1,026. It is unclear if the increase in the number of arrests is a result of increasing abuse incidents, or because police are cracking down.

Survivors of domestic violence served by DVAC during that time: 8,750
Hotline calls: 16,619
Legal advocacy court accompaniment: 2,683
Legal assistance or representation: 1,154
Counseling services and support group participants: 1,804
Crisis intervention services: 4,791
Batterer’s Intervention clients: 971
Victims provided shelter (no duplicates): 769
Percent of murders committed involving domestic violence: 38.7 percent

From Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
From 1996 to 2013: 125 domestic violence-related murders.
Gunshots: 50
Stabbings: 35
Strangulation: 8
Blunt force trauma to the head: 14
Not specified: 18

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