Police will no longer name perpetrators of domestic violence in Redding



The Redding Police Department announced this week it would no longer report the names and addresses of those accused of domestic violence crimes.

According to Redding police Chief Douglas Fuchs, the change is the result of a new state statute that guarantees confidentiality to the victims of domestic violence. Fuchs believes Redding is the first department in Connecticut to change its policies relative to the statute.

Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) said the legality of reporting the names of domestic violence offenders has been a gray area for a long time in Connecticut, and she hopes Fuchs’s decision will encourage an open discussion in the state.

“What I would say is, I’m not sure if [Fuchs’s decision] is legal or not, but that’s why I appreciate this. Because this will force some sort of a situation. I’m willing to stand with Chief Fuchs and fight for this,” Jarmoc said.

Public Act No. 15-211, Sec. 24, Section 54-86e of Connecticut’s statutes requires that all names and addresses of victims of domestic violence remain confidential “and shall be disclosed only upon order of the Superior Court.”

Fuchs said releasing the name or address of the offender in most domestic violence cases results in the release of the victim’s identity, as well.

“In an effort to further protect victims of domestic violence to the fullest extent possible under law,” the new protocol reads, “this department (unless overruled by a higher authority) shall (in addition to not disclosing the name, address or any identifying information relative to the victim) not disclose the name and address of an offender charged in connection with a domestic violence arrest where the releasing of that information would likely also disclose or likely make known the identity of the victim.”

As of press time, it is unclear whether this action violates Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws, but the decision is supported by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), the state’s largest advocacy group for victims.

Jarmoc, the CEO of the advocacy group, said by phone Tuesday she applauds Fuchs’s decision.

“This is something that has been such a challenging issue statewide. We deal with this all the time. If they list the name of the offender — especially in smaller communities — it will basically expose the victim. It’s a major problem and I appreciate the fact that he’s done this,” she said.

HAN Network Editorial Director John Kovach agreed that “this has been a source of debate throughout newsrooms for decades. We’ve always worked to protect the victims, whether it meant naming the accused or not. Even at a panel discussion in Boston involving police, a district attorney and domestic violence advocates, I was told that all of their offices were debating which was the best approach.”

The policy of withholding names has led to allegations against newspapers that they are providing safe harbor to abusers. The policy of using names is met with the argument that a victim will not call 911.

The director of the CCADV said she has considered both sides, and firmly believes the names of abusers should be withheld from the public.

“I do support this policy because it offers confidentiality for the victim. We are, therefore, not outing the perpetrator, but from where I sit, offering confidentiality is the stronger [objective],” Jarmoc said.

Kovach said when withholding names at other newspapers, the street was routinely released by police and not withheld unless it would directly identify the victim.

“Great care has always been given not only to not identify the victim, but not doing anything that would cause a person being abused to hesitate for one second before calling 911,” Kovach said. “The argument has gone back and forth as to whether identifying the arrested person does that. We urge anyone in a domestic violence situation to get the help they need.”

Identifying the arrested and the charge is not done in the name of gossip, Kovach said.

“Police reporting is intended to warn residents of crime in their area,” he said, “But it also prevents the police from operating in a vacuum.”

These changes are not “being made in a vacuum,” Fuchs said Tuesday, noting every member of the Redding Police Department is certified as a domestic violence response specialist.

In addition, 60% of the department are certified by a crisis intervention program offered at WestConn. Most Redding officers will be trained in that program by the end of 2016, Fuchs said.

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