This week I was lucky enough to meet and talk with Detective Rick Hawes of the Peel Regional Police in Ontario. Detective Hawes has been a police officer since 1978 and for the last four and a half years, has been the Coordinator for the Family Violence Unit.
As part of his position, Detective Hawes holds multi-day classroom seminars for officers on how to properly handle domestic dispute calls, as they are much different from other situations to which officers respond.
Talking with Detective Hawes solidified for me many of the things I have learned and heard during my weeks in Canada. For example, knowledge of a firearm in the home makes it more difficult for a victim of domestic abuse to seek help and leave their abuser, as firearms act as tools of intimidation and work to induce fear. In fact, on the question form victims are asked to complete when officers respond to a domestic call, six out of the twenty-eight questions are related to firearms and licensure.
In addition, exiting an abusive relationship is not as simple as just making the decision to leave and leaving. Often times, there are elements involved in abusive relationships that prevent victims from seeking help, such as children, housing, or financial dependency.
When I asked Detective Hawes about the registry included in Canada’s Firearms Act, he asserted that it is helpful in eliminating the guessing game of whether or not households to which officers respond have firearms.
Although cautious officers responding to calls never assume that a home is free of firearms even if the registry has nothing on record (especially with the rise of unregistered firearms by once legal owners), Detective Hawes views the registry as a very useful safety tool for both officers and victims. The only substantial argument Detective Hawes has heard against the Firearms Act relates to cost and according to him, it is hard to put a price on public safety.
Detective Hawes also views the Firearms Act as an aide to the Justice of Peace throughout the court process against perpetrators of domestic abuse. During the bail hearing, if it is revealed through the registry that more firearms are registered to the perpetrator than officers were able to seize, the perpetrator will be held until they are all accounted for.
Additionally, during the court process, the firearms license of a perpetrator is seized and put on review, prohibiting the individual from owning or acquiring any type of firearm. Clearly, these measures act to safeguard victims from further violence through the use of a firearm.
I stated above that I was lucky enough to spend time talking with Detective Hawes; this is because during my time in Canada, I have not met anyone more dedicated to tackling the issue of family violence. Not only does Detective Hawes work with officers to help them understand the complexities of domestic abuse, but he also works with the community to help prevent abuse from ever taking place, and prioritizes victim safety. I am very grateful to the time Detective Hawes was willing to spend with me, and find his commitment to prevent and end domestic abuse admirable.
Posted By Elizabeth Mandelman (Canada)
Posted May 12th, 2014