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Police told family violence a crime: VHA forum

Posted 04 April 2017

Victoria Police needs to constantly remind its officers that family violence is actually a crime, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner for Family Violence Command Dean McWhirter told the Victorian Healthcare Association family violence forum.

"From a policing perspective, family violence is a crime. I have to educate my members that it is a crime we see every day,” Assistant Commissioner McWhirter said.

“It’s a really challenging issue for us,” he told the VHA Family Violence Forum: Understanding the health sector’s life changing role.

“Even with the term ‘family violence’, I think we may have lost the connection with the community of what it actually is. We tell our (police) members, make sure you look at this through the eyes of the victim.”

McWhirter said he was the only assistant commissioner in Australia who had direct responsibility for family violence.

There were 78,000 reports of family violence in Victoria every year, one every seven seconds. A sad indictment in our community, he said.

“But the reality is that’s not the level of family violence in Victoria. We all know that unfortunately many cases aren’t reported or find their way to us. My challenge is that members (police) know we are not just talking about numbers we are talking about people.

“As soon as a woman feels she is not believed it’s another example of abuse,” he said.

He said Victoria Police still had much to learn about supporting victims.

“Here I am, 37 years into the Victoria Police. When was the first time I was educated on family violence? Two years ago, and only because I came into this role.

“It’s a struggle. But the reality is the Vic Police has come an awfully long way.”

Victoria Police had responsibility for 33 specific recommendations from the 227 handed down by the Royal Commission into Family Violence – one incident event seven seconds, he said.

“Education and learning are the key things for Victoria Police.”

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