THE DISCLOSURE that murdered mother Abigail Chapman, in fact, filed a report with police officers about threats made to her life mere days before she was brutally killed now places a duty on law enforcement authorities not only to apprehend the murderer but also to review processes in place to deal with such cases.
Initial accounts suggested Chapman had not made a report in relation to a verbal threat to her life. However, it has since emerged that not only was a report made, but the nature of the threat was even more grave than initially thought.
Chapman told police that a man with whom she was acquainted placed a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her. She lodged a report at the La Brea Police Station since March 8.
We welcome the suspension of three police officers who handled this matter pending an investigation by the Professionals Standards Bureau of the Police Service.
This is not necessarily an indication that something went wrong in the case. Rather, it is simply a precautionary measure designed to clear the way for an efficient investigation, to safeguard the public interest and to maintain confidence. The probe must be as swift as possible and it must not be allowed to distract from measures to apprehend the person responsible for Chapman’s death and the deaths of her daughter, a family friend and her landlord.
We also deem the initiation of an independent probe by the Police Complaints Authority as an essential measure. There is also a larger question of whether the State is doing all it can to treat with the problem of domestic violence and violence against women generally. In this regard, too often do our state institutions fail. We continue to receive reports of rape victims being re-traumatised during encounters with police officers who do not believe them; of insensitive doctors; and defence attorneys who ask humiliating questions.
Clearly, our social attitudes have inflected our agencies to the extent that they distort their ability to get the job done. More work needs to undertake to change social attitudes, yes. But ultimately, the issue is one of training. Police officers are supposed to be objective and judicious. They are meant to maintain law and order through impartial action. Police cannot effectively protect and serve if they are hobbled by their own prejudices.
Misogyny against women is wrong. Violence against women is wrong. And murder of anyone, for whatever depraved reason, cannot be condoned. The police must uphold these values, and to that extent they, too, must answer to the population when it is determined things have gone wrong.