Overseeing Frontline Response
Reprinted from "Trauma and Victimization" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 33-34
Police Victim Services of British Columbia is a non-profit association that enhances services to victims of crime and trauma by assisting and supporting frontline, police-based victim services programs. Our members include victim services program managers, staff and volunteers who work within police agencies or detachments throughout BC.
Victim services units are made up of staff and volunteers who have completed or are undergoing intense basic and advanced training. Academic certification has been newly launched by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Victim Services Division, in partnership with the Justice Institute of BC. Some training is conducted in-house by individual programs. Coordinators and managers receive advanced training, sponsored by the Victim Services division of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and delivered by industry experts and specialists. Police Victims Services of BC also hosts an annual training symposium, which provides two days of training and networking opportunities for staff and volunteers.
Police victim service programs respond to police incidents where there is a victim of crime or trauma. A few examples of services provided include: responding to motor vehicle accidents to provide support or transportation; assisting police officers in a sudden death situation, by delivering next of kin notifications; or offering support and follow-up to victims of home invasions, robberies or assaults. The frequency and severity of the calls responded to vary from minor to extreme.
Police victim services are primarily “crisis response.” Victim service workers are not trained in formal counselling; rather, they provide prompt, short-term intervention. They assess victims’ needs, refer them to services and community resources that may benefit or assist the victim or their family, and provide follow-up. Emotional support is provided—in person, and/or over the phone.
Victim services workers may assist the general public by managing files involving multiple victims of homicide or domestic violence. They help victims prepare victim impact statements, apply for compensation if eligible and keep current on the court process. Advising victims when offenders are released and the conditions of their release is critical information for effective safety planning for some victims.
Victim services support
Victims and witnesses of a crime are entitled to victims services support. Following a criminal incident, a police officer or case worker is responsible for ensuring that victim support service has been offered. When dealing with youth, the officer or case worker must get parental or guardian consent in order to provide the services to a youth.
Once the service has been offered and the victim has accepted, a victim services staff member or trained volunteer is assigned. Victims’ immediate needs are assessed as soon possible following a crime. Victim services engage with the client once the victim’s health and well-being are addressed and statements secured by the police. Discussion between the victim, police member, health care professionals and/ or a case worker from a specialized agency will establish the priorities, resources and services to best meet the client’s needs. This can take place minutes, hours or days following a crime.
Based on the needs assessment, the victim support worker connects with the appropriate professionals, to ensure the victim’s needs are met. For instance, in circumstances where a victim has needs related to mental health, a professional in that field would be contacted, a referral made and a case worker assigned. This can be done during regular hours by calling direct, or by utilizing “after-hour” contacts, who respond to incidents occurring outside regular business hours.
Service providers work together to develop a response plan—this may include emotional support, personal safety planning, court information, transportation, assistance and treatment. A collective approach and an effective referral system enable short- and long-term planning for clients. Resource contact information in the form of lists, directories and personal notebooks is usually kept near at hand.
Knowing what specialized community and health care programs are available, and fostering relationships with other service providers, is one of the best ways to meet the needs of victims of crime and trauma. Victim services and service agencies work together to promote one another’s strengths, bridge gaps where services may be lacking, and strategize customized plans for access and delivery of services. Ongoing communication ensures current knowledge of the resources available in the community.
About the authorCarolyn is Executive Director of Police Victim Services of British Columbia.