EPS to use question list to assess likelihood domestic offenders will reoffend

13-question list will help track the effectiveness of domestic intervention programs

By Roberta Bell, CBC News Posted: Jan 19, 2017 10:42 PM MT Last Updated: Jan 20, 2017 7:03 AM MT
Edmonton police are going to be keeping closer tabs on perpetrators of domestic violence.
As of this month, officers are going to be using the ODARA — Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment — to track the likelihood that someone who commits a domestic assault will do so again. 
Insp. Carlos Cardoso told the Edmonton Police Commission Thursday that police do not currently have a way of tracking the effectiveness of the intervention programs they've been using to work with victims and offenders. 
Using the 13-question ODARA, officers will start collecting data on offenders with the intention of gaining insight into how likely they are to commit other domestic assaults.
The ODARA, developed by the Ontario Provincial Police in partnership with mental health organizations, focuses on perpetrators' records to gain insight into their behavioural patterns.
It asks questions such as whether they have abusive pasts, whether they've been to jail before and whether they have children. A higher score typically means a higher chance of reoffending.
Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht said the domestic violence rate in Edmonton has been climbing since 2015, when there were about 8,500 incidents. 
'People, certainly the victims, felt a certain level of shame … I think we've moved beyond that.'
- Rod Knecht, Edmonton Police Service
While officers are responding to an increased volume of calls, it's not immediately clear whether they're coming from the same people.

Challenges of tracking domestic violence

​Knecht said a lot of domestic violence reports are from the past; people contacting police about situations that happened months, even years ago.  
Another challenge is these incidents typically take place behind closed doors, oftentimes in private homes.
'It's not a situation where the police can observe that or will be there.'
- Rod Knecht, Edmonton Police Service
Edmonton police did more domestic offender management checks in 2016 than in 2015. The checks are unscheduled visits to ensure offenders are complying with court orders.
Officers also did more victim intervention checks, which are follow-ups to ensure victims are getting the support they need. 
"We can tell you that in our experience working with victims of domestic violence, they have more of an enhanced sense of security in relation to us having interaction with them," Cardoso said. 
Commissioner Micki Ruth questioned how officers know those programs, in place for the past four years, are working. 
"Do you know that this way of doing things is effective? Do you know that it's the right thing to do?" she asked. "Recidivism rate is a measure. It's not the only measure." 
​Edmonton police are going to be working MacEwan University psychology professor Sandy Jung as the ODARA is implemented. Jung and EPS will work together to get a more precise measure of recidivism rates and subsequently, the effectiveness of current programming.
The ODARA is not only used by Ontario Provincial Police officers. It has also been picked up by RCMP and implemented in some social service agencies across the country, including in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.