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Evaluation of Military Services’ Law Enforcement Responses to Domestic Violence Incidents DODIG-2019-075

Evaluations

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Objective

We determined whether:

  • Military Service law enforcement policies related to responding to domestic violence incidents were consistent with DoD Instruction (DoDI) 6400.06,“Domestic Abuse Involving DoD Military and Certain Affiliated Personnel,” August 31, 2007, (Incorporating Change 2, July 9, 2015); and
     
  • Military Service law enforcement organizations complied with DoD policy when responding to nonsexual domestic violence incidents with adult victims.

Background

According to DoDI 6400.06, domestic violence is an offense that involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force or violence against a person, or a violation of a lawful order issued for the protection of a: (1) person who is a current or former spouse, (2) person with whom the abuser shares a child in common, or (3) current or former intimate partner with whom the abuser shares or has shared a common domicile. DoDI 6400.06 requires Military Service law enforcement personnel to respond to and investigate reports of domestic violence. Further, DoDI 6400.06 requires Military Service law enforcement personnel to assemble evidence and notify installation Family Advocacy Program (FAP) staff members immediately upon receiving an allegation of a domestic violence incident. The FAP is designed to address prevention, identification, evaluation, treatment, rehabilitation, followup, and reporting of family violence. The advocacy program consists of coordinated efforts designed to prevent and intervene in cases of family distress, and to promote healthy family life. 

DoD policy also requires Military Service law enforcement personnel to submit subject criminal history data to the Defense Central Index of Investigations (DCII) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) in order to store criminal history information for security and law enforcement purposes.


Findings

The Military Service law enforcement policies related to responding to incidents of domestic violence that we evaluated were consistent with DoDI 6400.06. They also included procedures, not found in DoDI 6400.06, that are designed to enhance law enforcement personnel’s response to domestic violence incidents.

However, we determined that Military Service law enforcement organizations did not consistently comply with DoD policies when responding to nonsexual domestic violence incidents with adult victims. Specifically, we evaluated 219 domestic violence incidents and found that Military Service law enforcement organizations did not consistently process crime scenes (62 of 219), conduct thorough interviews (148 of 219), notify FAP of domestic violence incidents (49 of 219), or submit criminal history data to the DCII, the FBI CJIS Division, and the Defense Forensics Science Center (DFSC) (180 out of 219).

Several factors contributed to Military Service law enforcement not complying with DoD law enforcement policies. Specifically, we determined that Military Service law enforcement commanders instructed law enforcement personnel to implement practices that were not consistent with DoD requirements which resulted in noncompliance. For example, a commander instructed law enforcement personnel to rely on the victim’s command officials to take followup photographs of victims’ injuries, rather than have law enforcement personnel take the photos. In addition, Military Service law enforcement personnel did not have the necessary equipment, such as cameras and digital field exploitation systems, to comply with DoD policies that require law enforcement personnel to collect and preserve evidence. Further, Military Service law enforcement supervisors did not perform effective supervisory oversight of domestic violence incident responses. For example, we found that supervisors did not review incident reports or only performed superficial reviews, which did not identify or correct the deficiencies discussed in the report. 

If Military Service law enforcement personnel do not thoroughly investigate and document their response to domestic violence incidents, decision makers, such as commanders and prosecutors, will not have the necessary information to make informed disciplinary or prosecutorial decisions. Further, these deficiencies could hinder criminal investigations, impact law enforcement and national security interests, and expose victims to additional harm.

Recommendations
 
We recommend that the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force take prompt action to ensure that:

a.  All subjects that we determined were not properly titled and indexed in the DCII are titled and 
     indexed, as required.

b.  A comprehensive review of criminal investigative databases and files is conducted to verify that all  
     subjects of domestic violence incidents from 1998 to present are titled and indexed in the DCII.

c.  Subject fingerprint cards and final disposition reports are collected and submitted to the FBI CJIS
     Division for all subjects that we determined were not submitted. 

d.  DNA is collected and submitted to the DFSC for submission to the Combined DNA Index System for
     all qualifying subjects that we determined were not submitted. 

e.  The importance of complying with DoD and supplemental Military Service policies related to law 
      enforcement’s response to domestic violence incidents when collecting evidence, conducting
      interviews, notifying Family Advocacy Personnel staff members, and titling and indexing subjects in
      the DCII is emphasized in writing to all Military Service law enforcement organizations. 

f.   Military Service law enforcement practices, equipment, and supervisory reviews are adequate to
     comply with DoD policies when collecting evidence, conducting interviews, notifying Family Advocacy 
     Program staff members, and titling and indexing subjects in the DCII

Management Comments and Our Response

The Chief of Staff for the Office of the Army Provost Marshal General, responding for the Secretary of the Army, agreed with Recommendations a, e, and f. He described specific actions the Army would take to implement these recommendations. We consider Recommendations a, e, and f for the Army resolved, but open. 

Additionally, the Chief of Staff for the Office of the Army Provost Marshal General agreed with Recommendations c and d. However, the actions described did not fully address the recommendations because the Chief of Staff’s plan does not ensure that fingerprints, final disposition reports, and DNA is collected and submitted for all qualifying subjects. As a result, Recommendations c and d for the Army are unresolved and we request additional comments that describe the specific actions the Army will take to ensure that fingerprints, final disposition reports, and DNA is collected and submitted for the subjects that we identified were missing during our evaluation. Furthermore, the Chief of Staff for the Office of the Army Provost Marshal General disagreed with Recommendation b. The Chief of Staff stated that the Army needs to conduct an analysis of its database systems to determine if it has the capability to review investigative cases dating back to 1998. As a result, Recommendation b for the Army is unresolved. Therefore, we request additional comments identifying the expected completion dates for the analysis of the Army’s criminal investigative databases and the recommended comprehensive review dating back to 1998 based on the Army’s capabilities. 

The Deputy Naval Inspector General, responding for the Secretary of the Navy, provided comments from the Assistant Director of NCIS who agreed with Recommendations a, b, c, e, and f. The Assistant Director of NCIS described specific actions NCIS would take to implement the recommendations. However, the actions described did not fully address Recommendations a and c because the described actions do not ensure the titling and indexing in the DCII and the submission of fingerprint cards and final disposition reports for all of the subjects we identified. Furthermore, the Assistant Director of NCIS disagreed with Recommendation d. The Assistant Director stated there was not sufficient probable cause to collect and submit the subject’s DNA because the victim changed her statement and denied being assaulted by the subject. We disagree with the Assistant Director, because we believe there was sufficient probable cause for collecting and submitting the subject’s DNA based on the photographs of the victim’s bruises to her chest and the statements she made to the nurse and responding law enforcement that she had been assaulted.

The Deputy Naval Inspector General, responding for the Secretary of the Navy, provided comments from the Commander, Navy Installations Command, who agreed with Recommendations a, b, c, d, e, and f; however, the actions described did not fully address Recommendations b , c , d , e , and f . For example, the described actions for Recommendation d did not address the collection and submission of DNA for the subjects we identified.

The Deputy Naval Inspector General, responding for the Secretary of the Navy, provided comments from the Branch Head of the Marine Corps Law Enforcement, Investigations, and Corrections Branch that were not responsive to Recommendations a, b, c, d, e, and f. Specifically, the Branch Head did not state whether he agreed or disagreed with the recommendations, nor did he describe actions the Marine Corps would take in response to the recommendations. As a result, we consider all of the recommendations to the Navy and Marine Corps, unresolved and we request additional comments from the Navy and the Marine Corps that state an agreement or disagreement with the recommendations and that describe specific actions they will take to resolve Recommendations a, b, c, d, e, and f. 

The Deputy Director of Security Forces, responding for the Secretary of the Air Force, agreed with Recommendations a , b , c , and d. She described specific actions the Air Force would take to implement these recommendations. We consider Recommendations a, b, c, and d for the Air Force resolved, but open. The Deputy Director of Security Forces agreed with Recommendation f. However, the actions described did not fully address the recommendation because the actions were not specific to ensure law enforcement practices, equipment, and supervisory reviews are adequate to comply with DoD policies. As a result, Recommendation f for the Air Force is unresolved, and we request additional comments that describe the specific actions the Air Force will take to ensure that law enforcement practices, equipment, and supervisory reviews are adequate to comply with DoD policies. 

Finally, the Deputy Director of Security Forces partially agreed with Recommendation e. She agreed to emphasize in writing the importance of complying with DoD and Military Service policies relating to notifying FAP. However, she did not agree that collecting evidence, conducting interviews, and taking photographs was required by DoDI 6400.06 because the guidance uses the word “should.” We disagree with the Deputy Director. The “Writing Style Guide and Preferred Usage for DoD Issuances,” June 27, 2018, states that use of the word “should” in a DoD issuance means that the action is required unless there is a justifiable reason for not doing so. For the noncompliances we identified, the Security Forces personnel did not provide a justifiable reason for not collecting evidence, conducting interviews, and taking photographs. Additionally, the Deputy Director’s described actions did not address ensuring the titling and indexing in the DCII for all of the subjects we identified that were missing from the DCII. As a result of the Deputy Director’s incorrect assertion and not addressing the titling and indexing of the subjects in the DCII, Recommendation e for the Air Force is unresolved. We request additional comments that describe the specific actions the Air Force will take to ensure that collecting evidence, conducting interviews, taking photographs, and titling and indexing in the DCII is emphasized in writing. 


This report is a result of Project No. D2017-C013