Huntley Police Outline Domestic Violence Protocol
Police department working to curb domestic violence cases by reaching out to victims before tragedy hits.
Hooten looks for indicators and rates the severity of each incident.
Verbal arguments are low on the scale because everyone has an argument here and there, said the 10-year police veteran. If a pattern develops, it would get Hooten’s attention. The indicators she takes into account include whether there was physical abuse, property damage, alcohol or drugs involved, she said.
“It’s an accumulation of factors that make the severity level increase,” Hooten said.
Hooten was assigned as the department’s domestic violence coordinator in early 2009. She heads the police department’s effort to reduce domestic violence by 3 percent this year as domestic violence reports increase in the village.
Huntley police started its efforts to curb domestic violence that year; the same year the village had its first domestic violence murder/suicide.
This week, 43-year-old Robert Signorile, was charged with first-degree murder in the domestic homicide of Michelle Mathieu, 52. She was found beaten and unconscious in her master bedroom on March 18. She died of her injuries on March 24.
Huntley police rarely deal with murder cases. The irony that the two murders in recent memory are both classified as domestic homicides is not lost on police.
Domestic violence experts like Hooten know the reality, too. The fact is the chance of being killed by someone you know is a lot greater than being killed by a stranger, Hooten said.
“On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day,” according to Domestic Violence Resource Center’s website. “Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined,” the site states.
In August, an officer met with Mathieu within 24 to 48 hours after Signorile was arrested on a charge of domestic battery. It is standard protocol for officers to meet with victims within that timeframe, while the offender is required to stay away from the victim for 72 hours.
Huntley Police Chief John Perkins said it gives everyone time to cool off and for officers to get more information while providing further assistance.
“It’s a good time to figure out what is going on and what the game plan is going to be,” Hooten said. “If (the victim) is not ready to leave at that time, there are resources.”
Officers give victims information about filing an order of protection and shelters available to help, she said.
“What I hear from a lot of victims is so many victims are not educated about what domestic violence is like, what it feels like, what it sounds like,” she said.
What Hooten also found is victims don’t know where to go to escape the abusive relationship or where to go for help.
“A lot of victims want to leave but don’t know how to leave,” she said.
She has gathered information about referrals and places to get help in McHenry and Kane counties.
Police try to empower victims and help them understand domestic abuse, she said.
Victims need to understand the abuse will escalate and get worse, Perkins said.
The message — that abuse will get escalate and get worse — hits home when domestic abuse cases become homicides, Hooten said.
“It’s a horrible tragedy like this (the Mathieu murder) that brings domestic violence to light (but) it’s always there,” Hooten said. Huntley police and advocates try to stop it