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To Protect and Serve?

Local victims of violence can be excused for thinking their government has it in for them. First, administrative blunders have left D.C. almost certain to lose $18 million in funds earmarked for victims of violence. Now, domestic-abuse counselors say a high-profile police redeployment strategy has left domestic violence victims in the lurch. Caroline Nicholl, who oversees Metropolitan Police Department programs that fall under the federal Violence Against Women Act, explains that Chief Charles Ramsey’s policy of shifting officers from special units to the street—as well as confusion about overtime funds—has caused a decline in the number of civil protection orders officers serve. Such orders put legal distance between batterers and victims. And the officer assigned to D.C. Superior Court’s Domestic Violence Unit also seems to have been redeployed. Last week, a terrified woman came to the unit for help only to find no officer on duty. Counselors called 911, and police arrived 30 minutes later. “[It] affects my work,” says Domestic Violence Unit intake counselor Michelle Thomas. “It slows down the process to a standstill.” —Annys Shin