Should Police Be Required To Enforce Restraining Orders? - U2 Feedback

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Old 03-20-2005, 04:16 PM   #1
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Should Police Be Required To Enforce Restraining Orders?


DENVER (March 19) - In a case that could open the door to lawsuits against local governments across the country, a Colorado woman is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to back her $30 million lawsuit claiming police didn't do enough to prevent her estranged husband from killing their three daughters.

Jessica Gonzales contends police in the community of Castle Rock ignored her calls for help after Simon Gonzales took the girls - ages 10, 9 and 7 - from her yard in June 1999 in violation of a restraining order she obtained as part of her divorce.

Several hours later, Simon Gonzales fired shots through a police station window. He was killed in the resulting gunfight, and officers found the girls' bodies in his pickup truck.

At issue in the Supreme Court appeal is whether the 14th Amendment obligates police to protect residents from violence when a local government issues a restraining order and promises it will be enforced. Oral arguments are scheduled for Monday.

Gonzales' federal court lawsuit was dismissed in 2001, but it was reinstated by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said police had a duty to respond to her calls for help. In Colorado and about 20 other states, law enforcement agencies are required to enforce restraining orders.

Littleton Assistant City Attorney Brad Bailey, who filed a brief opposing the lawsuit, said the 10th Circuit's decision marked the first time any court has given such status to a restraining order.

"Given the sheer numbers of orders out there, potentially the liability is just staggering," Bailey said.

When Gonzales reported her husband had taken the girls, two officers - half the town's on-duty police force at the time - were sent to her home to investigate and learned the restraining order gave the father limited child-visitation rights.

"There was absolutely no indication at all that those girls were in harm's way," said Tony Lane, who had been police chief for 13 years in the fast-growing town 25 miles south of Denver. "His previous history did not show he was ever violent toward those girls and he was in compliance with the restraining order."

Legal relief for police neglect is often available under state laws. But Colorado bars negligence claims, leaving Gonzales with nowhere to turn if the high court rules against her.

"I don't lose three children and not do something about it," Gonzales told "60 Minutes" for a report scheduled to air Sunday on CBS. The lawsuit "is the only way I know how to make that right. All I can do is give it my best shot to make a change, to make the world a little safer."

Calls to a phone registered to a Jessica Gonzales in Denver were not answered. Her attorney, Brian Reichel, did not return several calls, though in written arguments he has said police could have prevented the deaths.

The case has drawn attention from numerous groups, including the National League of Cities, National Sheriffs Association and other groups.

Lane, the police chief, said he doesn't know what motivated Gonzales to sue.

"People do have a tendency to look for somebody to blame," he said. "There's no bitterness at all on our part. She's just doing what she thinks is appropriate. She just has a different opinion of the facts of the case."

I think I side with Jessica. If there is a restraining order, and someone is in violation of it, what is the point of having the restraining order if it's not going to be enforced? There has to be some accountability. Three girls died here, and it could have prevented. Sometimes you have to eat your pride and think maybe, just maybe, the woman that was married to the psychopath knows him better than you do.

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Old 03-20-2005, 04:37 PM   #2
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I think the police should make every possible effort but unfortunately it seems that there are hundreds if not thousands of restraining orders out there. Even if 1 in 100 is being broken, apart from regular police duties, it is difficult for law enforcement to protect everyone. Sadly,this situation ended with a huge tragedy. Restraining orders seem to work only if the person being restrained respects the law and the courts, otherwise it don't mean much.

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Old 03-20-2005, 07:43 PM   #3
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Well speaking from personal expeirence, there was an ex-boyfriend of mine who I was going to file a restraining order against and he even said it, "That piece of paper is going to do nothing".

It's difficult because honestly, what can be done to enforce this? Unforetunatly, most people loony enough to get a restraining order filed against them will not respect the court's they tend to have thier own interpretation of reality. I do without a doubt believe that police need to respond to every call with a sense of responsibility...especially when there are children caught in the middle.
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Old 03-21-2005, 06:56 AM   #4
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The size of police force necessary to enforce all restraining orders would be staggering. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of restraining orders out there. Many fall in the family law context - and police are already run ragged dealing with divorced couples who hate each other.

And we should really consider the concept of "enforcement" if we persue this goal.

If a restraining order states that an individual must remain 100 feet away, what will happen if it is violated? How do you prove the violation? What level of due process is given in this context? Can restraining orders be abused to further punish an individual?
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Old 03-21-2005, 07:16 AM   #5
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If a restraining or can't or won't be enforced, why issue them in the first place?

I know the police can't be everywhere but why give the victim (or potential victim) a false sense of security? Anyone who has ever taken out a restraining order knows it can't stop a bullet or keep someone who truly wants to hurt you from doing so but at the very least, you have that knowledge that you can call the police if the person you are afraid of comes around. Its pretty scary to find out that restraining order violations aren't a top priority.

And when kids are involved, like in the 60 Minutes case, every effort should be made to enforce to order. Err on the side of caution rather than dismiss what you perceive to be an angry woman trying to get back at her ex. Yes, people do abuse them for their own reasons but as long as they are handed out, they have to be enforced.
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Old 03-21-2005, 07:31 AM   #6
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Originally posted by Bono's American Wife
If a restraining or can't or won't be enforced, why issue them in the first place?
This is a good question. Perhaps the victim could notify law enforcement if the predator is violating their restraining order. Also, if trouble arises, there could be a stricter sentence on the predator.

Are they effective?
You be the judge.

Just throwing that out there.
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Old 03-21-2005, 09:20 AM   #7
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Originally posted by Macfistowannabe
Perhaps the victim could notify law enforcement if the predator is violating their restraining order.
Problem is, sometimes it's too late.
Originally posted by Macfistowannabe

Are they effective?
Unfortunately they are less effective as a preventative and act more as a means to legally place fault after the fact.

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