Mesa prosecutor takes stand against domestic violence - East Valley Tribune: News

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Mesa prosecutor takes stand against domestic violence

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Posted: Monday, April 14, 2003 11:24 pm

Mesa's new city prosecutor is leading a task force aimed at making Mesa a "model city" in combating domestic violence.

John Pombier, an advocate of aggressively prosecuting men who abuse women and children, has a long history of going after abusers in the state.

Pombier previously served for six years as Phoenix's lead prosecuting attorney in the domestic violence unit and two years as the director of the Governor's Office for Prevention of Family Violence. He also is a member of the Men's Anti-Violence Network — an initiative of the Arizona Foundation for Women.

As Mesa's city prosecutor, Pombier said he wants to ensure Mesa is doing everything it can as a city and an employer to stop domestic violence. To that end, he is heading the Mesa domestic violence council, a 13-member panel made up primarily of city officials. It was formerly called the domestic violence coordinating committee.

The council's first step is to review the system to find the gaps, he said.

"I think the biggest issue is determining what we have," Pombier said.

Mesa already is a leader in the Valley in how it handles domestic violence crimes, he said, pointing out that Mesa has three lawyers who specialize in domestic violence cases. He applauded the efforts of the Mesa Center Against Family Violence, a facility that specializes in investigating abuse claims and treating victims.

He also pointed out that the Mesa Police Department is one of the only law enforcement agencies in the country that uses specialized domestic violence police reports, which help police conduct domestic violence investigations. The reports, which are similar to alcohol influence reports, help prosectors convict abusers, he said.

"In all honesty, Mesa's ahead of the game in a lot of areas."

One area that Pombier is focusing on is how City Hall can help Mesa employees who are being abused but don't report it, he said. Such incidents can include female employees being stalked or harassed at work by husbands or boyfriends.

Statistics indicate that one of every three to four women is going to be the victim of domestic violence, Pombier said. What that means is that Mesa, with a work force of nearly 4,000 full- and part-time employees, has its share of domestic violence victims, Pombier said.

Pombier is crafting a workplace violence policy that he said will soon go before the City Council for approval. The policy, which is hoped to encourage victims to come forward, will ensure the city handles such cases with "the utmost professionalism," Pombier said.

"The push for this really comes from the belief that before you go into the community, you have to make sure you're taking care of your own employees," Pombier said. "I want to make sure we're providing as much for our employees as we can."

A workplace policy that protects employees is crucial because work is the one place where perpetrators know they can find the victims, said Dianne Post, director of systems advocacy at the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

"The city has a very important role in stopping domestic violence and holding the perpetrator accountable," Post said, adding that Pombier is known for his tough stance against abusers.

"Studies have shown that's the only thing that works," Post said. "What we need is for men like him to step up to the plate."

Another goal of Mesa's domestic violence council is to improve communication between emergency medical crews, who are often first on the scene of domestic violence incidents, and the law enforcement agencies that eventually prosecute the abusers, said City Councilwoman Claudia Walters, who serves on the domestic violence council.

"To suggest we can eliminate domestic violence is not a realistic goal," Walters said. "But we can do a whole lot better."

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