KCMO Municipal Domestic Violence Court earns national distinction; U.S. Department of Justice grants mentor court designation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 19, 2017
The Kansas City Municipal Domestic Violence Court has been named a Domestic Violence Mentor Court, making it the only municipal court in the country to earn this distinction. This designation by the U.S. Department of Justice Violence Against Women Initiative also comes with a $48,090 grant.
The Municipal Court received the honor this month, which coincides with National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Courts from around the country will visit Kansas City to observe its best practices in the area of increasing accountability for domestic abusers.
“This is a great honor for the Municipal Court and for the City as a whole,” said Domestic Violence Judge Courtney Wachal. “We believe our current model is one that is viable for many courts to implement; regardless of the population that specific jurisdiction serves. We continue to strive to learn the most effective methods of keeping victims safe and holding offenders accountable.”
The Kansas City Municipal Court serves the largest jurisdiction in Missouri and handles the highest number of domestic violence and child abuses cases. Over the past two years many improvements have been made to the program. Since 2015, the most serious offenders are placed on the Domestic Violence Compliance Docket. These offenders typically appear before Wachal and report regularly to Offender Accountability Officer Megan Reed, both of whom monitor their progress on probation. Those failing to meet conditions of probation are subject to penalties that are pre-determined by a uniform sanctioning grid that is applied equally to all offenders.
Kansas City has long been dedicated to ending domestic violence. In 1989, the Mayor’s Task Force Against Domestic Violence created the Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Program. Those efforts led to a dedicated domestic violence court docket and, in 1995, the creation of a full-time domestic violence judge position. The domestic violence court handles a variety of cases including assault, harassment, stalking, order of protection violations, child abuse, neglect and endangerment and domestic violence related theft, property destruction and trespassing cases. The City’s Law Department also employs two full-time and two part-time domestic violence prosecutors and three victim advocates.
“The City and Court have worked very hard to strengthen the Domestic Violence team,” said Municipal Court Administrator Megan Pfannenstiel. “The unit includes a dedicated offender accountability officer and judge working side by side with the City Prosecutor’s Office Victim Assistance Program to ensure the safety of its victims and while holding the defendants accountable. We are also very fortunate in the relationships between the domestic violence team and various community partners.”
Each day there are two domestic violence shelter advocates available to counsel victims. The domestic violence team also has worked with Synergy Services to provide low cost batterer’s intervention evaluation and classes. This has helped increase attendance and participation.
For more information, contact Benita Jones, public information officer for the Municipal Court, at 816-513-6711 or by email.