- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - All of the more than 5,000 officers with the Houston Police Department will receive special training to better respond to sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

The advanced training, announced Tuesday, is part of a combined effort by the city and advocates for the victims of family violence, the Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/2d7bZvi ) reported.

Houston police officers have responded to over 21,600 reports of domestic violence so far this year. The Department of Justice in late 2015 issued new guidelines for police departments nationwide to eliminate gender bias in investigating sexual assault and domestic violence cases. The recommendations include more appropriate classifying of reports of sexual assault or domestic violence. Police will also be trained to better address and recognize biases, assumptions and stereotypes about victims.

“It’s going to train officers on the neurobiology of trauma,” HPD Special victims Division Capt. Dana Hitzman said. “So officers can understand why that victim might not be able to tell their story in a linear fashion, why they might jump around … why they might respond the way they do, if they have a history of family violence or sexual assault.”

The training comes as departments have faced scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault investigations, including accusing victims of false reporting and sometimes even jailing the victim.

Associate professor in Sam Houston State University’s department of criminal justice and criminology Cortney Franklin said that if police are better trained to act and speak with compassion to the victims, then the victims are more likely to cooperate.

The training, expected to be completed by next fall, was developed by police and the Houston Area Women’s Center.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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