For Detective Constable Patricia Sevik, no two days are the same in the Domestic Violence Team of the Family Support Unit (FSU). In fact, she says, even situations involving the same individuals are never quite the same, and keeping an open mind is key. She has learned that being an investigator is not about proving or disproving someone’s guilt, but about collecting evidence and following wherever that evidence leads.
DC Sevik has spent the past year in the Family Support Unit (FSU) – her fourth year with the RCIPS - as a DV investigator and has done a fair amount training for her role, including training on Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interviews, along with external training such as “Darkness to Light” hosted by The Department of Children and Family Services. But she says it is the on-the-job training that has taught her the most.
“What’s interesting is that sometimes you get a report which says things happened one way, and it actually turns out to be another way,” says DC Sevik. “You can never assume what really took place.”
DC Sevik is originally from Cayman Brac – Spot Bay to be exact – and she still considers it home. She says she has always had a desire to give back to her community, and joining the police was one way she knew she might be able to do that. Eventually she decided to take the chance, applied, and made it in. She’s says being in the service has not only allowed her to fulfill her purpose of giving back, but it has given her even more than she had expected.
DC Sevik starts her days fairly early. She arrives to work by 6:30AM, and in fact is usually the first person in the office. She begins her day by going through the RCIPS’ internal records management system and reviewing any new incidents that have come in. If any incidents are flagged as DV-related, she will review these incidents to determine the level of DV risk involved. If there is a high level of risk then FSU detectives will take over the case. Other times they will play a supporting role in an investigation being carried out by uniform officers. Risk levels can in part be determined by flags such as whether weapons and or alcohol are involved, whether children are involved, and so on.
Once an incident is determined to be an FSU matter, the investigation will proceed, which includes contacting the victim in order to collect a statement, putting safeguarding measures in place for the victim, and, if necessary, arresting and interviewing a suspect.
Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of interdepartmental work involved. DC Sevik regularly finds herself working alongside counsellors, probation officers, the HSA, mental health workers, social services, and even meals on wheels. In the many cases where financial issues are a factor, she will work with the NAU as well.
Although many investigations into serious incidents will necessarily involve an arrest, she says most of the time her aim as a DV detective is more to do mediation between the parties involved, if they are willing.
In fact, DC Sevik says that being able to assist the persons involved in the cases is the most rewarding part of the job.
One of her first cases involved a woman who had been married for almost twenty years and had been experiencing abuse essentially from the first day of marriage. DC Sevik says they assisted her in leaving the marriage, receiving the necessary counselling, and eventually becoming fully independent again.
“One of the biggest things you’ll find in working with domestic cases is that most people just want someone to talk to,” she adds. “It’s more just the compassion that you show to someone that makes the difference. So we sit and listen, and try to give them advice and support to the best of our ability, and then we go from there.”
Detective Inspector Kevin Ashworth, head of the Family Support Unit, describes DC Sevik as having a naturally inquisitive mind, which helps her to manage investigations with the thoroughness needed to ensure positive outcomes.
“As a team player I have witnessed her volunteering for extra work and assisting others in complex investigations which require extra duties and personal time encroachments,” says DI Ashworth. “When the job needs doing Patricia is always willing to help and does so with professionalism and a positive attitude.”
DC Sevik says she’s enjoyed the work she has been doing with the FSU, and would recommend it to any interested officer. However, she warns that the unit is not for everyone. There is a balancing act of having to separate your personal feelings from the work, while maintaining your sense of compassion, which is not always easy. Sometimes you may find yourself getting attached to certain clients, but you have to maintain some level of separation.
Still, DC Sevik believes compassion and understanding are the most important traits for a detective working on domestic violence cases.
“You have to treat the individuals with compassion,” she says, “whether they are witnesses, victims or suspects. That helps to build a rapport, and it also helps bring healing to the traumatic situations that victims do find themselves in.”
by Mikhail Campbell, Media Relations Officer
This article is the first in a new series of profiles of RCIPS officers, which will explore the roles of officers in various departments within the service.