Concord’s first officer dedicated to fighting domestic violence takes her job personally
Officer Christy Spaulding talks to Leigh LaCasse before the sentencing trial for her ex-boyfriend, Daniel Fleury, in a case which both the Judge and Spaulding say was one of the worst domestic violence cases they have seen. Spaulding was the first officer to arrive on the scene when LaCasse was assulted by Fleury, she continued to follow up with LaCasse and her children even after her job was done at the scene. Spaulding is the Concord Police Department's first domestic violence officer, a position made possible through federal funds, the department hopes this position will allow Officer Spaulding to help raise awareness for domestic violence, and also allow her more time to follow up with victims of domestic violence.
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"Thank you for saving her life," says Christina Miller as she hugs Officer Christy Spaulding after the sentencing of Leah LaCasse's ex-boyfriend Daniel Fleury for assaulting LaCasse. Spaulding is the Concord Police Department's first domestic violence officer, a position made possible through federal funding. The department hopes this position will allow Officer Spaulding to help raise awareness about domestic violence and allow her more time to follow up with victims of domestic violence.
Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »
Christy Spaulding has a strict sense of the difference between right and wrong, and broad sense of the word duty.
The first is why she became a police officer; the second is why she spent two hours of her day off Friday sitting in a Concord courtroom. It’s also why Concord police Chief John Duval chose her to be the department’s first officer dedicated to fighting domestic violence.
The position will be funded with federal grant dollars for three years and supported with city funding for a fourth. When she starts today, she’ll look for programs across the country that have tackled domestic violence, and start to adapt their methods here in order to educate the community and prevent domestic violence from happening, and to follow up with victims when it does.
So far this year, the Concord police have responded to 116 calls regarding domestic assault, and the department expects that number to reach 124 by the end of the year, up from 108 in 2011 and 100 in 2010. But the problem isn’t just about numbers, Duval said.
“It’s not like there was a period of time where it was okay, where it was acceptable and now there’s been a spike,” Duval said. “We want to use our resources to address a problem that is ongoing and needs to change.”
Often, domestic violence calls are reported in the evening, which is the department’s busiest time. As soon as an officer can leave that scene, there are other calls waiting. Paperwork gets filed with the court system, and the officers have to move on to other cases.
Spaulding, who has been with the department for five years, said she takes those calls “a little more personally. I’m the warm and fuzzy officer. I go back the next day, I go back five days after and just check on them, see how they’re doing and let them know I’m still there to help.”
Six officers applied for the new position, and if he could have, he would have created a six-person unit for the job, Duval said.
“But what Christy brings is an intrinsic ability to build relationships and personalize the police operations. It’s the epitome of what policing in a community should be,” he said.
Spaulding plans to use her new position to work with schools to educate teens about the warning signs of dating violence. Often, abuse can start in subtle, seemingly innocent ways.
“Stalking is a big one with teens,” she said. “Are you allowed to call other people or text other people with him or her getting upset, checking your phone or looking at your Facebook wall everyday?”
It’s important for friends and family to get involved if they think something is wrong, and if a potential victim won’t listen, to tell a counselor or police officer, she said. Spaulding with be working with the New Hampshire Coalition against Domestic Violence to provide victims with a name and a friendly face who can help them file charges or apply for protective orders.
It’s just an extension of what she’s already been doing, often on her own time.
On a regular day off, she would have spent the afternoon helping her kids with their homework and getting dinner started. Instead, on Friday, she was there to support Leigh LaCasse as she spoke at the sentencing hearing of her now ex-boyfriend, who was convicted recently of breaking into LaCasse’s apartment and assaulting her.
“It’s what she needed,” Spaulding said.
“She’s my hero,” LaCasse said after the hearing. “She was there that night with open arms. I was not clothed, she put a jacket on me. She stayed by my side through the hospital visit even after her time on the clock was done. She’s checked in for the past year and a half with me and with my children, just to see how we’re doing. I can’t explain with words what it’s meant.”
It’s the kind of support Spaulding knew was lacking in the Georgia town where she grew up, the town where her own sister ended up married to a man who left her black-and-blue and fearing for the safety of her unborn child.
“The men were the rulers of their house and what they said went. If they had to keep their woman in line, they kept their woman in line. Nobody went to the police for this; this was everyday happenings,” she said. “But I grew up in a church family. . . . Everybody was supposed to love everybody and treat everybody with respect. I knew right from wrong, period.”
She was only 16 at the time and couldn’t help her sister until her parents stepped in, but, she said, “I knew then that I wasn’t going to let that happen to anybody else if I could help it.”
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or email@example.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)