New Jersey police breached rules for domestic violence investigations by handcuffing Janay Palmer shortly after Ray Rice had knocked her unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February, according to several experts who reviewed newly released video of the assault’s aftermath.
Authorities in Atlantic City also should not have interviewed Palmer in the presence of Rice and then allowed the couple to stand close enough to kiss while being escorted — both in handcuffs — to waiting police cars, said Sarah McMahon, co-director of the Center on Violence Against Women & Children at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
The images of how police handled Rice’s assault on the woman who is now his wife emerged in new surveillance video that ABC News released Friday.
New Jersey police are trained to quickly identify the “primary aggressor” in a domestic violence incident involving two people who were fighting and arrest only that person, McMahon and others said.
“If they knew she had been unconscious, they should have been able to identify Ray Rice as the primary aggressor,” she said. “She should have never been placed in handcuffs and arrested.”
Jane Shivas, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, agreed.
“The police were not following protocol as the law and policies indicate in New Jersey,” Shivas said. “The fact that she was knocked out completely and he’s much bigger than her and a football player – for them to put her in handcuffs after an injury like that seems unconscionable. It also does not follow procedure.”
New Jersey police officers are trained to take the victim away from a suspected assailant and interview her in a separate area, according to experts and a training document obtained by The Sun. Such a technique “will greatly decrease the likelihood that she will be intimidated by the suspect,” the document states.
The video released Friday is the third to emerge since the Feb. 15 assault in an elevator at the Revel Casino Hotel. The first two show Rice hitting Palmer with a left hook and then dragging her unconscious body halfway out of the elevator.
The new video shows authorities interviewing Palmer with Rice standing and then sitting nearby. The two are both handcuffed and led out together. The video then shows them standing at the rear of an elevator packed with police officials. With their hands cuffed behind them, Palmer and Rice touch heads and kiss before being led out to separate police cars.
Authorities with the Atlantic City Police Department and the state gaming enforcement office could not be reached for comment.
Rice and Palmer were both arrested for simple assault. Prosecutors later dismissed Palmer’s charges and upgraded Rice’s charge to felony aggravated assault. Rice avoided jail time when he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program.
The 27-year-old Pro Bowl player’s attorney and agent would not comment about the new video. They noted that the couple were attending charity events this weekend.
“We don’t have anything to say about it,” said Deb Poquette, one of Rice’s publicists. “Everyone is so ready for this to be over.”
She said the new video showing them kissing should not be a surprise because they were an engaged couple in Atlantic City during Valentine’s Day weekend. They were making up after a fight, she said.
But domestic violence experts say that kiss and Rice’s access to Palmer should have never been allowed to occur, giving the former Ravens a chance to influence how she would talk to police.
New Jersey training documents and policies — as well as the “model domestic violence policy” for Maryland law enforcement officers — instruct police to be aware that victims will try to minimize the violence and blame themselves while perpetrators will gush with emotion and sorrow to gain forgiveness.
Placing handcuffs on Palmer would have only heightened her sense of self-blame, McMahon said. Allowing Rice to remain close enough to see and hear her as she spoke with authorities would have given him an opportunity to try to influence her.
“Following a severe battering incident most batterers enter the ‘hearts and flowers’ phase of the ‘cycle of violence,'” states Maryland policy formulated by law enforcement groups and the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. The perpetrator will “become contrite and apologetic and will beg the victim’s forgiveness.”
Police need to be better trained at establishing an investigative procedure that protects victims from such intimidation, said Ruth M. Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. By the time an officer arrives on the scene of a domestic violence incident, couples are typically at a stage where they are trying to avoid further trouble by minimizing the violence.
Palmer and the Ravens often portrayed her role in the fight in an effort to protect Rice’s image and his job with the team, experts have said. Rice was dismissed from the team in September when the video showing him hit her was released online.
“It is all too common that domestic violence is treated that way. It is because of lack of training and understanding,” Glenn said. “It’s not just the Ray Rice case.”
Shivas said the new video raises questions about whether police were influenced by Rice’s celebrity.
“The fact that they were in the same elevator—in what other kind of crime would they put the victim and perpetrator together? It’s certainly not protecting the victim.
“It raises questions about his status as a football player,” Shivas added. “It makes one question how someone’s notoriety and celebrity can impact police decision making in how they act toward the perpetrator.”
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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