July 30 - August 5, 2023: Issue 592


'Empower You' app for improved support and connectivity for DV victims launched by NSW Police

Victims of domestic and family violence in NSW now have access to an innovative new mobile phone application designed to discreetly document abuse and provide better access to support services.

NSW Police Domestic and Family Violence Portfolio Owner, Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, unveiled the ‘Empower You’ app on Sunday 23 July 2023, which was developed as part of the commitment to ensuring better outcomes for victims of domestic and family violence across the state.

The concept of the app was presented by the Blacktown DVLO Team to senior officers as part of the Domestic and Family Violence Reform Project, which was established last year to change the way police respond to and prevent domestic violence.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the initial idea for the app came from a NSW Police officer with extensive experience in dealing with and supporting victims of domestic violence in Western Sydney.

“When we established the Reform Project, a call was put out to all staff to submit their ideas in terms of improving the victim experience and I couldn’t be prouder seeing this concept from the team at Blacktown come to life,” the Commissioner said.

“Sergeant Lisa Clemence’s experiences with victims, particularly the story of a local survivor, Hayley, inspired the idea of putting all the right information in one place which is easily accessible at any time.

“She harnessed the coding and app developing skills of Sergeant Sam Morgan and together they created ‘Empower You’ to include a private diary, a coded emergency signal feature, which can also send their GPS location, simple connectivity to Triple Zero for emergencies, and links local support services.

“Not only does this app allow for victims to easily document abuse, which is often difficult to recall when in distress or when it occurs over long periods of time, we believe this app has the potential to save lives,” the Commissioner said.

The prototype for the app was then further developed by technical experts from the Force’s Technology Command to ensure the functionalities comply with legislation, which allows the data to be presented at court as evidence.

Assistant Commissioner Smith said it’s intended the ‘Empower You’ app will do exactly that – empower victims of abuse.

“The ‘Empower You’ app was designed to be user friendly, intuitive, and interactive, while still having the best safety features for user privacy and discretion,” Assistant Commissioner Smith said.

“It has inbuilt features to keep it private on any mobile, including passcodes and quick lock, and has a modest-looking icon that’s designed not to alert perpetrators.

“The diary feature allows a victim to collect their thoughts – including photos of injuries and property damage, and screenshots of emails or messages – and document an incident when it happens, no matter how minor or whether they report it to police at that time.

“This is especially important in terms of coercive control, where we know a victim often feels helpless, so with ‘Empower You’, the abuse is clearly demonstrated, and the power comes back to the victim.”

The app has since undergone rigorous testing, which included intensive consultation with experts in dealing with domestic and family violence victims, service providers, advocates, and other key stakeholders.

Domestic Violence NSW’s Bridget Mottram congratulated NSW Police on the launch of the Empower You app and appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback as it was developed.

“Police play a vital role in responding to domestic and family violence in our community. This app is an additional resource for victim-survivors who wish to report to police that may support and streamline the process,” Dr Mottram said.

“As the peak organisation representing frontline specialist domestic and family violence services in NSW, we look forward to our ongoing collaboration with police on a range of system reforms and improvements.”

The ‘Empower You’ app is available in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, and NSW Police officers have QR codes on their MobiPOL devices to link to the app in the stores to download.

NSW Police establish new registry to better protect victims of domestic and family violence

On Sunday, 30 July 2023 the NSW Police Force announced it has established an Australian-first specialist policing team to drive targeted prevention, disruption, and investigation responses to domestic and family violence in NSW.

Following the release of the NSW Auditor-General’s Report ‘Police responses to domestic and family violence’, NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb initiated the Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) Reform Project to change the way police respond to and prevent domestic violence.

The report's recommendations include:

  • Improve workforce and workload data collections, analysis and reporting on domestic and family violence workload volumes and allocations of specialist and frontline police to meet demands.
  • Structure and resource the domestic and family violence strategic policy function to a level commensurate with workload volumes and risks associated with domestic violence policing.
  • Review debriefing protocols, procedures, and resources for police after domestic and family violence incidents.
  • Improve databases and information systems for recording domestic violence events so that related events and individuals are automatically connected.
  • Design a procedure to collect, collate, and analyse service user and stakeholder feedback about police responses to domestic and family violence.
  • Review existing activity measures and targets for domestic and family violence and expand to include performance measures, service quality measures and outcomes reporting.
  • Review the process for investigating allegations of domestic and family violence against current and former serving police personnel and implement procedures to ensure processes are independent of interested parties and mitigate conflicts of interest.

The key objectives of the NSW Police Force's Reform Project included addressing the recommendations of the report and implementing strategies to target reoffending set out in the NSW Premier’s final report on DFV reoffending.

These reviews identified the need for significant structural and procedural changes within the organisation to meet current and future demands.

In announcing the establishment of the DFV Registry, a centralised unit of subject matter experts with 24-hour capability to provide advice, guidance, and response to domestic and family violence incidents, Commissioner Webb stated.

“Domestic and family violence is one of today’s most challenging and complex community issues; it feels like an epidemic. It is time for that to change,” 

“I see the Domestic and Family Violence Registry as being central to that change, not just within our organisation, but also through improved collaboration with service providers, advocates, and other key stakeholders.

“The Registry is staffed by officers with expertise in domestic and family violence issues, including investigations and victim support, as well as legal and intelligence specialists and a consultant psychologist.

“It is my intention that we implement systems which reduce the admin and paperwork, so the focus is on supporting victims and ensuring they access agencies that help them escape the violence.

“With better outcomes for victims as the priority, this team will ensure we do everything we can to put policies, procedures, and checkpoints in place to create solutions for now and into the future.” the Commissioner said.

Minister for Police and Counter Terrorism Yasmin Catley said these vicious criminal assaults are occurring where people should feel the most safe – within their own homes.

“With a minuscule number of exceptions, it is men attacking women and children in their own homes. The terror and trauma are often as bad as the physical injuries inflicted,” Minister Catley said.

“It’s hard to think of many worse categories of crime.

“I support the NSWPF with everything the Government can bring to go after these perpetrators and put them in prison where they belong.

I welcome this new initiative from the NSWPF. Along with the Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Jodie Harrison, I am visiting the new registry on Monday to get a full briefing on the ways it will benefit victims of domestic and family violence.”

The DFV Registry will support all NSW Police officers in the response to DFV by providing strategic oversight and optimising the use of resources, with expansive core functions including:

  • Quality assurance and governance,
  • Government reporting and auditing of police area commands and districts,
  • Education and specialist training, assessment of new programs,
  • Monitoring and escalation of high-risk offenders, and;
  • Investigative strategy and capability development.

DFV Registry Commander, Superintendent Danielle Emerton, said the team’s functions will be similar to that of the Child Protection and Missing Persons Registries.

“All organisational information and intelligence relating to domestic and family violence will be fed into and reviewed by DFV Registry to develop strategies to reduce the incidences and threats of violence,” Supt Emerton said.

“We have a predictive model to analyse the likelihood that an offender will cause serious harm, which allows us to put strategies in place to neutralise the threat.

“An important part of managing this process is understanding the difference between repeat offenders and dangerous offenders – those whose intent, capability and access to their victim is escalated.

“Importantly, the systems we have in place help us to identify repeat victims quickly, so we can put them in contact with support services and guide them through the legal processes.”

Victims of domestic and family violence can also seek advice and services by contacting 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visiting: https://www.1800respect.org.au.

Reports of domestic and family-related crime or abuse can be made by contacting or attending your local police station. In an emergency or life-threatening situation, contact Triple Zero (000).

Anyone with information relating to domestic and family-related violence is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.