One person CAN change things. Dale Landry has seen it happen. In 1984 Dale Landry was stationed at Ft. Bliss Texas when Charles W. Shuttlesworth walked onto the base as Provost Marshall (the military term for chief of police). Shuttlesworth assumed the post of Provost Marshall with a zero tolerance for domestic violence. He did so for a reason.
When Shuttlesworth had been a young military officer in 1963, he received a call for help from the wife of a man on his base. "The man's wife," says Shuttlesworth "had a protective order that he had to stay away from her residence because of domestic violence. He had beaten her."
"She called me at my house," he says "and she said she was afraid, afraid he was going to come there and hurt her. She wanted him restricted to post."
Shuttlesworth made several phone calls, but at that time there was nothing that could be done.
"A couple of days later the man left the post and killed her." Shuttlesworth recalls. "That hung with me for years."
At that time, Shuttlesworth made a personal vow that if he were ever in a position to direct policy or write procedure, nothing like that would ever happen again, not at least under his watch.
So, when Shuttlesworth arrived in at Ft. Bliss in 1984, his first priority was to establish a police/community relations (PCR) section with the primary responsibility for police intervention into family matters and protection of domestic violence victims.
He was personally involved in recruiting a staff. Shuttlesworth wanted new people, people who hadn't been schooled in the old-time notions about families and domestic violence. He wanted people with a brand new outlook. Dale Landry was his first supervisor.
Shuttlesworth took a personal interest in setting up training, policy and procedures for the new group. He brought in people like those from the Daniel C. Kemp Foundation in Denver, Colorado because of their expertise in child abuse. And he set it up so that his PCR unit had contact with him 24-hours a day.
According to Landry, it didn't take long before "we started seeing the change" on the base. "Once the Military Police Unit went to a domestic violence scene," he says "their duty was to maintain order until the Police/Community Relations Unit arrived. They could not release the crime scene until we arrived."
In addition after the PCR unit arrived it could "put a patrol unit in a protective mode" to make sure that the woman, any children and the house were secure
Shuttlesworth obtained government quarters to function as a separate office for the PCR unit. He stripped a three bedroom apartment and furnished two bedrooms to accommodate families. If the offender could not be found, the PCR unit could "take the spouse into protective custody, leave a uniformed police officer there, until they could identify and locate the offender."
And, that was not the end of PCR unit involvement with the spouses. "They also took the victims through the whole process of going to the hospital. They could transport family members to medical treatment, get food, and services that were needed. If they went to the hospital, they were put into seclusion." Says Landry. So they could not be found.
The reaction on the military base was not all positive. "It was new to them" says Shuttlesworth. "Some people thought that it was grand, and some people thought it was intrusive to the relationship between commanders and their troops. In other words, it was getting into an area in which they weren't used to police involvement."
"A lot of people at that time thought that those kind of things were family matters and the police shouldn't be intruding. But other people thought it was grand that we were following up and trying to prevent repeat incidences."
One of the most surprising things to the higher-ups, says Shuttlesworth was that once his PCR unit started to function, spouses started to report the abuse, and some people were astounded with the extent of the problem. "Your statistics rise because you get more awareness of the problem" he says. He says it surprised some higher-ups that the problem was one of enforcement.
The real help, though, he feels is that "people were identified and handled." In other words, offenders were dealt with and not just ignored and allowed to continue their abusive relationships.
Dale Landry, who is now the Project Coordinator at the Restorative Justice Center, told the story about Charles Shuttlesworth in a presentation to my domestic violence class at FAMU, but he hadn't talked to or heard from Shuttlesworth for years. I tracked Shuttlesworth down, retired and living in Arizona. He and Landry had a reunion by telephone.
I asked Shuttlesworth if he missed his work in the military. "Yeah, I
do," he replied "I miss being part of a larger organization and having
some impact." But, it seems that Charles Shuttlesworth has had an
impact and an impact worth telling and re-telling over and over again.