Proposed law named for Officer Crittenden


This year's Twin Cities Brides March Against Domestic Violence honored Officers Crittenden and Schneider with the first Angel in Blue award. Both were killed when they responded to a domestic violence calls. (photos by Linda Baumeister/Review)

The Twin Cities Brides March Against Domestic Violence, inspired by a woman killed on her wedding day, took place beginning at St. Paul Believers Fellowship and ended at the State Capitol June 15.

Participants against domestic violence, most in bridal wear, walked along side police officers for the 3-mile journey to the captiol.

Advocates seek domestic violence offender registry
 

A Maplewood woman has set out to create a law that would require domestic violence offenders to register like sex offenders, and she's doing it in the name of the late North St. Paul police officer Rick Crittenden.

Marie Garza, founder of the nonprofit Liz's Daughter, unveiled "Crittenden and Schneider's Law" in a June 15 rally with the intention of building support in next year's legislative session.

Crittenden was killed Sept. 7, 2009, while responding to a domestic violence call at the Aspen Village apartment complex. When Crittenden and a police officer from Maplewood arrived, they confronted a male suspect and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, Crittenden was shot and killed and the Maplewood officer was wounded. The suspect was fatally wounded during the confrontation.

Garza explained she wants to honor Crittenden and Shawn Schneider, a Lake City officer killed responding to a domestic situation in 2011, in the naming of the proposed law as a way to recognize that domestic violence affects more than just the people immediately involved.

"When we think about domestic violence, we always think of the victims and it's usually the face of a woman or a child," Garza said. "You forget about the other side, the law enforcement who can become victims when they are responding."

If the proposal were to become an actual law, it would create a domestic violence offender registry very similar to the existing sex offender registry. After a certain amount or level of offenses, a person would be court ordered to register. Garza said she sees it as a preventive measure so people can be more aware of who they might be letting into their lives.

March for support

The proposed law was unveiled at the Brides March - a protest of domestic violence that Garza began organizing a few years ago. She and about 200 other people marched to the state capitol building June 15 wearing wedding gowns in honor of a woman who was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend on her wedding day.

Garza has a different perspective than most when it comes to domestic violence. Not only is she a survivor of a past abusive relationship, but she recently completed schooling to become a police officer. By introducing Crittenden and Schneider's Law, she's working to bridge the gap between domestic violence victims and law enforcement agencies.

If an officer responds to the same household week after week for domestic incidents, that officer could easily become jaded or wonder why the relationship doesn't end, Garza said. That's why she wants Crittenden and Schneider's Law to benefit both law enforcement officials and people who might interact with the offender on a daily basis.

"We need to figure out how to prevent future victims," Garza said. "We need to stop hiding our abusers."

Information in the registry could be beneficial to anyone from a woman going on a blind date to a police officer responding to a domestic incident, Garza said.

Letter of the law

While the proposed law has many hoops to jump through before it could be signed into Minnesota law, Garza said she's hopeful that state legislators will support the bill.

As it's currently written, Crittenden and Schneider's Law proposes that someone be court ordered to register as a domestic violence offender after they have been convicted of at least two misdemeanor offenses.

"The ones we're looking for have done it numerous times and are just now getting caught," Garza said.

Ideally, the registry wouldn't be limited to Minnesota, but instead have a national reach so people have access to every offender in the country. But that's something Garza intends to work on down the road. First, she plans to find legislators to sign onto the bill and then propose it in the 2013 legislative session.

"Twenty-four people died in 2010 in domestic violence incidents and 34 died in 2011, so obviously we're seeing the rise," Garza said. "It's a revolving door. We should be wanting this registry to show people what's around the corner."

Amanda Lillie can be reached at alillie@lillienews.com or by calling 651-748-7814.

Comment Here