Patten's resignation hurts fight against domestic...


March 11, 2000

Patten's resignation hurts fight against domestic violence

The forced resignation of Col. Margaret Patten from the Baltimore Police Department comes as a stunning blow not only to the department, but also to the hundreds of women -- and men -- who are or have ever been victims of domestic violence in our community ("Another commander will leave city police," Feb. 25).

Colonel Patten's ever-vigilant campaign to revamp the department's policies regarding domestic violence offered hope and protection to many, while strengthening our city's capacity to make a dent in this national epidemic.

Many years ago, I, too, was a battered spouse, with three small children.

Back then, women such as myself had very few enlightened protectors, either walking the beat or sitting on the bench. Most of us suffered in silence, and very few were able to find shelter from the storm.

I count myself among the lucky ones, as my cries for help were finally answered by an informed police officer.

Because of his efforts and encouragement, I was able to build a new life for me and my children, away from a dangerous and persistent abuser, who might have eventually killed me.

Today, 12 years later, I am a successful writer, with a wonderful husband and four beautiful children.

I tell my story to underline this point: The Maggie Patten's of this world are to be cherished and decorated, not forced to turn in their badges. Their contributions remain immeasurable and inspirational.

Kathleen A. Harvatt, Baltimore

Col. Margaret Patten's resignation from the Baltimore police is a loss for the city as well as the department.

Colonel Patten's interest in women's issues and domestic violence is well known. What is not as well known is her work in publicizing the link between animal abuse and domestic violence. Cruelty to animals is often a predictor of future violence.

Col. Patten was instrumental in establishing a cross-reporting system between the Bureau of Animal Control and the Baltimore Police Department.

In addition, she has promoted the formation of numerous coalitions to fight domestic violence.

Each year the Snyder Foundation recognizes outstanding professional achievement with the Foundations "Recognition of Excellence Award."

In the past this award has always been presented to a professional in the animal protection field. This year it will be presented to Colonel Patten.

The award carries a $1,500 monetary attachment. Colonel Patten has asked that the money be used to establish a fund to assist pets of domestic violence victims who need to seek shelter.

Lora Junkin, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the William Snyder Foundation for Animals.

Paid suspension: a reward for alleged domestic abuse?

Congratulations to the Baltimore City Police Department for the prompt disciplinary action taken against Sgt. Gary F. White in the alleged assault on his wife: A paid vacation while his case drags through our overcrowded court system. They call it a suspension with pay. ("Domestic violence unit officer charged in assault on his wife is suspended," March 2).

I asked my boss, "If I beat up my fiancee, but promise not to do so too badly, can I have a paid leave of absence while I wait out the court system?"

What do you think he said?

Michael Connell, Baltimore

Crime can't be controlled until the justice system works

Kudos to The Sun for supporting Mayor Martin O'Malley's efforts to reform the criminal court system ("Real breakthrough or just false hopes," editorial, March 2).

Crime is the worst of many problems this city faces. All efforts to combat crime end with the courts. The court system is broken and needs to be fixed.

As a member of the Bolton Hill court watch program, I have watched suspects manipulate the system to get dismissals or postponements. I've seen suspects laugh and snicker as they leave court.

If the courts do not hold people accountable, there is no point in arresting them. Efforts to reduce the murder rate and clean up the open air drug markets will fail unless the courts do their part.

All of the judges, and Chief District Judge Martha F. Rasin in particular, need to accept their responsibility for the abysmal shape of the courts. This is no time for hurt feelings or business as usual.

If asking the judges to work nights and weekends at Central Booking will reduce the overwhelming crush of cases, they need to work.

Baltimore desperately needs Mr. O'Malley to be successful. All this city's other problems will be more manageable when the crime rate is reduced.

Paul Hinkle, Baltimore

International court needed to stop abuses

Russia's acting President Vladimir Putin has recently stated that human rights issues in Chechnya are part of Moscow's internal affairs ("Can Russia be trusted?" editorial, March 5).

In the age of globalization, Mr. Putin is relying on once-insurmountable concepts of non-intervention and state sovereignty to protect his nation from international law. Unfortunately, it seems to be working.

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