Officer Bonita Linkins (a member of our group) has recently been recognized for her advocacy by the American Police Beat Magazine. Bonita served in our military and is a Police Officer in Maryland. Bonita is reaching out to fellow Officers educating them about all abuse to help them understand and assist in their response to same. Bonita is also reaching out to communities and our young people. Please take a moment to commend Bonita for her advocacy. I had the pleasure to speak to her today and I personally extend my hand in friendship, as a family member, a Survivor and as an Advocate.
Thank you Bonita! You are truly a Blessing - it is an honor to meet you and I look forward to meeting you.
American Police Beat www.apbweb.com
Cop uses the pain of the past to educate today’s officers
Written by Mark Nichols
It’s hard to really understand just how much domestic violence affects families unless you’ve experienced it on a personal level. Bonita Linkins is a survivor of domestic violence as well as being a police officer. Her children, Tony and Symone, say they witnessed the physical and emotional abuse their mother endured and were frequently victims of the violence as well. As an officer with the Howard County Police Department, Linkins uses her experiences to help fellow officers and the community prevent domestic violence and steer victims toward the help they so badly need.
She says the work helps on two levels. She uses her perspective to help other cops understand the dynamics of domestic violence and that, in turn, gives her a chance to continue her own healing process. In less than a year, Linkins, 46, has presented her story at 19 in-service training sessions for the Howard County Police Department.
It’s not an easy task, and she readily admits getting her fellow officers to look at a common law enforcement issue with a new perspective can be challenging. “It’s not hard for me because of what I went through, but it’s like telling my family all over again because that’s how I feel about the department,” she said in a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun’s Tyeesha Dixon. “At times when I’m speaking, I do get emotional because of that ... but it’s providing a service that we need.”
The hardest part is explaining what drives the abused to stay in dangerous situations. “People need to understand that there’s a lot of reasons why victims stay,” Linkins said. Last year alone there were about 20,000 domestic violence crimes reported to Maryland law enforcement agencies, according to the state police Uniform Crime Report. In Howard County, 755 domestic violence incidents were reported last year.
The Department of Justice estimates only 25 percent of domestic violence crimes are ever reported. And domestic violence knows no boundaries in terms of race, sex, sexual orientation, or level of income. The issue transcends gender, racial and age barriers, statistics show. The Maryland State Police guidelines define a domestic violence incident as one in which the victim is “an individual who has received deliberate physical injury or is in fear of imminent deliberate physical injury from a current or former spouse or former cohabitant.”
That includes incidents involving same-sex couples: 357 occurred statewide last year, according to the report. Hearing Linkins speak personally as a woman and a police officer has given some officers a better feel for the plight of the victims they encounter on calls, according to Molly Gale, a detective in the department’s domestic violence section. “We’ve seen a huge difference in our response to domestic violence since she’s been out speaking to our officers,” Gale said of Linkins in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. “It opened up their minds.”
During her presentations, Linkins explains how her relationship with her former husband degenerated into violence and emotional abuse. While working as a patrol officer during her early years with the department, she often asked domestic violence victims the same questions she would later ask herself. “I found myself asking these women, ‘Why are you staying?,’ knowing that when I left, I knew I would have to go home to the same thing,” she told the Sun.
Devora Pontell, chief of the domestic violence unit for the county state’s attorney’s office, said Linkins’ participation in the training sessions is one way officers have become more involved with domestic violence cases. “It makes it more real for the officers,” Pontell said.
“At the age I am now, I’m feeling like I’m starting to live again,” Linkins told the Sun. “To be able to breathe and to laugh. To get angry. It feels good.”
Officer Linkins is available to speak to your department or organization: