you remember how you felt when you first read that Cloverdale
Police refused to respond to Haille's murder-in-progress? Does
it make sense to you now? Do you understand how it could happen?
Though I've turned it around from every angle in my mind, it still
doesn't make sense that a Cloverdale Police Sergeant and a dispatcher
knowingly turned their backs on a woman being strangled to death.
I can explain the numb disconnect from human life that marks decisions
made deep in a bureaucracy's den. To remedy that we need vigilant
citizen's watch on the criminal justice system's treatment of
women, just like our community's array of citizen's groups that
monitor the Department of Forestry on behalf of the Redwoods.
more certain I can explain the hyper-male law enforcement culture
that drives the system's mistreatment of women. For fourteen years,
I've had a close-up view of the constant flow of half-baked investigations,
the disregard for rape and domestic violence victims, the phoney
rhetoric, the systematic complicity with the perpetrators, the
meaningless processing of cases, and the failures to make much
of dent at all.
still cannot understand what happened at Cloverdale Police Department
on the Sunday afternoon of May 22, 2005.
know that the good samaritan Antonio got the urgency of his message
across to the Cloverdale police sergeant and the department dispatcher
who were there. After these officials made their decision not
to respond, they called in the Sonoma County Sheriff to handle
the case instead. The Sheriff's dispatcher who took that call
typed the following first sentence of what she was being told
by Cloverdale Police: (words in parenthesis are ours.)
Sergeant and dispatcher also knew that they were only three minutes
away in response time from the location. After all, it was happening
right in their own back yard. (When the Sheriff's deputy later
called Cloverdale to assist, that's exactly how long it took Cloverdale
to arrive - three minutes.) Cloverdale also knew that in all probability
it would take a Sheriff's deputy significantly longer than three
minutes to get there. And for all they knew, the Sheriff's deputy
may have been tied up in another call and not have been available
thought process, then, could have brought Cloverdale to a decision
not to respond?
August, Cloverdale Police Chief Willis responded in writing to
city Council Member Mary Ann Brigham's question on what happened
that day. Summarizing the chief's one and a half page response,
the chief states that there is no specific policy on how his officers
should handle an out of jurisdiction case. The chief says that
the decision on what to do was up to the discretion of the individual
officer who receives the request. The chief then concludes that
his sergeant and dispatcher did not act outside policy.
chief's written response only begs the wrenching heart of the
question. Given that they had full discretion, how could a police
sergeant and dispatcher turn their backs on a woman being strangled
to death, knowing full well that by doing so, they could likely
be condemning the woman to death?
it be that a cloud of contempt for the Spanish-speaking person
making the plea muffled the cry for help? We do know that in the
year 2000 it took us 6 months of battle to pressure Cloverdale
Police to sign onto the Language Line service, a rudimentary step
in establishing communication with the town's Latinos who even
then made up 25% of the town's population. But though racist disregard
may have played a part, the fact is, Antonio's urgency did get
communicated, and the core incident involved a white male killing
a white female.
it have been that the Sgt. and dispatcher knew that the couple
in question was Atticus and Haille? It's very possible they did.
Atticus' bright yellow car was well known throughout the town.
Could their thinking have been, 'Oh, no, not them again, so let
him kill her' -as if their repeat problems with Atticus were somehow
Haille's fault? But that line of thinking would just repose the
question. Even with that distorted thought process, how could
they make the decision to let her die? It's just too big of a
leap to accept.
it be what we hear so much of in the media, a case of officer
burnout? That makes no sense. Cloverdale police can hardly claim
burnout from too many heavy calls.
it be that Cloverdale police saw Atticus and Haille as a 'crank
case', just like the deputy who talked to Rhonda? And that the
Cloverdale Sgt. and dispatcher embraced the 'Misdemeanor Murder'
mentality that plagues so many police? But Haille was never in
trouble with police, and had no record of any kind. She was rumored
to have used drugs. But could this compute in their minds that
it was ok to let her die?
this just the run-of-the-mill police turning away from domestic
violence, normalized by habit and sexist attitudes, compounded
by all of the above?
June, while leaving an interview, the Cloverdale business person
called back to me. "Please don't use my name. This is a small
town. There's only a small number of police. And I don't want
them on my wrong side." And another Cloverdale business person
said, "We need to say more about Haille. She shouldn't have
died. But I can't get into the police. They're just too close."
It was a refrain we heard repeated again and again.
the exact thought process of Cloverdale Police on May 22, 2005,
the decision made by officials who are sworn to protect and serve
was inexcusable and intolerable. But if even the most influential
people in the community are afraid to keep hold of their rightful
reigns on their police, the profound corruption of those in power
is not only explainable, it's inevitable it will continue to harm.
Memory of Haille
violence isn't an incident of threats or violence, nor even a
series of incidents. Domestic violence is more a finely tuned
violent regime that slowly but surely locks in all aspects of
the victim's life to the service of the perpetrator's will and
needs. Every time the victim resists or attempts to assert herself,
the perpetrator just adapts and adjusts his controls to fit more
perfectly over the contours of the individual victim's life. Over
time, these controls can become so finely tuned that the perpetrators
often govern everything from the victim's patterns of sleep, to
her associations with others, her expressions and communications,
to her movements from morning to night, and night to morning.
outside it's easy to mistakenly think that the victim has willingly
submerged her strengths and personality to mirror the perpetrator's
path. But that's only because the changes in the victim are so
visible, while the perpetrator's controls are disguised and mostly
hidden behind closed doors.
afternoon of August 23, in a peaceful Sebastopol countryside,
about 300 mostly young people gathered to celebrate Haille's life
and to mourn her death. The stories her friends told each other
were the first time in a long time that the vibrance, adventure,
and loveliness of Haille's spirit was revived and freed from Atticus'
grip. Listening to these stories, it was clear how very much Haille
had always been her own unique, person; a free spirit who was
never meant to fit into anyone's mold.
School, Haille didn't just get good grades, she charted her own
educational course. And though she didn't finish High School,
Haille was literate, poetic, and very well read. Haille didn't
have a career path, either. But before being trapped in Atticus'
grip, Haille's ability to always find creative, money-making jobs
was the envy of her friends. In fact, just days before the murder,
a local glass-blower artisan had taken Haille on as a business
partner. This successful artisan didn't do this as a favor to
Haille. She did it, she says, because Haille's combination of
artistic talents and people talents were perfect for the business.
mentioned how deeply thoughtful and considerate Haille was. But
Haille's people skills weren't traditional either. In story after
story, people described a mystical spirituality that Haille always
braided colorfully and playfully into her friendships. Haille
explored the edges and meanings of spirituality in her friendships,
like she explored the edges of her arts, her dancing, her travels
much as Haille danced on the edges, no one would describe her
as living on the fringe. Quite the opposite. If you had to pick
just one thing that shined from everyone's story of Haille, it
was Haille's wonderful ability to find a way to engage deeply
with everyone she met. This big sweet crowd of Haille's young
friends was itself a testament to Haille's reach. How many 19-year-olds
have touched the hearts of so many?
late afternoon light people gathered on the grass in a large circle.
Haille's father, Mike, stood in the center and told stories of
his daughter's early years. "I will always be proud to be
Haille's father," he said through tears.
the lessons of Haille's story are explored in the group discussion
questions that follow this text. And so too are the many things
you and others can do to help stop this violence. But remembering
Haille may be the most important lesson of all. Domestic violence
perpetrators can get a hold of anyone, especially of someone who's
young, even someone as free spirited and self reliant as Haille.
And the victims, however bent off course they may appear in the
circumstance, are vibrant human beings who have been crushed under
the weight. They need your help to get free.