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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

January 2023 | Volume 16 | Issue 1


On May 25 and 26, 2022, the Indianapolis (Indiana) Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) conducted a site visit to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Police Department (CMPD) to learn more about the operation of CMPD’s Homicide Support Group (HSG), which has been nationally recognized as an innovative approach to supporting secondary victims of homicide and improving relations between communities and police. The IMPD was particularly interested in learning about how the CMPD supports secondary victims, as many of those processes are applicable to the IMPD’s similar work with nonfatal shooting victims. In addition, the IMPD team sought to understand how the CMPD HSG team was able to garner and maintain support from department leadership.

Understanding the operations of the CMPD HSG

The site visit provided an important opportunity for information exchange between the CMPD and the IMPD victim advocates. CMPD victim advocates provided a comprehensive overview of the HSG program, including discussions about the program’s daily operations, facilitating support meetings, garnering buy-in and support from department leadership, incorporating volunteers and key stakeholders, and challenges and lessons learned. The CMPD team provided the IMPD with specific examples of how they support secondary victims and facilitate support group meetings. These examples included reviewing several relevant resources that the CMPD team had prepared for the IMPD, such as the following:

  • Survivor’s Support Manual
  • Counseling and Support Group Referrals
  • North Carolina Victim Compensation Application
  • North Carolina Victim Compensation Information Sheet
  • Victim Contact Information Sheet
  • Victim Disclosure Form
  • The Mourner’s Bill of Rights

Reviewing CMPD HSG overview materials
Photo courtesy of CNA HSG Support Team

CMPD HSG participant handouts
Photo courtesy of CNA HSG Support Team

The CMPD team was also able to show the IMPD concrete examples of how it markets its services and conducts outreach to secondary victims and the community throughout the year. These examples particularly helpful as the IMPD team is in the process of developing its own outreach materials.

Examples of outreach materials shared include the following:

  • Remembrance cards during the holidays
  • Cards for the anniversary of a loved one’s death
  • Notification about Victims’ Rights Week
  • Notifications about HSG meetings

Reviewing CMPD HSG outreach materials
Photo courtesy of CNA Assessment Team

CMPD HSG marketing and outreach materials
Photo courtesy of CNA Assessment Team

Given the CMPD victim advocates’ many responsibilities, the CMPD HSG team described to the IMPD how they also enlist volunteers to help in the program’s daily operations. Longtime volunteer Toye Allen shared with the IMPD team some of her responsibilities as a volunteer and explained why the volunteers are so critical to the CMPD HSG’s operation. Volunteers support several efforts, including sending postcards out to families, accompanying families to court, and responding to homicide scenes when appropriate. The use of volunteers is something that the IMPD team plans to explore with its own program.

Lastly, the CMPD team provided IMPD with a tour of CMPD headquarters. Notable stops on the tour included the homicide unit, where CMPD victim advocates wanted to demonstrate the accessibility and strength of their relationships with the homicide detectives, and the chief’s conference room, where in-person monthly HSG meetings take place. It was important to be able to show the IMPD team how hosting these meetings in the chief’s conference room truly conveys to families that supporting them is a department priority.

Applying the principles of the CMPD HSG to nonfatal shooting victims

In addition to learning about the operations of the CMPD HSG, the IMPD team had the opportunity to explain its nascent support program for nonfatal shooting victims in Indianapolis and seek feedback from the CMPD team. The IMPD team explained that they are working with a research partner to track the effects of their work, which is not yet something that the CMPD team is doing with their HSG but is something that the CMPD would like to explore.

The IMPD team highlighted a couple of challenges that their program is experiencing. Victim advocates do not have a dedicated space to meet with crime victims, which prevents them from inviting victims to come to their office for resources. The IMPD team also explained that getting buy-in within the existing Victim Assistance Unit has been a challenge. However, victims they have reached out to have been very receptive.

Based on information that the IMPD victim advocates described about their program, the CMPD and CNA provided some suggestions to help address the challenges raised. These suggestions focused on the importance of advocating for your program and the need to track success stories. Collecting and disseminating these positive experiences will help to build community trust and legitimacy for the program.

Although the CMPD HSG team primarily works with homicide detectives, they brought the IMPD team to visit the CMPD Metro Division office to meet with two detectives from the Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW) unit because the IMPD team’s program supports victims of nonfatal shootings. The two ADW detectives described how the detective teams operate: The Metro Division has four violent crime detectives who are placed directly in the division, rather than centralized in one location. The detectives described some of the resource challenges they have and their inability to adequately support ADW victims. The information gleaned from this discussion is valuable to the IMPD team as they look to build relationships with and support detectives’ efforts within their department.

Understanding the importance of collaboration and benefits of working with external partners

Another important component of the site visit was demonstrating to the IMPD team how the CMPD team works closely with external partners to support victims. One of the CMPD’s close partners is the Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center (CMC), the primary hospital in Charlotte where victims of violent crime receive medical attention and where the CMPD victim advocates spend a significant amount of time supporting secondary victims. During a tour with the hospital’s domestic violence team, the CMPD victim advocates showed the IMPD team a dedicated room for meeting with families of homicide victims. The CMPD team stressed the importance of having this dedicated space that allows for greater privacy. At the conclusion of the tour, the CMC nurses also shared some informational resources with the IMPD team to provide examples of the materials they give to victims on support services available to help them through the grieving process.

In supporting secondary victims, CMPD victim advocates also spend a significant amount of time at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. The IMPD team accompanied the CMPD victim support specialists to the courthouse. During the visit, the IMPD team had the opportunity to observe homicide hearings (both adult and juvenile), see the CMPD victim support specialists interact with and comfort families, and tour certain areas of the courthouse regularly used by the CMPD victim support specialists to meet with families.

The IMPD team ultimately identified several key takeaways from their site visit with the CMPD team:

  • Establishing protocols for initial and follow-up contact with victims is essential.
  • Strong partnerships between victim advocates and detectives are necessary.
  • Victim advocates need to be provided with adequate training and certifications opportunities.
  • Relationship building between victim advocates and victims must be intentional and genuine.
  • Having a dedicated space for victim advocates to meet with victims helps build the connection between advocates, victims, and detectives.
  • Partnerships with other criminal justice entities and community groups help with information sharing of available resources and with removing barriers to services.
  • Victim services provided by law enforcement agencies can strengthen relationships with the community.

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