Interview with William Petty

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Table of Contents 
  •  Concluding statements 
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  •  RAYMOND: No, take your time. We're good. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Believe me, all of this will wait. Believe me.  
  •  RAYMOND: No, I mean, this is. I mean I know how busy you are, so this is— 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Do you know how much I'd rather do this than budget? It's just amazing.  
  •  RAYMOND: So, are we back on? Okay good. Really this is wonderful, thank you. So there are several areas I want to talk about or ask you to think about with us. Way back when, when we had our meeting a couple weeks ago or whatever and then also early in this interview you talked about your job at victims services both being about being there at the time but also about helping people get through this process, i.e. this criminal justice process, and I wonder if you could talk about those two roles and how that plays out.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Okay. Part of the reason that  I certainly wasn't around when this division was started but part of the reason I like to think that we still exist as a strong resource is that we were created to attend to the needs of crime victims and people who have experienced trauma. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And that, as I said before, with that being our primary role we are not investigators. We're not forensics people. We're not prosecutors. We're not even interviewers. We're not judges. We can set all of those tasks, leave those to somebody else, and put our focus on the needs of this person. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: First of all they have been through something horrendous where we're talking about any of the big crime types: sexual assault, child abuse, loss of a loved one to violent death, human trafficking, identity theft. All those things that really have the ability to really wreck havoc in people's lives. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: You've been through— you've had that experience, and being a part of a criminal investigation even if you're the victim or if you're a witness can be as harrowing as the experience itself, particularly when we're dealing with violent crimes against persons: domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, child abuse, elder abuse, where the stakes are higher because now the law enforcement is involved, this could mean the end of your financial support. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: It could mean you are alone for the first time in your life. It could mean that you really— you face a very real possibility of being homeless. You could lose possession of your loved ones. You could be disaffected from your family and friends because they may side with the other person. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: You could blamed for contributing to your own victimization. On top of what you've already been through, now you have the ultimate authority figure looking at you with something other than compassion. That's through the arrival of the police, criminal investigation, prosecution, incarceration, release. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And that whole process, that's the criminal justice system. It's not the justice system. It's the criminal justice system. If somebody doesn't have the function of pushing all that stuff. That's what you do. That's what you do. That's what you do. My role is to help you with what you need. Now, that may be understanding what my rights are. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: It might be appreciating and accessing the needed resources and just having somebody who can speak to me in my own language, telling me what those are and how to use them. It could be somebody whose function is just to reassure me that I know this is unpleasant. This is the way that it has to be. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: This is why it is, and we're going to get through this. And then check on me a bit later because sometimes it seems like it never ends. This whole— from the 911 phone call ‘til this person has served their time, we're talking about a long period of time to where you still carry that victim status with you. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Shoot, in some cases it's just easier to just drop the whole thing. I don't want to press charges. I don't want him to go to jail. I don't want to look at a photo lineup. I don't want to sign an assault victim's statement. I just want to forget— not that you ever can— but people tell us, I'd just love to forget this ever happened and go on with my life. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That's not going to happen. You can push it somewhere else. I don't know that you actually can "kill it" because it's there, and either way it will be attended to or it won't be attended to. But either way that doesn't get rid of it. But I alluded a little while ago to the fact that this is a criminal justice system. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: It was designed to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate the guilty and to exonerate the innocent. It was not built to meet the needs of victims. That came later. That was an add-on. Human experience taught us late in the game that the needs of the victim needed to be much more elevated than what they were. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: The whole victim's services function was created and placed at several points along, several stopping points along the criminal justice pathway. But it would be very disingenuous for me to say that the criminal justice system in any of its forms or phases is intended to improve the lives of victims by itself. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: There had— All the way from, again, from the response to a 911 phone call until the time that a person is released from their obligation if they are proven guilty, convicted, incarcerated, get off of whatever it is, their community supervision. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: At least, in particular when it comes to— well, we used to just talk in terms of violent crimes against people but now when you throw in identity theft and financial crimes as well, that's a long time for a person who didn't do anything wrong, who through no fault of their own, to be engaged in the criminal justice system. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: We're talking about years and sometimes decades. We would like to think that we can provide whether it's me or the county attorney's office or the district attorney's office or the D.P.S. or the Department of Corrections, all of us have victim's service functions in them. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Ideally we would all be one big whole entity that saw to the needs of people from beginning to end, but we're not. We're siloed. We're siloed by agencies. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So what we're prepared to do is hopefully a gentle hand-off from the first response, which is law enforcement, to kind of the fact gathering of the investigation, and then to the pre-trial and then hearing and then sentencing and then parole hearings and all those sorts of things. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: My counterparts work in each of those areas, and we absolutely have to talk a lot to make sure that we know that we are looking after the best interests, even though those interests change, of the people who start at this end and end at that end twenty or thirty years later.  
  •  RAYMOND: Okay, so let me make sure I understand this that someone who comes in— that doesn't come in— 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: We go see. 
  •  RAYMOND: You meet on the scene of a tragedy for instance, eventually victim's services from A.P.D is not going to stay with them.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Oh, I wish we could. I wish we could.  
  •  RAYMOND: It would be the victims services for instance in the District Attorney's Office.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Correct. Correct.  
  •  RAYMOND: Okay, that makes a lot of sense to me. I'm understanding it better.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: In particular, when I came in this morning the first thing I looked at was what cases had happened. What crimes, basically, had been uncovered since I left yesterday. The reason that the people that we talk to for the first time, either last night or today, that we can only keep them for so long is because tomorrow I get a whole new batch. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Domestic violence. Sexual assault. Traffic fatalities. Robberies. Gosh, and then just all the other things that occur. So in order for me to be a living, breathing entity, I have to, as soon as practical or in some cases by necessity, 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: I have to pass you along to a Safe Place or to a rural legal aid or to a women's advocacy project or to American Gateways because I got a whole new set of clientele every single day. Even when I'm not here, it still happens. This is happening after we leave at five o'clock and it's just a crisis team who are out there. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: They are generalists. Their job, their expertise is working on scene, but they won't follow a family violence investigation. Those people work eight to five. So by the time they leave at five o'clock tonight and come in tomorrow, they have hundreds of new clients. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Some of them may be repeat, true, but they have a hundred new cases to divide up between the staff. So if my concept of success was seeing somebody through the beginning of law enforcement to the end of even the trial, some of these— perfect example, we have a cold case unit that looks at old homicides and in some cases now old sexual assaults. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: We— There's a press conference this afternoon announcing the indictment of a homicide that happened back in eighty-one. 19— I was still in college. So for me, if my model of success is providing services— we were in our infancy in 1981. We had one person. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That was actually the year we started. So that's impractical that we could provide that beginning to end service. That person now, I mean what, before you got here, what I'm listening to my counselors do, they're looking up all these old people they haven't talked to in a couple years, saying "By the way, there's going to be a press conference this afternoon, and I'd rather you hear it from me than just see it on the news... 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: "They're going to indict the person that hurt, that killed your daughter." This is— It'll soon be 2011. That's thirty years. So that never got past the investigation phase so it's ours. Now, long ago we would have referred them to For the Love of Christi. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Well, it didn't exist back in 2001, but we would have referred them on to grief groups, grief counselors that could see you long term. So we did refer them then in those cases, not to a different criminal justice portion, but to the community at large. But now the investigation is— they're actually indicted which means it's gone to the grand jury. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So now it's back in my traumatic death counselor's hands because they have this newly opened wound. The actual events between the grand jury indictment and trial, 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: if there is one, if they don't plea, and then sentencing and then they go to jail, we're talking about a couple of more decades at least. So now that this person is drawn back into the criminal justice system because we've had a break in the case, now their work is compounded. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: In addition to the suicides that happened and the accidental deaths and just the unexplained natural deaths, now they have this old case. They have to go back and gather all the survivors and witnesses and bring them up to speed and tell them what's going to happen next and in some way other than a press release.  
  •  RAYMOND: That makes sense. So, you've been talking about going back to 1981.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Mmm-hmm.  
  •  RAYMOND: As you've been talking about some of this, I'm remembering back, too. So I'm a couple years older than you, so I'm remembering back to the late 1970s when in Philadelphia, women organizing to work with the police to teach the police about sexual—  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And it was teaching. It was definitely teaching cause we didn't know and we almost got it, but—  
  •  RAYMOND: And there have always been crimes and certain kinds of victims who have not gotten the full attention of law enforcement.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Mmm-hmm.  
  •  RAYMOND: And I mentioned right at the beginning— you mentioned right at the beginning of the interview, gender expression. 
  •  RAYMOND: And I wonder if you could talk about, at least in the time that you have been here in victims services, how you see, if you have seen a change in either attitudes or procedures about how people are treated, or about the willingness of anybody, whether it be the officer to the D.A. to judges and juries, respond to frankly the people who have not always been valued as worthwhile, whether that be an immigrant who's here without authorizatioin or a transgender person. Have you seen changes and what did that look like?  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: I have definitely— you asked a candid question. I'm going to give you a candid answer. We have definitely evolved as far as treating people who are further out in the margins like they're center page. We've definitely gotten better. We have a long, long, long way to go. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: The reason that, honestly, the reason that we've gotten better is because, in my opinion, law enforcement has diversified in who becomes a part of that organism. Once you have, first of all we had to get women on the police force. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Then we had to get women up into the executive staff of the police department, of the police force to where they could actually be decision makers. Women had to be on city councils. They could tell our bosses, "No, that's not gonna happen." 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But also being able to recruit and maintain gay officers, men and women; officers who have loved ones and children and who may even themselves to some degree be somewhere between whatever the end points are in gender identification. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But certainly officers and detectives and now lieutenants and commanders and assistant chiefs and city councilmen and city hall folks who identify as— 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Well first of all, people who looked for support in a variety of different fashions other than just your traditional church; people who came from other backgrounds; people who had different skin colors; people who intermarried; people who had biracial children; people who, proudly, had gay children and were themselves; people who actually had friends who identified as omnigendered. I've lost track, GLBTIQQ is the new one and that just threw me for a loop.  
  •  RAYMOND: Queer and questioning.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Queer and questioning. I had to ask my counselor. I can get everything else, but what's the second Q for? So, but we have a lesbian and gay police officers association who are working right now on outreach to gay adolescents and young adults about sexual assault within the gay and lesbian trans community. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: The under-reporting there is just staggering, but for a lot of reasons. They're not gonna come talk to us about it unless they kind of—but also we have police officers and certainly counselors and council members and city hall workers who are immigrants, some who came here without authorization. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So, what's normal to us has certainly expanded. Like I said, we've got a long way to go yet but I think the most transformative events that have happened to make us treat more people as worthy of our A game, our best, is because we're different. If we had— if you go back, shoot, twenty-five years, the typical police officer was a white male. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: I don't know if they were gay or not. But from that framework the norm was like you. It's not rocket science. I'm normal, so people who are normal are—I'm gonna treat, at least with the greatest amount of understanding and appreciation. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Where we still have room to grow is the criminal justice system. We're a subset of the culture, the culture at large. And we have to do things to ourselves to make us have a different outlook than the communities that we come from. We have to train ourselves. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But we still have some very antiquated views about cause and effect of victimization versus— being victimized versus victimization. And particularly when it comes to people who we perceive to be least like us, whether they are from a different place, whether they speak a different language, whether they have different norms for living. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That's pretty obtuse. Different lifestyles than what we're accustomed to makes us— it's the combination of suspicion, disbelief, and disregard, which—Perfect, maybe I can use an example. We have a poor, poor, poor track history of treating what we consider to be fallen people with dignity. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Mentally ill, poor, the substance addicted, prostituted women, hell for that matter, women who have sex outside of a marriage for whatever reason. We still place a value on their lifestyle and how that lifestyle contributed to them putting themselves in harm's way. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: It's a horrible thing for me to even articulate, but that's the way that our society, our culture, still views certain people and we are products of our culture. And it's not just the police officer, it's not just the prosecutor, it's not just the judge, but our system is built on a jury of our peers. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So the way that the system operates is how is it going to look to people chosen from the community. And anything that doesn't, that won't pass muster with the community we live in— 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: and Austin is a little bit more progressive, not a lot, but a little bit more progressive than a lot of other places, but even still when I see us back away from a sexual assault prosecution because of what the victim was wearing or because of the fact that she used to have a relationship with him and has broken it off and now he has claimed his right to her body and we deny prosecution, 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: we won't pursue it based on that, that gives me all the authority that I need to say that we have a long way to go. The way that we treat out immigrant population whether they're documented or not. Ethnicity, there are a lot— not a lot—more African American and Latino officers on the force and in the prosecutor's office and on juries than in anytime in our history. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So, we certainly are getting better in those areas, but we still have a big problem with poor people. We treat poor people shabbily. I can't believe I'm saying this on camera. But we do. We do. If you want to see some action, you let a person of influence be harmed and start to advocate for themselves. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Things happen right now. But most of the people that we come across have economic challenges. I'm not saying we do a bad job, a horrible job with people who have no resources, but if you want to see our best work versus our worst work take a look at how we approach response and investigation where the victims are transient. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: If I hear one more person say, "oh it was just transient on transient" I think I'll, well I won't, I'll scream. I'll contain myself. But that's almost—what that says to me is it excuses it or it absolves us of a need to really look into this because even though you have addresses— so, they kinda get what they get. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: It used to be, "Ah, that was Black on Black crime. Oh, that was Latino on Latino." They wouldn't even say Latino. It was almost like, well let's leave that, let them take care of their— if they want to kill each other, let ‘em. This is not who we're here to protect and to serve. We're here for the other folks. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And the smaller, and the less, well not necessarily the less vocal, but as we develop new subcultures in America, you start to see parts of us that we didn't know existed in any large numbers. Each of those emerging, we have a huge learning curve about how do we treat even these with the greatest amount of dignity. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Another really good example is people who are disabled. It took us a long time just to have a budget for calling in interpreters for a sworn statement, not just your aunt who can sign, and to develop contracts that meant that in certain situations we had to do that. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: One of the groups that I work with professionally are parents who have severely autistic children. They're cute little kids today, but they're going to be fifteen, and seventeen, and twenty-one tomorrow, and they may still be barking. And the thought of— it's happened. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: The law enforcement response being "this person is either severely mentally challenged, violent, or on some substance and therefore that's how I'm going to approach them," frightens me because some innocent people are really—who we just don't know are out there. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: We have officers with autistic children certainly, but we haven't had any large-scale training on what do you do with a cognitive developmental issue presented in front of you? You've still got to protect yourself from people, but drawing your weapon and tazing, that shouldn't be your first instinct until- If it goes that way, it goes that way. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But don't misread developmental disorders, autism, severe brain injury as aggression and out of control and intent to cause harm to you and others. So my next push is going to be introducing autistic children and adolescents and young adults to our academy class so they've actually listened to them, seen how they behave when they're under stress. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So at least we'll get that one instant of "oh this is something different." So let's re-holster, and let's approach this person until it's proven that I can't. And that can happen in seconds, but my first instinct is going to be to figure out— in our language, "what do you got?" 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Well we don't have a homicidal person on crystal meth and P.C.P., we have a seventeen-year old autistic girl, and this is how she communicates when she's in unfamiliar surroundings. That's brand new to us and that's only going to get more expansive as the incidence of autism increases. So that's one of my next projects. This whole issue of interfacing the community of disabled people in all those variant forms and law enforcement.  
  •  RAYMOND: You're starting to answer one of my questions.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Okay.  
  •  RAYMOND: Which was how does this advocacy within the police department take place, both for people who have not always, as you said, poor people don't get the same kind of attention. Transgender people.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: No attention. We'd rather they not be here.  
  •  RAYMOND: So people not getting attention or even getting further abused— and I use that term in a very broad sense— by law enforcement, and the other issue which is the person who is signing or the person who is autistic or whose behavior is misinterpreted. 
  •  RAYMOND: So those are two different kinds of problems, both with I guess the term is "special populations" or whatever. So part of the advocacy it seems happens when you train officers?  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Oh, absolutely.  
  •  RAYMOND: And where else? How do you change that?  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Training is quite an animal. There is formal training where you want to start, you want to get in there when they're young newbies, and they haven't gone out to the field because they're going to get to that eventually. So we do a lot of our training efforts with cadet classes. That starts their career. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But then there are times when we have to bring in every single detective from throughout the department and make them go through mandatory training. We have sergeant school where they've got to go through stuff. Lieutenants and commanders. You have to receive training on this. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: There's that kind of training which requires all of your talent because they don't want to be there. They don't want to hear it. They're going to make fun of you. They're going to try to throw you off your game just because they don't want to be there. But the other way that I really am partial to is I want to have counselors geographically located as close to the internal user as possible. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: I mean the City of Austin covers x number of square miles, but I have crisis counselors who patrol right along with them all along the streets. So when they call for crisis, I hope we already know what they're working on because we're paying attention to the computer and we're listening to the radio. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But when they call for a counselor, I don't have to page somebody from home and get them here in less than forty-five minutes to get a car and then from here out to 620 and 183. That's why we work twenty-four hours a day. But on the second floor is our homicide unit and our robbery unit. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: I put counselors physically— they office right along with them. They may be the only ones with walls and doors because of what we do, but they are in there with the detectives so that they can be a part of that everyday conversation about people. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Well, and the skill that I see my folks using of gently redirecting the way that we talk about and consider our folks— and it does require more talent than just being gutsy and saying "that's inappropriate." You have to work and exist with these people and I want you to become integrated into that unit. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So there's a way of using police officer lingo to throw a new seed in there without ostracizing yourself or taking yourself out of the group or being pushed out of the group or being avoided. And my counselors who work with patrol officers— there are twelve hundred patrol officers I think, something like that out there, so they do that quite a bit. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: "Well I tell you what, why don't— I'll take the assault victim's statement. I'll go over it with her. We'll do it very slowly. What you can't tell is she can't read but you're just getting madder and madder and madder because she's not filling out the thing... 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: "You're making this worse."  But rather than call you out and say "you idiot," say "I'll tell you what. Take a break. Give me a few minutes. I'm going to go sit over here with her, and I'll just ask her the questions and fill it out and kind of let her think about it." 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: For them they're like "fine, now it's your problem." But we've handled with a bit of diplomacy victim advocacy. Maybe not that night but the next night you can say to the officer, "Let me tell you what was really going on. She couldn't read and she was embarrassed. And the more you yelled at her, the tenser she became.." 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: "And nothing was going to happen then, so that's why we do what we did. And I really appreciate you recognizing that and letting me have a few minutes. That was really astute of you, officer." So I have a counselor who's— her office is right in the middle of all the sex crime detectives. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: My two child abuse counselors, they're right there in the middle of all the child abuse folks. Unfortunately, I probably mentioned this last time, I have eight family violence counselors, which is very indicative of kind of the scope of the problem, but you have our big old family violence section out at the Technicenter where it's investigators, district attorney's office, county attorney's office, victim services. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So if we had victim services central, like if you could come into headquarters and all victim services would be housed here, then we've lost our ability to be effective in the field with those investigators because they'll call you when they absolutely have to have you, but you don't get to sit around the coffee pot and be a part of the discourse. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And I'm not asking our folks to be dilettantes or to be the righter of wrongs, but I do expect from them to figure out in their work environment you've got to be the voice of reason. You certainly can't be one of the pack who's "Did you see that dress she had on? Those heels? What was she thinking was gonna happen?" 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: " You go down to Sixth Street. You get drunk. You get separated from your friends. You accept a ride. You're gonna get raped, and you asked—" That we cannot ever, ever, ever do. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But how you redirect that thinking, those sorts of conversations in a primarily male environment, that's part of our developmental strategy for each counselor is that how do you hold your own and be a true, genuine victim advocate? 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: If you're part of that conversation, then your ability to be an effective advocate when the push is coming from law enforcement is now gone because you basically have colluded with that old way of thinking, and that's not why we're here.  
  •  RAYMOND: And so the question is, how— I guess the question really for all of us, not just, I mean people, not just victim services people, is how do you encourage people to see and treat other human beings, however different or however weird they might seem to you, with dignity, without shaming?  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Sure.  
  •  RAYMOND: Without shaming. You know, "I can't believe you said that about such and such a person."  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Well there have been some cases where that's actually been what was required. The most egregious comments and treatment of people, it may not be a counselor who does it. It may be a counselor who witnesses it and goes back and tells the supervisor, and the supervisor goes and does it. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Or in some cases if it's coming from up in the chain it'll be me. We're never going to get any better if nobody from— and one of the beauties about having mental health practitioners in a law enforcement is because you are a part of the organism. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: You get kind of the unfiltered story and byline, but you also become a part of the conversation, and you get a chance to add your way of thinking into the way law enforcement considers the community at large, even the new additions, which is different if I was a separate agency that law enforcement made referrals to. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: I mean some incredible advocates for sexual assault and family violence, domestic violence victims are at Safe Place. But they're external law enforcement, so their influence is limited because they're outsiders.  
  •  RAYMOND: You have volunteers. I wonder, A) where you get those volunteers from, and B) if there is any thought of recruiting volunteers from groups that have been disenfranchised?  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Our volunteers come from Austin, Travis County. They are— the typical volunteer is generally a professional, somebody who has a job and a career. That's the typical people coming, whether they're therapists or retired or ex-law enforcement, ex-military, come from physical helping professions, nurses. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: We get our attorneys. People from all— the common thread amongst all those different people— students, law students if they're of a certain age, the common factor is, from wherever they got it, they have good attending skills. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: They can actually sit and listen to people and ask the right questions, make the right gestures, but they're not in charge of the intervention. They're there with one of my counselors as a trained assistant. I don't cut my volunteers loose. If I had to, if my resources were such that I had to use volunteers, then of course I would. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: A lot of law enforcement agencies do that, but we're big enough to where we can staff twenty-four hours a day. So we can have our volunteers be an adjunct to the counselors rather than— not just do laws change constantly, but even more frequently than that police procedures change. What is crime scene etiquette? What is radio etiquette? 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: What do you do if the victim is eleven versus the victim is sixteen, if the victim hasn't started menstrual cycle yet, if the victim is a male and his testes hasn't descended? Which hospital do you go to? Who's going to do the interview? Is it going to be law enforcement? 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Is it going to be Children's Advocacy Center? Who can keep up with that doing this once a month? So, that's why we recruit our volunteers, and gosh, our biggest need is Spanish-speakers. I can't hire enough staff that are truly bilingual. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So having the second person with you in the car, and our volunteers work crisis team. They go out on scene. People seem to be attracted to that more. But I— There's nothing like having somebody on the law enforcement side who is from the communities that we are going to respond to. That changes the whole dynamic. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Even if you think twice about what you just said or what you're about to say, if somebody can even in the most gentle way, let's put a little place mark right there and we'll revisit that and I'm not going to— we don't have the authority to jump officers. I do. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Somebody has to if it comes down to it. So its not— we don't even assume to have the moral authority to correct behavior. We have to be much more subtle and gentle than that. And pounding you over the head, if that worked, then we wouldn't have any— we wouldn't need internal affairs. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So learning is more than just beating you up and smacking you about the head and face with an issue. There's more nurturing to teaching and learning, and that's the approach that we've taken of how do we be change agents, for lack of a better word. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: We're not here as moles and spies to change, I mean I don't want to make it sound like that. But you will encounter— and because you're trained and educated as a victim advocate without respect of person. That does give you some responsibility to figure out the best way to approach this because you know that that was inappropriate.  
  •  RAYMOND: It's very inspiring—  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Well—  
  •  RAYMOND: to hear you, and to know what you're doing. I just have to say.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: In the long run it works, but the number of times that those mis-steps, mis-speakings occur before we now have a pattern that is worth— I mean if I have to I'll take it up the entire chain. I'd rather it be handled person to person, counselor to detective, or counselor to officer. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So it's not a one for one relationship. Witness it. Maybe it was an anomaly. But witness it again or something similar, then we know that we— our work is not— our work is for victims, but we often do that not necessarily with the victim.  
  •  RAYMOND: Understood. So throughout the course of these couple of hours, you've talked about taking care of victims or being present for victims in a helpful manner.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Them too. We've still got the cops, but—  
  •  RAYMOND: Yes. As well as your own counselors, and then I was going to ask about the police officers.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Sure.  
  •  RAYMOND: Because you have talked about, just a tiny bit, the impact of having people distrust you, lie to you, view you as the oppressor in some way and seeing violence all the time. So what is your role in terms of supporting officers and helping them with all of that pain.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That, too, is evolving. You know, if you had asked me four years ago "what is the biggest stressor in an officer's emotional life?" I would say it's the things that they see day in and day out, the relentless barrage of horrible, just stupidity, dumb bad luck, malice, neglect. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That's not true. I mean that's an ongoing stressor, no question about it. What the biggest emotional stressor on law enforcement officers is being held in bad regard by their peers, being in a bad light with their chain of command, their bosses, and being ridiculed in the eyes of the community. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: The threat, the emotional threat doesn't come from the bad things they see. It's the fear of bad things coming their way. It's not the bullets. It's not the bad guy. It's not the traffic stop. It's not the search warrants, no bust-in and pointing guns at people. The threat comes from within. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That we're going to be accused of wrong-doing, and we're going to be hung out to dry for it, and we could lose our livelihood for it.  
  •  RAYMOND: And so—  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: When I say "we" I'm using a collective "we,"  but that's from law enforcement standpoint, the rank and file, that causes them imminent more distress than the things, the tragedy that they see and experience.  
  •  RAYMOND: And more than event the physical danger that they may be in by being— 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY (nods): Now, I'm trying to be crystal clear. This is being spoken, I'm saying this as a non-police officer. They may say something different. From what I've seen, the threat of physical danger is present on everything that they do. When it rocks them is when it actually erupts. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: When one of them gets shot or they have to shoot somebody or they really have to do a really hard arrest and they're injured. There's nothing quite like brushes with mortality to make the abstract very real. But that's not the specter, that's not the ogre that hangs over their heads. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: The ogre that hangs over their head is internal affairs, possible indictment, loss of job, ridicule by the media because that doesn't just affect them. It affects their spouses, their children, and their families.  
  •  RAYMOND: So this is something that you've come to recognize over the last four years. Could you tell us how have your views changed? What happened or what new understandings, how you came to this new understanding?  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Sure, well, the difference between being six year employee at the police department in the position that I'm in versus ten years at the police department, I was all prepared to do the Mitchell model C.S.M. debriefing after a critical incident they'd seen. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: You know, the car fly over the edge and the person's— well I'm not going to be graphic but they'd seen bad things happen that that was really going to weigh heavily on them. So when you put a group of thirty mental health professionals in a law enforcement agency, they're going to wind up doing some mental health stuff for the people in the agency. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So we are comfortable with our role as assisting first responders. So I was looking at it from— my training was from a critical incident response standpoint, whether it's a personal critical incident or an agency critical incident. But the more I started talking with officers one on one, that's not the stuff that keeps them up at night. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That's not the stuff that send them to the bar every night. That's not the stuff that sends them to the second bedroom at night. It is fear of the agency itself that— in some ways you kind of expect people in the community not to get what you do because they're only going to see the worst of the worst, the community at a large. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So when they call you "bitch ass 5-0" at the parades, yeah, it's annoying but you understand that if they could only see what we really do they would think differently. But when it's people who have done what you've done for decades and are now the leadership, and they fear that God, if you make a wrong step or if somebody accuses you of making a wrong step, they're going to cut you out to pasture. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That's what frightens them. So that requires a whole different type of intervention. That requires a whole different type of support. That support almost— well, it is now, almost has to come from trained peers as opposed to the mental health professional. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: There's a little bit of stigma when you go in to talk with a counselor, so that's why we end up doing it behind the doughnut shop or at the gas stations where it's just formal, informal stuff. But coming in here to talk to me or going to talk to our psychologist, that's big for them, particularly if you don't have a lot of choice about it. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But if we could look around the police department and see who are those people who folks naturally go to to kind bounce ideas off or just to vent a little bit, not to become advocates, but as trained listeners. If we could develop a true peer support program and then put into place some guarantees about like you would expect: what can I keep confidential? 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: What can I not keep confidential? Make that very well known. Reify it from the chief, from internal affairs, from chain of command that no, you really can go and talk safely with those people about most of the issues of life, and there are no obligations to report. I'm not going to ask them to. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: That tool can dig so much deeper into the organization because it gets down to the individual with bringing problems in from home, individual or work group who are having problems started on the job. The people who are going to know it first are them. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: The people they trust the most are them. So if we can teach you to keep your mouth closed and keep confidences, and to not give advice and not become an advocate for them, and to maintain boundaries, you don't have to become a clinician, just attending skills, then we can help ourselves from the inside out. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So we've started the peer support program this last, past summer. It should have been started thirty years ago, but they wouldn't let them have confidentiality.  
  •  RAYMOND: It seems like it really made some important strides.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: It took— it just took so long, and a new chief. We really had to change administrations before we could— we were nine-tenths of the way done, and we just had the final bolt was a new chief from a different place who understood the need.  
  •  RAYMOND: We have a few minutes left maybe.  
  •  MORRISSEY: We have about five.  
  •  RAYMOND: Oh. Do you have any questions?  
  •  MORRISSEY:  Not right now, I don't actually. I feel like you were really thorough about— I mean it's a lot of food for thought. But no, I don't have any specific questions.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Okay.  
  •  RAYMOND: I have two things. One is, if you could talk about the picture because that was so beautiful when you talked about that before.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Okay.  
  •  RAYMOND: And the other is if you have anything else that you think people should know, or I mean we could also come back, but if you've—  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: The reason that I bought this picture was— it's the subject matter. I'm sorry for the glare. I tried to get the low-glaring glass, but obviously just because of the dress and the hairstyles it's sixties, fifties, sixties, seventies. And these children in various ages and this one with his little crutches and down to the baby. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: You don't know what the event is that they're watching but you know it certainly has their attention which is one of the things I like about it was that their experience is something that's kind of neat because they're all cordoned off to see it. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And it actually reminds me of me and my cousins and the people on my street when we were kids. We looked just like that when we were kids, but what really caught my attention was God what are they looking at? I almost want to think it's a parade or a circus or something like that but it could be anything. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: So in addition to what I see, it's what I don't see that they can see that I like.  
  •  RAYMOND: And I guess that's what you do a lot of and what you've helped me today and Ellen is see something that we don't usually get to see. We're those little kids. Well, we're not those little kids. We're looking at those other people. We're looking at that community and saying, "Tell me what you see." It's beautiful.  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Thank you. For the exact same reason is why I finally found this photograph. I don't know what in the world those women are looking at, but I know that they have a common purpose and that something over here has caught— is keeping their attention. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And of course the way he shot it and the way it's cropped makes it seem endless, like the crowd is endless. I don't even know who they are or this was taken back during the Civil Rights movement, or what their faith or their religion or cause was or who the speaker was. But I know that it was something and that it was powerful.  
  •  RAYMOND: That's beautiful. Dr. Petty, are there other things that people should know or any final words right now?  
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: Sure. I consider myself very fortunate in that I really love the mental health profession, but I get a chance to practice it in a police department. For me one of the advantages to that which not a whole lot of people get in my field is you get to see police officers from the inside out. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And they get a chance to be something other than the emotionless, task-oriented badge, gun, and stick that so often show up in order to take care of business. The humanity, the frailty, in some cases when it needs to be or when it has to be. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: And also the vulnerableness that they are, that's trained out of them, that they will not show you; it hasn't been bred out of them. And some of the finer people that I've met in the last, past ten years, much to my surprise I can say very honestly, wear a uniform, wear a badge and carry a gun. We just don't look at the guns very hard. 
  •  DR. WILLIAM PETTY: But I'm fortunate and that's why I'm still here, and that's why I try to find the best people that I can. This is a heck of a— not A.P.D. but law enforcement in that it's being forced to evolve. And being a part of that evolution and having some very small hand in it, but being able to watch it happen before my very eyes, is extremely gratifying.  
  •  RAYMOND: Thank you so much. [End Video 3] 
  •  Watch  Video 1,  Video 2 of "Interview with Dr. William Petty." 
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Title:Interview with William Petty
Abstract:At the time of this interview in November 2009, Dr. William Petty was head of Victims Services at the Austin Police Department in Austin, Texas. In Video 1 of this interview, Petty describes how he came to work in Victims Services and the difference between what counselors can do during a crisis or tragedy as opposed to months or years after the fact. They can offer resources and also -- more importantly -- what Petty calls "a ministry of presence." Petty also talks being a Black man working for an institution that he, and many other Black people, have had strong reasons to distrust and stay away from. He discusses, as well, self care and changes that have taken place in policing and victims services. Video 2 includes a discussion of what happened among people who found themselves at the Austin Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In Video 3, Petty talks both about being an advocate for victims for marginalized people as well the pressures on police officers, chief among these being attitudes of the public and accusations of misconduct, and the stigma associated with seeking help.
Sequence:3 of 3
  • William PettyRole: Narrator
  • Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
  • Virginia RaymondRole: Interviewer
  • Ellen MorrisseyRole: Videographer
  • Jennifer MorrisRole: Transcriber
  • Courtney LandesRole: Transcriber
  • Alexa SkillicornRole: Transcriber
  • Virginia RaymondRole: Transcriber
  • Kimberly Ambrosini-BaconRole: Proofreader
  • Maurice ChammahRole: Proofreader
Publishers:Texas After Violence Project
University of Texas Libraries
Date Created:2009/11/18
Geographic Focus:North America--United States--Texas
Geographic Base:North America--United States--Texas--Austin
Type of Resource:Moving image
    This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study. All intellectual property rights are retained by the legal copyright holders. The University of Texas does not hold the copyright to the content of this file. Formal permission to reuse or republish this content must be obtained from the copyright holder.

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