Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence recently honored Bill Leonard, Craig Police Department commander, with the Purple Ribbon Award. The award is meant to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution to their community or state to end domestic violence.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence recently honored Bill Leonard, Craig Police Department commander, with the Purple Ribbon Award. The award is meant to honor an individual who has made a significant contribution to their community or state to end domestic violence.

A problem 'still out there'

Police commander's award doesn't lessen desire to stem domestic violence

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At a glance

• Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence honors local police commander

• Award based on Bill Leonard's work on domestic violence study and audit

• Domestic violence a problem common to all communities, he said

• Leonard has led trainings in other jurisdictions on improving domestic violence response

— The reminders are there.

When it comes to domestic violence, sometimes those reminders are few and far between, sometimes to the point where you can forget. Then you run across someone brave, someone who carries on.

It's those people who remind you all over again - some victims do make it out.

"It gives you hope that there are ones out there that can survive the whole process, make it on their own and have a happy life," said Bill Leonard, a Craig Police Department commander. "That's rewarding on its own.

"As many negative ones out there, we do have success stories."

Leonard, a Moffat County native, has been with the police department full time for about 23 years.

For most of those years, he's been associated with Advocates-Crisis Support Services, aiding the nonprofit agency in helping victims of domestic violence.

It was his work in improving local response to domestic violence cases that recently earned Leonard an award from the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The CCADV presented Leonard with its first annual Purple Ribbon Award in the category of Community Exemplary Individual.

The award was presented to an individual "in recognition of their personal and/or professional commitment to ending domestic violence," a police department news release reported.

It also "honors an individual who made a significant contribution to their community or state, influenced public policy, educated policy makers or funders, and/or demonstrated allied partnerships with community-based efforts to end domestic violence," according to the release.

"The Craig Police Department is very proud of the commitment that Commander Leonard has demonstrated toward improving services in domestic violence incidents," Police Chief Walt Vanatta wrote in the release. "He is a very worthy recipient of the Purple Ribbon Award."

The past three years, Leonard has been a key figure in the police department's Domestic Violence Safety and Accountability Audit, a comprehensive review of the local response to domestic violence cases, and an ongoing effort to improve flaws within the system.

Based on the audit's success, Leonard has traveled with other CCADV representatives to cities across the state - Fort Morgan, Pagosa Springs, Cañon City, Durango, Alamosa and Telluride, among them - to provide training and speak about the improvements resulting from the police department's audit.

A letter recently sent from Randy Saucedo, CCADV advocacy and audit director, to Leonard spoke to how highly regarded and valued the commander's training sessions have been to other jurisdictions.

"Words cannot express my thanks and gratitude on the work that you have provided to the CCADV, not only in your commitment to the audit, but to the principles of providing institutional change on behalf of battered women and children," Saucedo wrote.

Part of Leonard's training sessions, he said, including relaying a success story - one of the reminders - about a local woman who escaped with her children from an abusive life of domestic violence.

The woman's husband controlled nearly every aspect - financially, emotionally, socially and physically - of his wife's life, Leonard said. In those situations, victims can "feel like there is no way out," he said.

With help from the woman's friend and an advocate, Leonard was able to persuade the woman to leave her husband to protect herself and her four children, who ranged from 18 months to 10 years old.

They relocated the woman to Routt County and then got her home to her parents. Eventually, she gained independence, stayed out of the relationship, and had her husband evicted from their home.

She kept up the payments, he didn't.

Today, Leonard said, she's doing great. She's happy, in a relationship, and her kids are healthy, he said.

"Overall, her life is a different world," said Leonard, adding that he occasionally sees the woman around town, and she reminds him about the right choice he helped her make.

Not all victims come through like she did, though, and remain in unstable, harmful environments.

"It's a real challenge to convince a victim that there are people that can help them get out of a bad situation," Leonard said.

Craig is like most other towns, the commander said; domestic violence routinely happens.

"It does, unfortunately," he said. "It's not just our community; it's common every place."

There is no cure for it, he said, and that keeps him going, constantly trying to find new ways to improve response and possibly better the lives of victims.

"It's still out there," Leonard said.

He added, "As long as we're still responding to it, it'll be a passion (of mine) to do a better job."

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