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Celebrating 30 Years of WATCHing Minnesota Courts

December 20, 2022

Kris Arneson, retired Minneapolis Assistant Chief of Police and recipient of the 2010 Gold WATCH Award delivered remarks at the October 2022 fundraiser for The Advocates’ work to protect women’s human rights.

Human Rights. Isn’t that something we have all taken for granted? Dignity. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Peace. Something that each of us has, or I hope we have. Something that we strive for in how we envision our world to be. How would it feel to know that these five pillars exist, but for other people, not you?

These are the pillars that The Advocates stands on every day. These are the pillars that guide their work, their passion for humankind. These are also the pillars that WATCH volunteers stand on when they walk into the courtroom.

Can you imagine what it’s like to be beaten down, ignored by the system, feeling shame that you have a partner that abuses you, beats you and finally you have the strength to call 911 for help, only to feel more alone than ever? I’m not saying the system isn’t helpful, because it’s doing the best it can for victims, but it’s a daunting task. Sometimes victims’ cases don’t turn out the way they hoped. The very real possibility is that they don’t call 911 the next time they are abused. This is where the power of WATCH comes in. Can you imagine how powerful it is to see a volunteer sitting in the courtroom with their red clipboard? A person who is taking notes on the proceedings, including judge and the prosecutor. A person who is standing in the victim’s corner.

The system wants to do well, the system desires to do better, but the system needs help. It needs us to pay attention. It needs us to guide them. It needs us to help victims also.

WATCH helps victims by continuing to ensure that there is fair treatment across the board. Many prosecutors and judges look forward to the WATCH reports. They are professionals who want the process and system to work fairly and effectively and give victims a chance for a better life. They also want to hold abusers accountable. An independent perspective helps the courts, prosecutors, and police understand how the system is working. What can be done better? This is the accountability we all want to ensure our systems continues to operate as best as possible.

This is WATCH. They are the watchdog of the courts for domestic violence and human trafficking. Without monitoring and accountability, systems fail to protect women. By integrating new and existing volunteers, The Advocates will continue to use court monitoring and documentation to change and implement laws to end violence against women.

Now, more than ever, we need WATCH.