This month, the AHA Foundation sat down with Detective Chris Boughey of the Peoria Police Department to discuss the importance of honor violence training in the United States. Detective Boughey is currently assigned as a Detective in the Major Crimes Unit in the criminal investigation sector of Peoria PD. He investigates homicides, robberies, in-custody deaths, and more. He has been with Peoria PD for 21 years and in law enforcement for 24 years and was a detective on the Noor Almaleki honor killing case in 2009. He also has partnered with the AHA Foundation to train law enforcement on how to identify and handle honor violence cases and also serves as our Officer Liaison.
AHA Foundation: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your work with honor violence.
Detective Boughey: I became involved with honor violence specifically in October of 2009. I was the on-call detective that day when a young Iraqi immigrant, Noor Almaleki and a friend of hers were run over by Noor’s father, Faleh Almaleki.
I had heard about honor violence and honor killings before this day, but hadn’t really delved into it before. It was something that I was interested in and I had heard about the Said case in Texas. I had a surface understanding of what honor violence and honor killings were, then obviously after October 2009, I delved into it and became a part of the community fighting against it.
That was a big turning point in my career, but also in my life. I have worked thousands and thousands of cases in my 24 years in law enforcement; some are very difficult to work, some are heart-breaking, some are incredibly frustrating. But the one case out of the thousands and thousands that I have worked that stuck with me was Noor and her case.
It affected me; it affected our community. Within those years since that’s happened, the impact she’s had, that her death has had, on a lot of people in the United States of America, especially with the formation of the AHA Foundation and my work. I always think how tragic her death was and how senseless, but she didn’t die in vain and she has put us in a place as an organization to really start raising awareness on this issues, fighting it, combatting it, investigating it, and educating and legislating on these young women’s behalves.
I am an old, hardened cop. I’ve seen it all; done it all and I am pretty cynical but at a certain point in my career, I was going down a path where I was really overly cynical. I was getting mad at the world and frustrated. This case frustrated and angered me too, but it gave me a purpose.
So now I see this fight against honor violence as a purpose and a calling in my life. I have been fortunate to have great support from the Department and the folks that I work with. My partner, Jeff Balson, is an expert in this field as well.
It has also had a big impact on our family and friends as well. I am the kind of cop that does this work, and friends and family see me on TV and they always want to talk about it. Anytime I go to a party or social gatherings I talk about it. Any chance I get to talk about it I do because I think it needs to be out there. The biggest response that we get still, to this day, is “I can’t believe this happens in the United States of America. I can’t believe that a father would do this to a child.” There is still that level of surprise and level of folks not knowing about it, so my mission, as well as the AHA Foundation’s mission, is to spread the word and educate folks.
AHA Foundation: How are honor violence cases different from domestic violence cases, or other cases you have faced in your career?
Detective Boughey: This is part of the curriculum that we teach at the AHA Foundation about the difference between domestic violence and honor violence; it is the motivation that is different. The motive is different. In domestic violence, it is usually a situation between two adults that are having some sort of interpersonal conflict. It is not because of a belief system or a thought process. Whereas in honor violence, you have this notion of honor. There is no honor in beating up your wife in the United States of America in domestic violence situations. The perpetrator is frowned upon. The perpetrator is prosecuted or put on trial. And people look at the perpetrator like, “you’re a wife beater, so you are a bad person.”
But the motivation by the perpetrators in honor violence is different. When we are talking about honor violence, we are not just talking about honor killings, we are talking about honor assaults, forced marriages, and female genital mutilation. But the perpetrator in many of these cases are hailed as heroes in their communities, in their mosques, or in their social circles.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on these folks from family members or their communities that the kids, especially the oldest daughter, have to step in line. They have to stay virtuous and within the old culture. The motivation for these perpetrators is that this notion or sense of honor is more important than the life and the love of their child.
There are some parallels and similarities, as far as if you look at the cycles of violence and domestic violence. I’ve seen in some of the honor violence cases that I’ve worked an assault happens and the child leaves the home, but the pull of the home life and their parents being nice to them pressures them to go back home, then bad things happen again.
That is the same thing that happens in domestic violence cases a lot of times. A woman will get physically assaulted or abused. She will leave and then, we call it the honeymoon phase, where the husband (or the father or mother in honor violence cases) will draw her back in, then the assault happens again. It is a control mechanism. This cycle is similar in these two types of cases, but the motivation is what’s different.
AHA Foundation: Where did you learn how to handle honor violence cases?
Detective Boughey: A lot of it was the night, October 20th, 2009, when I got back to the station after the initial investigation and started figuring out the situation that we had, while we were looking for Faleh Almaleki who was on the run and speaking with his family that night, I thought, “I think we have one of those honor violence situations.”
So, one of the things that I have done over my career is always try to research unique types of cases. For whatever reason, I have either been blessed or cursed with having some really unique murder investigations. Whether it is a murder for hire or a no body murder, these are the kinds of cases that I’ve worked. But when I realized the markings of what we came across that night, I did a lot of research online. There were not a lot of resources back in 2009 on honor violence. So, I started reading up on it and looking for anything I could get my hands on about this issue, as far as the motivation and behavior behind honor violence.
The distinction that I tell cops when teaching honor violence classes is how we investigate the scene, as far as evidence and talking to people, that is the same in any type of homicide investigation. The thing that cops, prosecutors, or anyone investigating this type of case need to understand is that the motivation is difference. Understanding a little bit about the culture and the religion is going to be very helpful as well.
Laura Reckart, who was the prosecutor on this case, always said that working an honor violence case is like working a gang case because no one talks. No one is going to tell you anything, even though everybody knows the situation. No one will tell the police or the prosecutors anything. We must be cognizant of this so that we can find some strategies that work in investigating these cases.
AHA Foundation: Why is specific training on honor violence so important for professionals? What types of professionals should receive honor violence training?
Detective Boughey: Most cops in big cities understand that when you get a case, you work it. When I teach these trainings, I am not going to tell cops how to investigate a murder case because they know how to do that. What I want them to understand is why these cases happen, what to expect, and how to prepare a case for trial. That goes for prosecutors as well. So, law enforcement and prosecutors need this training.
However, more importantly, who is going to see these folks before we do: social services and physicians. We have had cases, through the AHA Foundation, with both of those types of professionals reaching out saying that they have seen situations of concern. So the training needs to extend past law enforcement and prosecutors. For example, if a social service professional is doing a forensic investigation on a fourteen or fifteen-year old young woman potentially in a bad situation, understanding that having mom or dad in the room is not the right way to handle the investigation is important.
I have a sixteen-year old daughter. She probably says twice a week, “oh no, my dad’s gonna kill me.” Is she joking? Yes, of course. But when a sixteen-year old woman from that community is saying, “my dad is going to kill me,” we as law enforcement, social services, or physicians have to take that seriously. It is a lethal situation and if we put them back into that situation, we are signing their death warrant. Or in a lot of cases, putting them back into a really bad life, possibly in a foreign country, sent there against their will.
So, our education must be very broad in terms of the audience. We need to equip law enforcement, prosecutors, physicians, and social service workers with knowledge to understand the situation and what needs to be done, as well as the difference between a child abuse situation as opposed to an honor violence situation. The mission is still same: protect the child. But the motivation has to be different.
AHA Foundation: How can we get honor violence training included in all police and detective training curriculums throughout the United States? What are challenges to this?
Detective Boughey: Here are a couple things that we have done. There is an association in Arizona called the Arizona Homicide Investigation Association, which is made up of homicide investigators throughout the state of Arizona. About two or three years ago, we did a full day class on honor violence and we had almost 200 detectives show up. AHA Foundation’s Senior Director, Amanda Parker, came out for that and it was very successful and we taught our curriculum.
Part of the issue though, is that each state has a different level of certification through what is called POST- Peace Officers Standards and Training. If we wanted to get our curriculum, or any other curriculum that we develop in the future, into standardized training throughout a state, we would have to submit that lesson plan, the curriculum, the goals, the objectives, and more to each individual state to get it certified so that the cops can get Continuing Education Credit. We are trying to do that in California, to some extent with similar organizations. However, there is nothing that says we can’t go out and offer this training to law enforcement, social services, or wherever it may be, if they are interested.
The biggest challenge though, and not just within our community of law enforcement and prosecutors but everywhere, is the issue of political correctness. It is the problem that people think we are training folks to target Muslims. That could not be further from the truth.
I have run into that on cases. I have had arguments with social services providers before saying that they don’t want to get involved in this type of situation. I respond that if this was a white, middle-class child, with these allegations, wouldn’t you do something? Because by law, you have to. They respond with, “well yes, but in this case we have to respect their culture.”
When did being politically correct trump doing what the right thing is? We owe it to these girls and we owe it to ourselves and our country to just get over ourselves. This is an issue; this is a problem. Call it what it is. Is it an indictment on an entire belief system? No it’s not. Is it an indictment on an entire religion? No, it’s not.
However, Presbyterian white folks aren’t killing sixteen-year old daughters because they didn’t go to communion on Sunday. That could be a little bit politically incorrect, but that is the biggest issue that we are dealing with. And the political climate is such in this country, even within police departments, where they see anything like that and they step back and say, “we don’t want the controversy. We don’t want CAIR coming in and saying that we are being racist or xenophobic.” That is a challenge.
But we also have to be careful in our training that we are not calling out that entire belief system or religion. This is a problem and this is how we are combatting it. Are the motivations and beliefs different from what we in the United States or Western Europe believe? Yes. So we need to be aware of that, but at the same time we cannot be afraid to teach this and to educate people.
I think a lot of this is media driven. I think if you were to speak to the line level cop or the line-level investigator, prosecutor, doctor, or even citizen, they would say that they want to know more about this. They would agree that honor violence is a significant problem and they would not object to education on this subject being taught in the United States.
Because how can you be anti-immigrant and pro-human rights? What I always tell people is, don’t make this a religious thing or a belief thing, make this a human rights issue. We can all agree on that. How is it that we have to be cognizant of people’s religion, which we are, but that does not give them a free pass to commit crimes. At the base level, this is a human rights issue. Whether this was happening in a Muslim, the Sikh community, the Presbyterian community, or the Catholic community, we would have to investigate it and we would have to do something about it. So, let’s talk about this. Let’s lose the labels and call it what it is. It’s human rights. Regardless of culture or religion, everyone should be treated equally. I think that is what they all say. I think that’s what Muhammad said, what Jesus said, I think that’s what everyone says: treat people with respect. It is a human rights issue is really what it comes down to.
You have these folks who are out there, screaming about their rights and human rights, yet they are okay with allowing a four-year old girl to undergo female genital mutilation because it is in the name of culture. Or they’re okay with thousands and thousands of girls being shipped out of the country each year for a forced marriage, or being assaulted, or getting killed, but on the other hand, they are screaming about equal rights. Well, those folks are included too.
Just few months ago we learned about doctor from Michigan who allegedly performed FGM on 100 girls, some of which were brought to Michigan from other states for the procedure. What in your professional opinion can be done to better protect girls in the U.S. from this abuse?
Let’s make it a federal law to criminalize transporting children across state lines for the purposes of FGM. Let’s make this something that is binding across the United States. Everyone gets wound up about adding more laws, but let’s make laws that actually mean something and can actually
AHA Foundation: In your professional opinion, how widespread is honor violence in the United States?
Detective Boughey: I was reading an article recently, I think it was in the New York Magazine and they cited the John Jay study that Ric Curtis did. They ran into this problem, and I worked a bit with them, that we don’t have a baseline for reporting in this country on honor violence. Have cases of honor violence been lumped under domestic violence for years? Yes. Have cops turned their back and said they aren’t getting involved? Yes. Have social service providers thought that a child was getting abused but didn’t want to rock the boat? Yes. I think it is much more widespread than we think.
This article said there is no quantifiable data but they estimated 23-27 murders a year in the United States, due to honor violence. They said in the grand scheme of American violence, that’s not a whole lot.
Well, I beg your pardon. That is 23-27 women who aren’t going to get the chance to grow up, to get an education, to be successful, to fall in love, or to have kids of their own.
At a much greater scale is also the issue of female genital mutilation, which is rampant. In the last 5-6 years, we have done great work getting legislation passed in several states, but we still have those doctors out there and we know it, such as the doctor in the upcoming Michigan case. It is a secret society. A lot of it is underreported. That is the thing, we don’t know. These kids disappear. They are out of class, out of school, and no one knows where they are but nobody does anything because no one reports the incidents.
So, I think the issue of honor killings is much more widespread than New York Magazine would like us to think. I think the numbers are a lot higher for FGM, and forced marriage issues than they are for honor assaults and honor killings. But as we know, failing to enter into a forced marriage is a trigger mechanism for physical violence and/or death. It is the single largest trigger mechanism to get these girls killed.
I think it is much more widespread than we believe. I think it is completely unreported, by that community, by law enforcement, and most certainly by the media.
AHA Foundation: What are signs that point to potential honor violence in a case?
Detective Boughey: If the victim discloses to you that they are afraid of their father, that he has threatened to kill or hurt them or send them out of the country to force them to marry someone that they don’t want to, we need to take these things seriously. They also need to be in an environment where they feel safe to talk.
We are not equipped as a country to chart these cases right now, but when we get to the point where we can, we need to get these girls out of these situations. Currently, there are not a lot of options for these victims. We cannot put them in a battered woman’s home because that is not appropriate for them. So what can we do? Are we going to put them in foster care or have them be wards of the state? There is nothing effective that we can do.
If a young girl from that sort of community says that she has a problem and needs help, we have to believe them. We must believe them. And to hell with political correctness or not wanting to get involved. We have to believe them. For them to even come forward and disclose something, that is a huge step for them and it could potentially get them killed. So, as a citizen or as a professional, if a child comes forward and says they need help and that they are scared, believe them. Then, call us at the AHA Foundation, call law enforcement, call me and we will get the ball rolling and do what we can do.
AHA Foundation: Is there anything else you would like to share with our supporters?
Detective Boughey: I am so thankful that you guys reached out to me. Next to being a father and a husband, this is probably the greatest honor that I’ve been involved with in my entire life. To work for an organization that truly believes in what they say and what they do and to be a part of that and deal with this issue, which is growing not just in the U.S. but everywhere, to be a part of that is really something special. It is something that I take very seriously. I am so happy to be a part of the organization.