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News Dec 19, 2011 - 2:40 PM

Flexer, task force call for better police response on domestic violence calls

By Connecticut House Democrats

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After meeting for four months, the Law Enforcement Response to Family Violence (LERFV) Task Force released their recommendations calling on the legislature to improve the response of law enforcement agencies to incidents of domestic violence and violations of protective and restraining orders.

The 16 member task force chaired by State Representative Mae Flexer (D-Killingly, Plainfield, Sterling) and Karen Jarmoc, the Interim Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, was created by the legislature earlier this year.

Currently, almost 20% of domestic violence calls in Connecticut result in dual arrest—meaning both parties are arrested. Flexer said that the dual arrests are an inadvertent result of tougher state laws requiring the police to arrest anyone they believe to have broken the law when called to the scene of a domestic dispute.

“Victims should not be arrested when they call for help,” said Flexer. “Obviously we do not want the police to play judge and jury when they respond to domestic violence incidents, but we can—and must better prepare law enforcement to handle these situations so victims are not being dragged off to jail.”

The task force is recommending that the current Model Policy which the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) utilizes, as well as the training materials utilized by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) be updated to better explain self defense guidelines to police officers to help prevent the arrest of victims. The task force also recommends that police supervisors should review domestic violence cases.

According to Jarmoc, the recommendations will provide law enforcement personnel with an improved working knowledge of the intricacies of family violence incidents through enhanced training.

“When the Task Force learned that police departments across the state were not all providing the same training to their personnel, we felt that a more consistent approach was needed,” said Jarmoc. “Today’s report sets important benchmarks for every department to meet when it comes to responding to a domestic violence call.”

“All police officers are trained and required to receive training updates on how to deal with domestic violence incidents, but the training varies from town-to-town,” said Flexer. “We are doing a disservice to law enforcement professionals—and more importantly to the victims by not teaching best practices to all of Connecticut’s police. Implementing a standard curriculum is a simple step we can take to improve the police’s response to domestic violence.”

The task force is also recommending a ‘train the trainer’ program be instituted to teach trainers best practices for educating law enforcement officers on how to identify and respond to domestic violence.

The state police currently require each trooper to undergo a standard domestic violence training every year. Municipal police are required to complete two hours of domestic violence training every three years. Because the relevant statutes and best practices may change from year to year, and domestic violence cases make up a large portion of local department caseloads, the task force is also calling for annual in-service trainings for both state and municipal police, including an update on changes to state law.

In addition the task force is proposing enhancements to the protective and restraining order system and the bail bond process.

Flexer added that students are often the victims of intimate partner abuse so the task force is also calling for a copy of protective and restraining orders to be sent to any school the victim attends, and to require defendants who attend the same school as their victims remain the prescribed distance from the victim at school.

The task force is also recommending expanding the bail commissioner’s ability to provide for victim safety by requiring that bail commissioners evaluate safety as a matter of release.

“The recent tragedy in Milford sadly highlights the need for bail commissioners to consider the victim’s safety,” said Flexer. “The prosecutor, who considered the victim’s safety, recommended that the offender not be released.”

The group is also proposing to allow the Judicial Branch to disclose nonconviction information to domestic violence advocates for the purpose of planning and protecting the future safety of the victim.

The task force’s full report and recommendations are available to read here.

Flexer, who chairs the Speaker’s Task Force on Domestic Violence, has led the effort over the past few years to enact stronger and tougher laws to prevent violence against women and assist victims of domestic violence. Additional information about the task force can be found on its web site.

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