How Police Can End Abusive Relationships By Asking The Right Questions

Written by Carimah Townes

Thanks to new initiatives in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, police officers are saving the lives of domestic violence victims.

A new protocol, referred to as the Lethality Assessment Program, implements mandatory domestic violence training and an 11-question survey, in order to save victims from life-threatening altercations. Officers called to crime scenes related to domestic violence ask a series of questions to gauge victims’ likelihood of being killed by their attackers. If victims answer yes to the first three questions posed, or four of eight subsequent ones, officers immediately provide them with a cell phone to call a help line. The process is completed without the attacker present, and is projected to last fifteen minutes – including the time it takes to pose the questions, listen to responses, and call the help line.

The policy, first implemented in Maryland, has produced impressive results. Deaths pertaining to domestic violence have plummeted by 40 percent across the state. Throughout Pennsylvania, 50 departments have incorporated the model, and have seen a 78 percent decline in deaths related to domestic violence. The Pittsburgh City Council recently incorporated the protocol, and in the span of two weeks, 57 people spoke to an advocate on the spot, 36 of whom went to a prevention service. Officers in Columbus, OH are now following suit.

Given an alarming finding that “only 4 percent of domestic violence murder victims nationwide had ever availed themselves of domestic violence program services,” these successes have become instrumental in encouraging victims to seek assistance. Prior to the protocol, officers simply left victims with business cards for helplines. As explained by the interim executive director of CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence, “They’re calling the (domestic-violence) hot line with the victim, as opposed to giving the phone number and leaving the scene.”

Initiatives like the Lethality Assessment Program are ultimately tackling a national epidemic. About one in three women in the United States has been a victim of domestic violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Moreover, women of color are disproportionately impacted by partner-inflicted violence. Last November, a ground-breaking phone app was launched for victims to access critical information about domestic violence – such as how to exit abusive relationships, safely.


This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

89 comments

Eric Lees
Eric Lees2 years ago

Sounds like progress. I'm surprised to see Ohio as one of the states leading this, we always seem to be way behind on making progress.

With all the recent shootings by cops in the news recently there is a need to rethink how cops are trained and whom they hire. Just like domestic violence many cops unfortunately seem to be prone to violence.

Vicky P.
Vicky P.2 years ago

good

Eileen Mary P.
Eileen P.2 years ago

What a neat idea - quick, efficient with results. More of this type of thing please.

Tanya Selth
Tanya Selth2 years ago

this new protocol is great. I hope it can be introduced everywhere.

Lynn C.
Lynn C.2 years ago

Lets see - is that before the cops pull their guns and shoot or after....

Nimue Pendragon

The police (in all countries) need to do this training.

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy2 years ago

IN SPITE OF DOMESTIC ABUSE ISSUES.....THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IS ADDING PROBLEMS TO FAMILIES. PARENTS ARE NOT BEING SEEN AND TREATED CORRECTLY SO THIS ADDS TO FAMILY TENSIONS AND ABUSES. THIS COUNTRY HAS DUMPED JOBS IN THE MILLIONS WHEN THERE USED TO BE OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL NOW THIS COUNTRY HAS SOME FAVORITE SYSTEM GOING ......BS....SYSTEM...IS WHAT IT IS AND ONLY THOSE THAT KYA GET THE JOBS AND FAVORS. GOODBYE AMERICA...WELCOME THE GESTAPO.

Latonya W.
Latonya W.2 years ago

good thing...and thanx

Helen Krummenacker

Improving how police deal with victims is so important. In many places, the police don't really seem to understand the control an abuser has over their victim. On the other hand, they do have the ability to make a huge difference.

Laurie D.
Laurie D.2 years ago

I want to thank you for giving credit to the police departments responsible for creating this new protocol! Most often the police stories are ones of cruelty and indifference. It's good to recognize police are actually living to make a difference!