Domestic Violence Response Program Expands, Almost All Dutchess Police

Courtesy of SPJ News Service 

The Dutchess County Legislature’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Domestic Violence projects to have all 15 Dutchess police departments trained under their Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) for responding to domestic violence calls by April 2018.

Installed in May 2014, the program trains police officers to assess the risk of escalating violence or even death for victims of domestic violence. After evaluating victims’ responses to an 11- question survey, officers refer them to a resource hotline and collaborate with social services to coordinate safety planning.

Currently, 13 of the 15 Dutchess County law enforcement agencies have completed the LAP training.

“Since [our November] meeting, we’ve trained Pine Plaines, Red Hook, Rhinebeck, and we got in touch with Millerton and Millbrook...[to train them] in March and April,” said Universal Response to Domestic Violence Project Coordinator Kaitlin Rodriques.“That’s 100 percent of law enforcement agencies in Dutchess.”

Created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) in 2003, LAP protocol pushes police to communicate with victims the amount of danger they are in. Procedure even justifies an officer telling high-risk victims that people in similar situations have been killed.

Lethality screenings gauge risk for victims by asking them questions relating to histories of abuse, death threats, the abuser’s emotional stability, and whether the abuser owns or can obtain a gun.

The LAP model stemmed from Johns Hopkins University researcher, Jacquelyn Campbell, shows that findings that only four percent of domestic violence homicide victims sought supportive services, in which officers had responded to previous domestic violence calls in 50 percent of these cases.

Dutchess County police and social workers cooperate to encourage victims to seek family and shelter services or speak to a counselor. Campbell found the re- assault of victims dropped by 60 percent if they went into a shelter. It is still up to the victim to call into the LAP hotline or seek further assistance. 

In a Nov. 2015 memo to Dutchess County Chairmen Rob Rolison- now Poughkeepsie mayor- and the Legislature, the Committee on Domestic Violence cited 402 victims within the county being “identified as experiencing elevated risk for being killed or seriously injured.”

The memo goes on to state, “77 percent of those victims chose to speak to a hotline worker on scene and received immediate access to safety planning and support.”

At a time when the national average was only 29 percent, 66 percent of Dutchess County victims continued seeking support through the hotline in 2015.

Only seven of the Dutchess police departments were trained at the time of the memo. Now, 13 of the 15 agencies are trained, including: the Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Hyde Park, East Fishkill, Town of Poughkeepsie, Town of Fishkill, Village of Wappingers Falls, Village of Fishkill, City of Beacon, Pine Plains, City of Poughkeepsie, Red Hook, and Rhinebeck.

 A common misconception with ROTC is that members are required to commission. Cadets are only required to commission if they receive an Army ROTC scholarship or enter the Army ROTC Advanced Course. Photo courtesy of Luke Carberry Mogan, SPJ News Service 

A common misconception with ROTC is that members are required to commission. Cadets are only required to commission if they receive an Army ROTC scholarship or enter the Army ROTC Advanced Course. Photo courtesy of Luke Carberry Mogan, SPJ News Service 

In the last quarter of 2017, 932 Domestic Incident Reports (DIR) and 534 lethality assessments were completed. 

An officer can decide on his/her own to administer a lethality assessment, but cases involving repeat offenders and intimate partners raise the priority to do so; 45 to 50 percent of Dutchess County cases involved intimate partners.
Of the 534 lethality screenings, 213 victims screened in based on protocol or an officer’s belief.

“Pine Plains we trained in December, and they implemented [LAP] immediately, so they started using it [about] an hour later after we left,” said Rodriques.

Pine Plains, a recent addition to the LAP trained police agencies, had one domestic violence screening in the last quarter of 2017.

“As we understand, [Pine Plains] only gets like four or five domestic [violence calls] a year, and one of them happened right after we left,” said Director of Domestic Violence Services in Dutchess County Leah Feldman.

The four law enforcement agencies with the most domestic violence assessments in the last 2017 quarter and overall are (2017 quarter, overall): the City of Poughkeepsie (141, 1415), the New York State Police (192, 1801), the Town of Poughkeepsie (178, 2074), 

and the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office (161, 2235).

Since the LAP’s installation in May 2014 to December 2017, a total of 9,937 DIRs have been completed with 4,973 lethality screenings. Forty-four percent of victims have been screened in using the LAP.

For 2009, the state of Maryland’s lethality screenings totaled 10,947, with more than 50 percent of victims qualifying as high-risk cases.

Although Dutchess County numbers for victims who speak with domestic violence hotline workers have been below the national average of 76 percent, the retention rates of victims who seek further services -61 (2017 quarter) and 69.9 (overall) percent- has always been higher than the LAP national average of 29 percent.

“I remember when this was only an idea,” said Dutchess County Legislator Marge Horton, R-East Fishkill, about having Dutchess-wide LAP training for law enforcement.