Lethality Assessment Protocol in place in 11 Virginia localities

policeEleven local law enforcement agencies in Central Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Southwest Virginia will implement or expand their use of Lethality Assessment Protocol,  an innovative tool for preventing domestic homicide, after receiving a total of more than 250 mobile phones from the Office of Attorney General.

These local agencies, along with six others who made their own phone arrangements, have been trained by Attorney General Herring’s office in the use of Lethality Assessment Protocol to identify victims of domestic violence who are at risk of further or even fatal violence and connect that victim with community resources to remove them from the dangerous situation. The availability of mobile phones for law enforcement officers to call a domestic violence service provider has been a significant barrier to successful implementation. In 2014, there were 112 family and intimate partner domestic homicides in Virginia.

“Domestic homicide is not only preventable, it can sometimes be predicted when officers and first responders know what to look for and how to respond,” said Attorney General Herring. “Leaving an abusive situation can be incredibly difficult, because abusive relationships can still be complex ones, and that’s why victims need to know that there is a network of resources in their community waiting to help them escape the situation and break the cycle of violence. I am a believer in Lethality Assessment Protocol and my team and I are doing everything we can to spread this important, potentially life-saving tool, to as many communities in Virginia as possible.”

Lethality Assessment Protocol is an innovative, effective approach to domestic homicide prevention that helps first responders identify and properly handle domestic violence situations that may become fatal for a victim.  First responders are trained to use a standardized set of eleven questions, such as “Has he/she ever threatened to kill you or your children,” or “Does he/she have a gun or can he/she get one easily” that can predict when a victim is at immediate risk of further harm. If the victim is at risk of further harm, officers immediately connect the victim to a 24-hour domestic violence service provider in their community who can help get them out of the potentially dangerous situation and get them the assistance they need.

In order to connect a victim with community resources, an officer needs access to a mobile phone, and since many departments do not issue officers phones and many ban the use of personal phones while on duty, the OAG found a way to meet this need and eliminate the barrier to implementation.

Local agencies receiving a total of more than 250 phones include:

  • Richmond City Police Department
  • James City County Police Department
  • Petersburg Police Department
  • New Kent County Sheriff’s Office
  • Newport News Sheriff’s Office
  • Newport News Police Department
  • Hampton Sheriff’s Office
  • Hampton Police Department
  • Franklin County Sheriff’s Office
  • Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office
  • Washington County Sheriff’s Office

In addition to these localities, the following agencies have been trained on Lethality Assessment Protocol and made their own phone arrangements:

  • Leesburg Police Department
  • Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office
  • Radford Police Department
  • Albemarle Police
  • Charlottesville Police Department
  • University of Virginia Police Department

“I personally want to thank Attorney General Mark Herring for listening to the concerns of law enforcement and then helping us solve those issues in a collaborative way,” said Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan. “For many years, the struggle to reduce domestic violence and intimate partner domestic homicides seemed insurmountable. After each incident, law enforcement would be left feeling as if we needed to do more to prevent domestic violence.  The ‘Lethality Assessment Protocol’ training, coupled with the mobile phones provided by Attorney General Herring, will be a game changer.  The use of an evidence-based assessment tool will assist us to be more predictive rather than reactive relative to domestic violence.”

“Domestic violence continues to be a major public safety concern in every community,” Chief John I. Dixon, III, Petersburg Police Chief said. “Last month, our officers intervened with a case that had the potential to be fatal, but through the Lethality Assessment Protocol, the victim is now in a secure shelter.”

“The availability of the mobile phones in our area will be of tremendous benefit to law enforcement to access domestic service providers in a timely manner,” stated Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman. “The ability to contact these providers very well could make the difference in the outcome of the situation.  I applaud Attorney General Herring in his strong efforts in combating domestic violence which, in many cases, leads to domestic homicide.”

Implementation and expansion of Lethality Assessment Protocol has been a priority for Attorney General Herring since his service in the State Senate where he introduced legislation to require Lethality Assessment training of Virginia law enforcement. As attorney general, he hired a full-time staff member to train local agencies on Lethality Protocol Implementation, and in October 2015, his Office trained 125 representatives from 45 law enforcement and community services agencies during a three-day conference in Charlottesville.

Additional regional trainings are currently being planned for this year, and interested law enforcement or community agencies should contact Lisa G, Furr, GEAP Program and Lethality Assessment Initiative Coordinator, at (804) 823-6336 orlfurr@oag.state.va.us.

Domestic violence homicides are preventable, but the statistics in Virginia remain alarming. Data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Virginia State Police shows:

  • 112 victims lost their lives domestic homicides in Virginia in 2014
  • Domestic homicides accounted for 31 percent of all homicides in 2014
  • African-Americans died at roughly three times the rate of whites from domestic violence homicide
  • More than half of domestic homicides are committed with a firearm
  • There were 20,872 arrests for misdemeanor assault and battery against family or household member in 2014
  • There were 1,153 arrests for felony assault and battery against family or household member in 2014

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