Police officers responding to the scene of a domestic violence call used to gauge the volatility of a situation using little more than intuition and a dash of hope, says the Baltimore Sun. A growing number of police agencies across Maryland have been connecting victims with support groups and counselors on the spot – while emotions are still raw and before the attacks turn deadly – using a quick checklist of research-based indicators of risk. Law enforcement agencies in 58 jurisdictions have adopted “lethality assessments” over the past two years. Almost a third of the 900 victims who spoke to a counselor on the scene later showed up at a domestic-violence agency seeking a protective order, shelter, counseling, a support group or other service.
Advocates say the program is part of a broader effort to increase knowledge about domestic violence. The questions were developed from research into a concise patrol tool by a group that included police, prosecutors, and researchers, and they want everyone from health care providers to judges to understand the significance of a victim’s answers. Across the U.S., some local police jurisdictions are using lethality assessments, tailoring them to the dynamics of their communities. “I think there are a lot of states that are really interested in seeing how Maryland can implement this on a larger scale,” said Cheryl ‘Donnell of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “To have something that is relatively cookie-cutter will not work everywhere.” Federal statistics show that “intimate-partner homicide” – the killing of a spouse, ex-spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend – has declined significantly during the past 25 years.