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Connecticut police have new domestic violence checklist

When police arrive at the scene of a domestic dispute in Connecticut, they will now have in their possession a checklist that is meant to help officers determine exactly how serious the situation is. The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence is the driving force behind the new training program being piloted in 14 communities.

Officers are being trained to assess the circumstances of a dispute to determine if the victim is at imminent risk of injury or death. The police are instructed to call a domestic violence counselor and attempt to have the victim speak to the counselor via telephone at the scene of the incident.

Unfortunately, many victims of domestic violence tend not to recognize the signs of imminent danger and are often especially vulnerable to abusers in the home. A national study showed that only 4 percent of domestic violence homicide victims ever sought help.

A similar checklist program was implemented in Maryland, where instances of domestic violence homicide were reportedly reduced by 40 percent. In Connecticut, about 16 people are killed in domestic violence disputes each year. State officials hope to see this number reduced by half with the help of the new program.

In addition to the checklist, domestic violence law in Connecticut expanded this past week. Now restraining orders can be extended for a year, and the definition of electronic stalking has been strengthened. Also, every police department must appoint a supervisor as a domestic violence liaison, and new communication standards were established, requiring courts to make victims aware of changes in the charges or sentence of an abuser.

If police respond to a domestic violence situation in the Stamford area, victims may want to inquire with police about the risk level assigned to the incident. This information could prove useful in a number of ways in family court, especially in matters of restraining orders and child custody.

Source: The CT Mirror, "More power to fight domestic violence," Grace Merritt, Oct. 1, 2012

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