Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Lethality Assessment Program

In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), we are highlighting innovative responses to domestic violence and community efforts of three police departments. The second agency to be highlighted is the East Hartford Police Department (Connecticut).

In 2012, the East Hartford Police Department began the Lethality Assessment Pilot Program. This program was a collaborative effort between the Police Officers Standards and Training Council and the Connecticut Coalition Against Women Violence (CCADV), and was developed under the training and guidance of the Maryland Lethality Assessment Model created to reduce homicide and violence against women.

The program employs a two-pronged intervention process: the use of a research-based lethality screening tool on domestic violence calls, and the connection of victims directly to advocates for support and safety planning. Officers on the scene will capture the victim’s responses to questions on the assessment in order to determine the potential for further or escalation of violence. To help the victim address immediate safety needs, the officer will call the local domestic violence agency and encourage the victim to speak directly with an advocate. The East Hartford lethality assessment program is unique compared to other similar programs. If a high risk victim is identified, a detective is assigned to make an in-person visit with 72 hours to ensure the victim understands the details conveyed at the time of the assessment and knows how to follow-up with advocates and the court if necessary.

Recently, the department has moved the program from the pilot assessment to a permanent protocol for the response to domestic violence. Seven officers will soon be attending a train-the-trainer session in order to impart the details and procedures to the additional 125 sworn officers. The department is currently working with local universities and colleges to identify a researcher who will collect and assess pre and post lethality assessment program data.

For more information about the East Harford Police Department’s Lethality Assessment Program, contact Deputy Chief Beau Thurnauer at BThurnauer@easthartfordct.gov. Deputy Chief Thurnauer is a graduate of the IACP National Law Enforcement Leadership Institute on Violence Against Women. Also, be sure to read the Presidential Proclamation on Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For more information on IACP training opportunities and resources on violence against women visit http://www.iacp.org/Violence-Against-Women.

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