Assessing Risk On-scene: Law Enforcement

April 23, 2024


This podcast focuses on assessing risk and lethality and using intimate partner violence (IPV) risk assessments on scene; in law enforcement settings. Featured guest speakers are: Sergeant Denise Jones, training consultant for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Stalking Resource and Prevention Center (SPARC), and the Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Consortium (LETTAC). Tim Boehnlein, Project Specialist for the Geiger Institute, a national initiative to end domestic violence homicides. Molly Kaplan, Homicide Prevention Manager at Journey Center for Safety and Healing (Cleveland, OH), Ilene Shehan, Chief Operating Officer  at Hope House (Kansas City, MO), and Randa Hager, Hope House Director of Outreach Programs. The Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement (DA-LE) and the Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) are discussed in this podcast.

MICHELLE TOLEDO-CAINAS:  Welcome to this DV RISC Podcast series on the use of intimate partner violence (IPV) risk assessments and the models in different settings.  Today’s episode is focused on assessing risk on the scene.

My name is Michelle Toledo Cainas and I’m a Program Manager at the Center for Justice Innovation, and I’m your host for today’s episode.  Our guest speakers for today are Sergeant Denise Jones, Tim Boehnlein, Molly Kaplan, Ilene Shehan, and Randa Hager.

Sergeant Denise Jones has been in law enforcement for 24 years.  She has served in the Intimate Partner Crime Unit since 2017.  Denise works primarily with intimate partner crime, such as stalking, domestic violence, strangulation, and protective order violations, along with conducting internal investigations, trainings and orientation.  Sergeant Jones serves as a training consultant for the international Association of Chiefs of Police, the Stalking Resource and Prevention Center (SPARC), and the Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Consortium (LETTAC).

Tim Boehnlein has over 32 years of experience in the domestic violence field. Tim has worked extensively in the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga, Ohio, in the implementation and expansion of the Domestic Violence High-Risk Team Model.  As part of this initiative, he has assisted many police departments and courts in implementing the danger assessments for law enforcement, the DALE.  Currently, Tim is a Project Specialist for the Geiger Institute, a national initiative to end domestic violence homicides.  He works with a wide range of communities to implement the danger assessment for law enforcement and Domestic Violence High-Risk Team Model.

Molly Kaplan has worked in the field of intimate partner violence at Journey Center for Safety and Healing in Cleveland, Ohio, for 14 years.  As Homicide Prevention Manager, Molly is focused on bringing best practices to the community for enhanced responses to end this high-risk domestic violence.  She is currently working to expand the use of the lethality assessment, establish a community-based advocacy response for high-risk victims, and provides training for the legal system and other community partners.

Ilene Shehan began working at Hope House in 1996 in the position of a court advocate.  During her tenure with Hope House, Ilene has held various roles that provide oversight to shelter, children services, court, legal, and hospital advocacy programs, and took over as Chief Operating Officer in 2006.  In this position, Ilene continues to oversee all direct services departments, as well as the facilities department, and issues related to overall operations.  Recently, Ilene was appointed by the Supreme Court of Missouri to the Combating Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence Commission and its Domestic Violence Subcommittee.

Randa Hager has over 10 years of experience in the domestic violence field, as well as training and providing technical assistance for local police departments on the issues of domestic violence, lethality assessment, victim safety, and offender accountability.  Ms. Hager has held her current position as Hope House Director of Outreach Programs since 2012.  In addition to providing training for law enforcement, Ms. Hager provides oversight and supervision for Hope House court advocacy, hospital advocacy, outreach case management, and supervised visit and exchange program.

Thank you all for being here today.  We are going to start with Sergeant Jones in talking about how risk assessments look within the law enforcement field.  Sergeant Jones, what does high risk mean in regards to intimate partner violence cases?

 SGT. JONES: High risk, to me, is identifying what, in this particular situation, for example, presence of a firearm or a weapon, use of a weapon, stalking, strangulation, and other factors that’s going to escalate the risk, or has escalated the risk, for victim, and what factors make this an elevated or high risk for officers that may have to return to the scene once I leave.  Also, identifying high-risk markers provides needed information about the offender that may help increase safety for everyone.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: Thank you so much for that.  On that note, as to law enforcement, how is an IPV risk assessment commonly used on the scene?  And can you also share with us what benefits of law enforcement have by using the risk assessments?

SGT. JONES: So, for our agency, a risk assessment is usually used to trigger an advocate response and then to show that victim what risk factors may be present for them that may escalate the situation, and then the lethality of the situation that we’re looking at.  Also, assessments can increase the understanding of who the offender is and what resources the victim may need.  When law enforcement are armed with the information from an assessment, there is a better understanding of the totality of the circumstances.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: So how can officers ensure they’re administering an assessment in a trauma-informed way?

SGT. JONES: So this is a very difficult question, because there are very many moving parts.  But just in a quick, general response, we start by explaining to the victim what it is we’re doing and what it’ll be used for.

For a higher level response, it takes comprehensive training and policies, leadership accountability and buy-in from top down.  It takes a complete culture shift to provide a trauma-informed response to every victim we are interacting with and the crimes that we respond to. Officers also need a comprehensive training, not only about the tool, but about the dynamics of domestic violence, trauma, what creates a high-risk abusive relationship, of victim behavior, and so they administer an assessment in a trauma-informed way.  Trauma-informed isn’t learning from a brief training.  It takes an ongoing process of working with partners, training, and policy implementation.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: With all that, and you being in the field for so long, what trends or common technical assistance questions do you receive from the field around the use of intimate partner violence risk assessments by law enforcement?

SGT. JONES: So, typically, what we’re seeing is how to incorporate these assessments when agencies are using body-worn cameras.  What is the discoverability of these assessments with regards to public records requests and court proceedings, and how to work to ensure victim safety?  How do you conduct these assessments in a trauma-informed manner?  How do you ensure they’re being used consistently and in the right ways?  Again, if we look at the previous questions of comprehensive policies, training, and leadership accountability, it’s a huge cultural shift for an agency.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: And with that in mind, then, what are some other important considerations for law enforcement agencies that are interested in using an IPV risk assessment?

SGT. JONES: So I would say getting buy-in from top down, explaining not only why we’re using these, but how they are not only beneficial for assessment of risk for a victim, but also assessment of risk for returning officers because, as an expressed frustration from law enforcement are repeated calls of service with gender-based violence crimes.  I would say doing an internal assessment of your organization to get a read on where your officers are and where more emphasis of training needs to be placed.  Agencies need to create strong partnerships with advocates and allied partners.  This takes a lot of work to do well.  Communication, transparency and trust need to be a part of this.

Lastly, I would say find the assessment that works best for your area and your agency and reach out and use the support of your advocates to help you in this process.

Michelle Toledo-Cainas: Have you ever used an IPV risk assessment?  And, if so, how did it work for you?

SGT. Jones: Well, actually, we use IPV risk assessments every day. I’m on our SWAT team, our Special Weapons and Tactics team.  It’s beneficial for me to use a risk assessment because, if I do have to go back later to that house, it tells me and the team what we may be potentially encountering when we go back out to that house.

It also is a huge trigger for our advocates.  So we have a co-responding, kind of a hybrid model here in Clark County, and our advocates can come to the scene, our advocates can meet a deputy down at our office, or our deputies can go out to shelter or go out to the advocacy office.  So we really use an IPV risk assessment to trigger that advocacy process and get them involved as quickly and as early as we possibly can to ensure that we’re getting that victim survivor whatever needs or resources they need.

Michelle Toledo-Cainas: Thank you so much.  And I appreciate that partnership between law enforcement and advocates in assisting survivors.

Now, we’re going to turn it over to Tim, Molly, Ilene and Randa, and hear from them as they work with law enforcement in some sites across the country.  Our first question for this group is, can you describe how law enforcement have been using an intimate partner violence risk assessment in your jurisdiction?  Tim?

Tim BOEHNLEIN: So we have been using the danger assessment for law enforcement in the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County since about 2016. The DALE is an 11-question lethality assessment that is administered on the scene of intimate partner violence-related crimes.   It could be menacing, stalking, telephone harassment, criminal damaging, a number of different calls for service where there is an intimate partner relationship involved in that crime.

Really, the three functions of the DALE are to identify these cases that are at the highest risk for lethal or near lethal assault, to connect that victim to services because we know that services are a protective factor, and we want to provide risk information to the court.  And what we have found with the DALE, it’s so important that law enforcement gather this information because they’re so uniquely positioned in this whole dynamic.  And if they gather this risk information and it doesn’t go anywhere, then it really doesn’t change anybody’s response for these high-risk cases.

We started this work as part of an Office of Violence Against Women demonstration initiative, and we piloted the project in two districts in the City of Cleveland.  And because we saw such good response and good success in reducing DV homicides, we expanded to the whole City of Cleveland in 2019 and have been working our way across Cuyahoga County

Molly KAPLAN: So following our implementation in the City of Cleveland, that’s the largest police department in Cuyahoga County, we did see really promising results and we had excellent feedback from law enforcement, from court partners.  And so, with that success, we decided we really needed to expand this work to the rest of the county.  So, currently, that is where we are, is trying to get every department in the county that’s interested and ready to implement lethality assessment. So, right now, we’re at about one-third of police departments in Cuyahoga County, out of about 60 law enforcement agencies, are using the DALE.

Michelle Toledo-Cainas: Thank you, Molly, and now we’re going to hear from Ilene and Randa.

Randa HAGER: We’ve been using the lethality assessment for a little over 15 years now. We know that it’s very similar to the DALE in that we have a series of questions that are asked by the responding officer and the victims are immediately connected by phone to our hotline.  From there, they’re able to come into shelter, if needed, they’re able to connect with other resources, safety plan.  We also have advocates that are available to respond to the police department or the scene, or even a hospital, to help them with an emergency order of protection.  So, right out of the gate, we’re trying to help those victims connect.

And the officers have been really receptive to this program. At first, it was as any new program; I’m not sure what to do here, I’m not sure how this is going to work, but I don’t feel that we had any resistance from the officers.  I think it was more of like, what’s this going to look like?  So, from there, we’ve really grown and we started with one city. We now support approximately 12 jurisdictions with the lethality assessment, and it’s been very successful.

Ilene SHEHAN: So we, too, started out as a pilot project, in Jackson County, Missouri.  So we are currently in a suburb of Kansas City, but Kansas City was part of our project, or pilot project with the City of Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Grandview, and we did an assessment in our community, a safety assessment, and this connection tool was one of those things that we were missing.  We did have a hospital program where we had brought Dr. Jacqueline Campbell in and did some work with her. So this kind of was that low hanging fruit, that next step that we could also connect back into our services.

So we applied for the pilot project, we got it, and then the rest is history. We’ve been able to continue that in our community and bring on other law enforcement agencies, as they were able to see that it works.

And there was not money behind this, so I know there’s lots of folks that sometimes say, “Oh, but there’s no money. We can’t do it.” Well, that’s not necessarily true. We made it happen without dollars around, specifically, the lethality assessment project.

Michelle Toledo-Cainas: Thank you so much, everyone, for sharing that. I have heard that there are partnerships here, so I’m interested in knowing, between both assessments, the LAP and the DALE, what partner agencies are involved in the implementation of these risk assessments?

Molly KAPLAN: So this is definitely a collaborative process, implementing a lethality assessment. So we partner with the police departments and the local domestic violence service provider, which is the agency that I currently work for. We also partner with Cuyahoga County, so they’re a big piece of this project, which is an important partnership that we have in the community.

And then, because part of the police report is the DALE and, so, it goes to the court, we also partner with prosecutors, judges, other court personnel, basically anyone who will see a DALE or use the DALE to make decisions or think about how lethality factors might impact this case. We also include them when we implement the use of the DALE with the police department.

Tim Boehnlein: I would just add that, in some communities, the DALE and the administration of the DALE acts as a way to screen cases that would be eligible for the Domestic Violence High-Risk Team. So it just depends on which model the community is going to use.

But what we know is there’s a lot of collaboration that ends up happening at that high-risk team level where we have law enforcement, sheriff, corrections, parole, probation, a number of service providers sitting around the table doing active case review. So that’s some additional collaboration that happens maybe one step beyond the administration of the lethality assessment.

Ilene Shehan: And our partners that we work with in the lethality assessment are the domestic violence agency, which is Hope House, and law enforcement. We also have two other domestic violence agencies that are in Jackson County that we also coordinate with. So we kind of divide up the sectors of the county, amongst the three of us. So if a call comes into the hotline, well, it doesn’t matter to us whether that comes from a city that maybe a different agency represents. We will go ahead and take that call. Our real job is to make sure that we make those connections while we can, when the window of opportunity is open for survivors. So that means we’ll go to the hospital and then connect them with maybe the agency that’s closer to them or more geared towards the services that they’re needing

Michelle Toledo-Cainas: How has law enforcement been using the DALE and, and the LAP with diverse populations in your communities? For example, are we using different pronouns? Are language access lines available when you’re administering these risk assessment tools?

Randa Hager: Something that we’ve done recently is we have created a Spanish LAP. And the purpose of that was because we have a large population of Spanish speaking people in our community and we do access the language line. Our advocates and our officers also have the ability to access the language line if an interpreter is not available. But the purpose of that was so that the officers, as they are reading the questions, that the victim can follow along.  Because when they’re in crisis, they don’t always hear those questions clearly. And so we wanted to make that available to them.

And something else that we did was we created ISV phonetic cards for each one of our jurisdictions that we represent and support so that they can carry those in their vehicles as well. It’s helpful for a witness to be able to point to the language that they speak, and it’s very helpful. The form that we created that is in Spanish came from a survivor who had told us that would have been helpful, for them to be able to read what was being said to them. That’s really kind of all, where all of our sparks come from of what else or what next that needs to be happening in our communities.

They still use the language line, but that is just a tool that came from a survivor telling us that would have been helpful

Tim BOEHNLEIN: I would just say I love it when victims give us feedback to do our jobs better, and that is really important that we spend the time listening to the people that we’re serving to be able to make our programs better and more effective.

So I will say that the DALE does use different pronouns in the administration, and we train officers to administer the DALE to the victim of the crime, regardless of race, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity. It doesn’t matter. What we’re looking for here is the victim of the crime, and we want to be as inclusive of all communities and all people when using the DALE.

And additionally, when we’re implementing the use of the DALE in various communities and with various departments, we do review their language access policies and to make sure that they are trying to do the best work they can. But I will tell you that it’s different for every community. So in the City of Cleveland, they may have a bilingual officer who is one district over and they could call that person, and there’s many different languages because it’s, Cleveland is a very large department.

But in smaller departments, we do encourage the language line, and that’s typically what we mostly see in the communities that we work with. And the DALE is also available in Spanish for Spanish speaking officers to administer the DALE.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: How have you managed any challenges that have come up regarding confidentiality, including that of discoverability and records requests?

Ilene SHEHAN: Well, specifically here in the State of Missouri, there is confidentiality given to domestic violence agencies and sexual assault agencies, as well as federal law that, that gives us those protections of confidentiality. Now, one time Hope House was challenged in the confidentiality law, not necessarily around the LAP, but around giving the client’s files for court through a divorce, and Hope House took that case to the Supreme Court and we won.

And so we take confidentiality very seriously and it’s something that we’re constantly having to, to look at. And I think that that is sometimes a challenge for some of our partners, because they’re not always used to being told no and we also have to understand that they are, law enforcement, our partners, that they’re used to laws that they make arrests around. So when you say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t confirm or deny,” to them that’s a red flag of I don’t want to give you any information, And that triggers something in their other world.

So we do have to come to an understanding, and we have had many conversations about what confidentiality is and then how we can work together to still make the difference for survivors and hold abusers accountable. So it’s a constant challenge, is what I’m saying.

Tim BOEHNLEIN: Absolutely a constant challenge in the communities that we’re working with, as well. And I would add that the DALE, which is a supplement to the police report, is discoverable, and it is important that victims know that, and that’s why we train officers to inform the victim that their answers are voluntary. They don’t have to participate and it is okay for them to refuse or decline to answer the questions.

But it is a reality in the implementation of this kind of work. We also, in the State of Ohio, have Marsy’s Law. So, for public records requests with police reports, the information is heavily redacted.  But, again, it could be still given out as a public records request, but that’s just the reality of the world that we’re living in right now.

Molly KAPLAN: And I would add to that, too, that this comes up everywhere we implement.  Everywhere we talk about the DALE, this is a question.  So we really just speak from our experience around it and address that we do understand it’s discoverable, we do know that this, that that’s a potential risk with doing this. But one of the things that we really talk about is that many of the questions on lethality assessment are around things that the officers should be asking anyway, and documenting as part of their police report. And, so, I think that gives some people some sense of comfort because — especially in our Ohio Revised Code, there are specific things you ask about -the DALE actually helps you gather as part of your report.

So, it’s definitely a consideration, but not a deterrent and just something that you have to really plan around, think through, because it is important to have those conversations around confidentiality.

SGT. JONES: Being in Ohio, as well, that’s something that we struggle with. If a lethality assessment does trigger a call to the advocates, then our deputies are instructed to walk away and allow the advocate and the victim that time and confidentiality to speak together without the body-worn camera being there. And, then, we do provide discretion in our body-worn camera policy for the officer or the deputy to deactivate.

But I think a lot of it is about conversations and building trust within those groups, right, because we’re all working together. I also think that, for us, what we have success with is co-training. So when we’re on-boarding new deputies, I don’t do their training for gender-based violence crimes by myself. The advocates come in and co-train that with me, and then they explain what their confidentiality is, and then why they may get I cannot confirm or deny, and then why they are allowed to accept subpoenas on the behalf of victims and, then, how we navigate that process, as well.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: I would like to go back for one second and have either Ilene or Randa, take a minute to clarify about discoverability of the lethality assessment protocol, the LAP.

Ilene SHEHAN: Part of the pilot project when we were trained is that it is really a tool to connect survivors to services. When you’re responding, you’re looking at these indicators. When law enforcement are responding to a call, they’re responding to the incident. This LAP is a broader look to help the survivor walk through what else is really going on in this picture. Now, we know that the police would go, they do their job, they give the pamphlet that says how to call the hotline and how to get the order of protection, but what we were seeing is that people don’t necessarily call the hotline. That’s a really hard thing to do.  And, so, this tool has allowed that connection from law enforcement to the hotline. So not only did law enforcement do their job and make the arrest of the offender, but they’ve also made that connection. And maybe they aren’t going to have to respond next time to the same house, because we provided them that information.

So our lethality tool has a little different intent than maybe it sounds like DALE or some of the others might be, but it looks different in each community.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: What advice do you have for other law enforcement agencies that are thinking of using an intimate partner violence risk assessment, especially that will consider a partnership with a domestic violence service provider, such as the DALE and the LAP?

Molly KAPLAN: I think a couple of things that we’ve learned through this process, and the first is that this is not as difficult as some people might think it is. I think getting over that first hurdle of doing something new; we also know that we get lots of feedback about: there’s lots of paperwork already and we don’t want to ask them to do another piece.  And we totally understand that. But it is a fairly quick assessment for a lot of great information and that really critical connection to service. And, once you get in there and do the implementation, no one really complains about the paperwork because they see the value of it. So I think that there’s, sort of this expectation that this is going to be a hard sell, and I don’t necessarily think it’s as hard to sell as we might think it is.

Lastly, I would just say there are going to be things to consider, like language access, like confidentiality, like body-worn camera policy when doing these things. But don’t let that be a deterrent. Ultimately, the benefits outweigh those things that you have to sort of work through.

And if you don’t already have a relationship with your local DV service provider, that’s the place to start. Either you build that or you strengthen the relationship that you have, and even in communities where that’s maybe not historically a good relationship, there’s always room for growth there. And as people change and there’s turnover in positions, that relationship can be built. And, so, really starting there, this process is a lot easier when you have that really strong partnership.

Tim BOEHNLEIN: I would add to that, as Sergeant Jones so eloquently said in the beginning, having the buy-in from the leadership within the police department is really critical. And what we have found really useful is when we have a champion within the department that drives the momentum of the department. And usually that’s a sergeant or a lieutenant or a captain, and then the chief comes right along. And we are so grateful for those opportunities to talk to those champions.

And one more thing I would just add, too, is that because our DALE does move through the court system, when considering implementing the DALE, if you have a judge on your side, that is really helpful because the judge has community buy-in. The judge is paying attention to what’s happening in their community, the judge is interested in doing better court work, and it’s sometimes helpful to have that judge on your side as you’re continuing to move through implementation, and also come from the top down. So maybe the judge could talk to the police chief. So you kind of are working that relationship both ways.

Ilene SHEHAN: So I think that it is definitely, to go to Molly’s point, a relationship with the domestic violence agency, but I also have to say the domestic violence agency has to be just as much a part of the solution and take on a big role in that. If you’re expecting the lethality assessment for law enforcement to really work, you also have to make sure you are really on the right page, as well. Which means you’re also training your hotline operators, you’re training your staff to what LAP means. It is a constant conversation on our end, too, and so I don’t want it to be dismissed that it’s just a one-sided relationship. It takes both sides in order to do that.

The other thing that I would point out is this is not just a one and done. There is turnover, people retire, all those things that happen. I call it a constant hustle, we are constantly keeping ourselves out there around lethality assessment, to our own domestic violence agency, as well as to law enforcement.

Randa HAGER: So Ilene is right. Our relationship continues and we’re constantly nurturing it. So we’re going to — role call change, but we’re also bringing them to the domestic violence agency for training. We are giving them a tour of the facility.  I think it’s important that when officers are out there and they are doing the lethality assessment, with victims and they’re offered shelter, I think it’s really good for an officer to be able to say, “Hey, I’ve been there and I know what it looks like.”

Before I had been to a shelter, I had this idea in my head of what a shelter looked like, and it’s scary and there were bunk beds and there were scary people there. And once you come, and you can see what it looks like, the officer is able to say that to the victim and that helps build that trust, too.  “Okay, listen, I know where you’re going. I don’t remember all the services they have to provide, but I know that they can help you.” So that’s really important, too.

As far as working with the police officers and getting them starting on a risk assessment, we also need to remember, too, that not only are the officers assessing the victim’s safety, but it’s also the officer’s safety. And so it’s beneficial to them, as well, to know what they’re walking into, to have that information. So it’s really beneficial all the way around, for everyone.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: Thank you so much, everyone, for your responses. As we’re coming to a close, I do want to take a minute and ask you for your final thoughts. What piece of advice will you give to those who have been in the field for so long? And, then, what piece of advice will you give to those who are starting and for them to keep the passion going, year after year, case after case?

SGT. JONES: For the tenured officers that are doing this job and are frustrated, I would sit and self-reflect. “What can I change about the way that I’ve been doing things?” “How can I change what I’m doing to make a bigger impact?” “How can I change up my game for offender accountability?” “How can I get victims and survivors the services faster and keep them engaged, if that’s the path they choose?”

And then, for folks that are just getting into this work, it’s a heavy lift and it takes partnerships. We cannot do this by ourselves. The faster that you get to know your advocates and really get invested in them and let them get invested to, with you and your department, the more impact you’re going to have and the more success that you’re going to see. And success doesn’t mean criminal justice prosecutions. Success means what that victim sees as success.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS:  Molly?

Molly KAPLAN: So we’ve had partners that have been in this game a long time, working towards this. And, then, we have actually implemented new positions that are specific high-risk advocates, so they’re kind of new to this collaboration. And we just talk about our successes, because I think that’s what keeps new and seasoned people going, is hearing the successes.

And so we surveyed officers, and 70 percent of Cleveland police officers in our pilot said that they felt like they were helping victims just by administering the DALE. We wanted to get their feedback on that, because I do think it’s important.  And then we use that when we talk to new people about the DALE.

We also know that prosecutors have said it helps open the door when they are talking with their clients, and victims reported better interactions because they felt like officers were more engaged and took time to listen.

And so I think that we can talk about the successes, and that keeps people in the game because it is a long haul and, so, you have to really focus on the small wins. If that victim had a better interaction on that call for service, that’s a small win. And so we have to celebrate those and talk about those, because that’s what keeps people engaged.

Tim BOEHNLEIN: So building on that success model of just reminding officers that there’s people in their community that they have helped, whether that victim has said thank you or not. And sometimes it’s really the advocate community that might need to be the one to pat the officer on the back or give a thank you, because you really did help a victim through this process.

And I think reminding officers that in doing a lethality assessment, at least with the DALE, you can help change the trajectory of that case as it moves through the court system. So your work at the very initial interaction with the victim could change the trajectory of how that case is handled by everybody who follows in terms of considering bail or bond, in terms of judges’ decisions, in terms of probation using risk assessment to determine who gets an electronic monitor, but that starts with the officer’s good work.

And we want to keep on reinforcing that good work and we want to keep on giving them feedback. We ask the officers to do all kinds of things for the community and do this paperwork and this paperwork.  But if we never come back and tell them this is the success we’re having, or these are the troubles that we’re having, they never really know what’s happening to their good work that they’re doing every day in very, very difficult circumstances.

And so I just can’t emphasize enough that having that strong relationship with law enforcement, to be able to pat them on the back and call them out when you need to, is really just essential for moving forward with this work.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: Randa?

Randa HAGER: I think we’re all on the same page with this; we have to continue that relationship and you have to work on that relationship. And recognition is so incredibly important on both sides.

Something that we started to do was share some of our stats with our jurisdictions, just to kind of let them know, hey, it’s hard. We all measure success differently, but sometimes it’s helpful to have that information. For example, we had over 500 LAPs that officers completed. And out of those were 87 percent showing as highly valid. And, so, going back to them and talking with them about, “Hey, listen, this is the work that you did with that victim and you were able to connect them to our services and help us, and help them, ultimately.” And I think that that’s so incredibly important. And just spending that time with them.

And we, we often go on ride-alongs and just, and have that opportunity and we can educate each other on what they do and on what we do. And I think that is so important in this work. The more we learn from each other, I think that helps us all renew, and, and where we’re at, too. And so, then, we can also look at those gaps in services, and that’s how we can keep building on that.  

Ilene SHEHAN: Well, again, just to add into everything that everybody else has said, we all woke up and got into our professions for a reason. We got in because we wanted to do good, we wanted to help, and part of that also is being able to grow in our jobs, and grow within the information that we have.  And we get information from our survivors, we ask them “What changed for you?” “What, what made you leave that situation?” Many of them tell us it’s the officer that responded to my house. I hadn’t had a man tell me that they were concerned for my safety ever in my life. And that’s what made it change.

We always will remember the one time something didn’t go right, but we don’t remember the hundred times before that went right, that worked. So I think that that’s important to celebrate our successes, and we live and learn. And we also have to give each other the grace that, yeah, we can live and learn. We’re not all too old to be learning how to do something better, you think you’ve got this solved and then, all of a sudden, something else is now happening in our world and we have to now kind of navigate

I just think it’s just a constant challenge for all of us. Really what we’re all here for is for survivors to be safe and hold offenders accountable.

Michelle TOLEDO-CAINAS: Thank you, guest speakers, for the great discussion. And thank you to our listeners. If you want more information on the Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Consortium, please visit LETTAC, L-E-T-T-A-C, .org for technical assistance for law enforcement, and DV RISC, D-V-R-I-S-C, .org for more information and technical assistance on intimate partner violence risk assessments, or please feel free to connect with one of our guest speakers.


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