Domestic Violence Reporting Reviewed; Better Documentation Urged

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrea Noble, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Prince George's County's law enforcement agencies could help prevent domestic-related homicides by adopting a uniform method to document domestic violence reports, a new study concludes.

The top recommendation by the Prince George's County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team is that all law enforcement agencies in the county - which includes county police, the sheriff's department, and nearly two dozen municipal agencies - use a standard reporting form when responding to a domestic violence call.

The supplemental report is critically important to the investigation of a domestic violence incident. The comprehensiveness of the report can be central to following up on a case and to court proceedings, county sheriff's office Lt. Col. Regina Taylor said in response to the recommendations.

The Office of the Sheriff has a specialized domestic violence unit that responds to domestic calls in one police district in the county and pioneered the use of the supplemental report in that police district. The report itself asks detailed questions about domestic incidents, including threats made, history of abuse and injuries sustained by the victim.

The team making the report reviewed domestic violence homicides in Prince George's County in order to determine at what points law enforcement or community agencies had contact with the victims prior to their deaths and whether different responses could have prevented those deaths. From July 2004 to July 2011, the county recorded 56 domestic violence-related homicides, according to the report.

From January through November of last year, law enforcement agencies in Prince George's County received 12,979 calls for service for domestic violence-related incidents, according to the report.

There is no question that there's a great deal of work to be done, but our continuing review of domestic violence fatalities only strengthens our understanding of where we can make a difference preventing future fatalities, said Judith Wolfer, an attorney with House of Ruth and chairwoman of the teamthat authored the study. …