Klobuchar praises Washington County domestic abuse systemU.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar praised a Washington County domestic abuse assessment program that county officials say has helped them connect victims of abuse to support services and better gauge the level of danger they face in the future.
By: Jon Avise, Woodbury Bulletin
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar praised a Washington County domestic abuse assessment program that county officials say has helped them connect victims of abuse to support services and better gauge the level of danger they face in the future.
Law enforcement, county attorney’s office, community corrections officials and domestic violence victim advocates met with Klobuchar, a first-term Democrat, in Stillwater on Thursday, May 31, to discuss the county’s lethality assessment protocol. It’s an 11-question assessment used by each of the county’s law enforcement agencies since August 2010 when responding to domestic disturbances.
The panel of county officials fielded questions from Klobuchar in the board room at the Washington County Government Center and detailed the protocol used by each of the county’s law enforcement agencies that the senator called “a national model.”
The lethality assessment protocol works like this: responding law enforcement officers on the scene of a domestic situation ask the victim a series of 11 questions aimed at measuring how much danger the abused individual is in and helping that person find available assistance more quickly.
“Our goal was really to connect victims with services as early as we can,” said Sandy Hahn, deputy director of Washington County Community Corrections, who was part of the committee
Domestic calls can be some of the most dangerous faced by law enforcement officials, Klobuchar said, highlighted by the fatal shooting last year of a Lake City officer who had responded to a domestic disturbance.
“We know it’s never perfect to do these assessments,” the senator said. “But, it’s better than doing no assessment at all.”
Hahn said the assessment protocol – which has already been imitated by law enforcement in Anoka County, officials said – can’t stop all domestic violence. But, said Tom Adkins, Director of Community Corrections, it has made for better coordination between the courts, correctional system and law enforcement.
Washington County law enforcement has embraced the protocol, said Sheriff Bill Hutton, which he said has formalized an important step for officers to take on the scene.
“These are – or should be – some of the questions the deputy or officer is asking on the scene,” he said.
And it’s already working, officials say: in Oakdale, police have used the protocol at 51domestic calls since the program was instituted, said Oakdale Police Chief Bill Sullivan, returning to a repeat address only once.
That’s impressive, officials said, because of the normally high rates of recidivism among domestic abuse perpetrators.
Cottage Grove Public Safety Director Craig Woolery said officers on his police force have seen tangible results from using the protocol when responding to domestic situations, including an increase in court-ordered GPS tracking and more no-contact orders for abusers.
“This actually was really adopted well by the officers because they saw an end result right away,” Woolery said.