Following months of preparation, Metro Nashville Police Officers have begun receiving training on the Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP), a program designed to identify victims of domestic violence who are most at-risk for being victims of homicide or life threatening injuries.
“Once victims in danger of being killed by an intimate partner engage with domestic violence services, their risk of re-assault diminishes greatly,” said Mayor Megan Barry. “This is why the LAP is needed—it gives law enforcement officers the knowledge they need to assess whether someone who is a victim of intimate partner violence is in danger of being killed, and connects those victims to services that are protective, services they may not have otherwise known existed or used.”
The Lethality Assessment Program—Maryland Model (LAP), created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) in 2005, is an innovative strategy to prevent domestic violence homicides and serious injuries. It provides an easy and effective method for law enforcement and other community professionals—such as health care providers, clergy members, case workers, court personnel, and even bystanders or family members—to identify victims of domestic violence who are at the highest risk of being seriously injured or killed by their intimate partners, and immediately connect them to the local community-based domestic violence service program.
“I am convinced that the Lethality Assessment Program now being taught to Nashville’s police officers will afford better protection to victims of domestic violence and, most importantly, save lives,” Chief Steve Anderson said. “The program will help officers in the field warn high-risk victims in plain language of the potential dangers they face and how to get immediate help.”
For law enforcement, the LAP process begins when an officer arrives at the scene of a call for service. Once the scene is secure and the investigation of the incident is complete, an officer may activate the LAP, if certain criteria are met. If the individuals involved are intimate partners and the officer discerns a “manifestation of danger,” the officer will ask the victim all 11 questions on the Lethality Screen. If the victim’s responses to the questions indicate risk of homicide according to the Screen’s scoring mechanism, the officer privately informs the victim that the officer is concerned for the victim’s safety, and that in situations like the victim’s, people have been killed. The officer then seeks to connect the victim with a crisis counselor by calling the YWCA hotline. That crisis counselor will then assist in developing a safety plan.
“Implementing the LAP in Nashville was a top recommendation from Nashville’s Communitywide Domestic Violence Safety and Accountability Assessment. Informing victims that they are at heightened risk of being murdered and providing immediate crisis counseling, safety planning, and resource connection will go a long way in increasing victim safety in our community” said Diane Lance, department head of the Office of Family Safety. “With the LAP, advocates can rely on evidence to know how dangerous a victim’s situation is and who is in need of enhanced services, and not have to over-rely on their intuition.”
Even victims who are assessed as “Non-High Danger” at the time of the call for service, and those who are not ready to seek help, receive valuable information from the Lethality Screen; it affords them insight into the warning signs that could indicate that an abusive relationship is escalating in severity. Additionally, the officer’s concern for the victim, and the visible partnership between the officer and victim advocates, demonstrate to victims that there are people who care to help them should they decide that they want and can safely take advantage of that help.
“The LAP is needed in Nashville and in all cities and towns across Tennessee,” said YWCA CEO Patricia Shea. “This is a proven tool that saves lives. As the largest provider of domestic violence services in the state, we’re grateful that our city leaders are taking solid steps to curb the crisis of domestic violence in our community. “
The implementation of the LAP in Nashville has been going on for months, as members of the MNADV have been training local trainers in the MNPD, YWCA, nonprofits and Metro’s Office of Family Safety. The training of all Officers will take place throughout the month of October, which coincides with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Full utilization of the LAP throughout the MNPD is anticipated by December 1, 2016.