Saturday, January 19, 2013

Article: Pittsburgh to Study Domestic Violence Response

Pittsburgh plans to convene a working group in the next few days to examine how police handle domestic violence calls, a meeting spurred by a woman who was found slain in her Larimer home less than 24 hours after officers responded to her 911 call.
Ka'Sandra Wade, 33, placed the call on New Years' Eve but the call was disconnected after an emergency operator heard a commotion. Officers responded to her home but left after her boyfriend, who is believed to have killed her, turned them away.
In a letter to city council, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said the working group will examine current bureau policies as they pertain to domestic violence calls. Though Wade's call to 911 was classified as "unknown trouble," her estranged boyfriend, Anthony Brown, had a history of threatening her.
"In the wake of this event, the family, friends and coworkers of the victim have expressed a desire to review existing laws and to recommend new laws and regulations in an effort to ensure incidents like this never happen again," the mayor wrote.
"I propose that this group conducts a comprehensive review of best practices from around the country ... This study will focus on efforts to both curb domestic violence, as well as the way officers interact with the public during individual encounters."
The mayor's efforts come in the wake of two other calls for changes in the law.
On Saturday, Action United, Wade's former employer, staged a rally and announced its intention to start a focus group of domestic violence victims to formulate recommendations for a new law. They planned to write new legislation with the help of the Women's Law Project and name it "Ka'Sandra's Law."
On Tuesday, Councilman Ricky Burgess introduced legislation that would require the police bureau to receive training in the Lethality Assessment Program, a protocol piloted in Maryland that standardizes how police should interact with domestic violence victims. In some cases, it calls for them to give the victim a questionnaire to determine their risk for homicide or serious injury. If the risk is serious, the protocol calls for the officer to encourage the victim to seek help through a domestic violence hotline and, in some cases, places the call for them.
In his letter to council, Mr. Ravenstahl said he supported Mr. Burgess' efforts.
"Your interest in addressing these issues is commendable, and I write to extend you the full resources of my administration," he wrote.

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