Lethality Assessment Program helps Kingsport Police respond to domestic violence

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- A training course on domestic violence investigation is underway this week at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education. The University of Tennessee Law Enforcement Innovation Center is leading the course, educating area law enforcement, victim advocates, district attorneys, and medical professionals on responsiveness to domestic violence. One concept being taught is the ‘Lethality Assessment Program.’ Officers from the Kingsport Police Department say the program has improved their ability to aid domestic violence victims.

A domestic violence investigations course is being taught this week at the Kingsport Higher Education Center

The KPD adopted the Lethality Assessment Program last February. Chris Jones, training specialist with the UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center, said use of the program is increasing nationwide and across Tennessee.

“It’s something that I believe will be mandatory across the state in the very near future,” said Jones. “And it’s something that comes with really good backing from Governor Lee and his office.”

Lethality Assessment is a series of 11 questions. Officers will ask a victim these questions on-scene when responding to a domestic violence call. Lethality Assessment is specifically used with victims in intimate partner violence situations.

“[Victims] get the 11 questions read to them,” said Jones. “The first three, if they answer ‘yes’ to any of those, it automatically triggers that protocol. Which means they call an advocate on-scene and connect them immediately. The results are astonishing.”

The UT Law Enforcement Innovation Center said advocate intervention at the time of, or soon after abuse incidents makes victims 60% more likely to remove themselves from an abusive situation.

Jones said quickly connecting victims to domestic abuse advocates is crucial, because it takes an average of seven instances of abuse before a victim will leave an offender.

KPD spokesperson Tom Patton said using the Lethality Assessment questionnaire over the past year enabled the KPD to help victims more quickly when responding to domestic violence calls.

“We do it right then, when they’re most vulnerable, when they’re most willing to cooperate with us at the scene of the incident,” said Patton.

Patton said it’s now easier to connect victims to local resources like Safe House and Branch House Family Center. It also helps the KPD gather information on domestic violence offenders.

“So we can know just how dangerous this individual is,” said Patton. “Should we have charges against this person? We’re able to get that information first-hand, fresh, when it’s new.”

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