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New training helping police handle domestic violence situations

Successful pilot program expands to the suburbs
Posted at 3:50 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 19:18:40-04

CLEVELAND — Breaking the cycle of domestic violence before it's too late.

A pilot program to identify high-risk situations in the City of Cleveland is now expanding into the suburbs.

“They’re very emotional situations,” said Kevin Nietert, South Euclid police chief.

So far this year, officers in South Euclid have received more than 60 calls for domestic violence.

“One of the most challenging situations that we respond to,” Nietert said.

South Euclid is the first suburban department to roll out DALE – the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement.

“It really focuses the officer’s investigation,” said Nietert.

The 10-question checklist helps identify those victims at a higher risk of being killed by an intimate partner.

“It helps raise the victim's awareness of a risk which is really important,” said Molly Kaplan, homicide prevention coordinator, Journey Center for Safety and Healing.

The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, now known as the Journey Center for Safety and Healing, initially rolled out the program in Cleveland.

“We’re just excited to really build on the success that we saw in Cleveland,” said Kaplan.

Over the last three-years, officers in the city's 1st and 5th Districts conducted more than 4,000 risk screenings. Fourty-six percent of them were considered high risk.

“We saw a 62% reduction in the average domestic violence homicides in those two police districts,” said Tim Boehnlein, Cuyahoga County Victim Witness Service Center.

It's the kind of progress the Cuyahoga County Victim Witness Service Center wants to now see in the suburbs. County-wide, on average, there are between 25-35 domestic homicides a year.

“We are slowly chipping away at that number and continuing to reduce those people who are being seriously harmed and ultimately killed by an intimate partner, we’re reducing those numbers,” said Boehnlein.

Funding from the Cleveland Foundation is helping expand the training and implementation of the risk assessment to a handful of departments.

However, Aisha's Law, which is currently in the Ohio Senate, could expand its reach even further.

“If that legislation were to become law in the state of Ohio, all departments would be mandated to do something like this,” said Kaplan.

Chief Kevin Nietert said the training not only better protect domestic violence victims it strengthens their case in the courts moving forward.

“I am seeing reports that are better written, they are a little bit more detailed because they’re asking more specific questions,” said Nietert.

The Journey Center for Safety and Healing said they know not all victims call police or go through the legal system, especially in communities of color, but they are still able to assess the risk for clients even if they don’t ever engage with law enforcement.