The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence – flanked by elected officials, advocates and members of the law enforcement community – announced their legislative priorities for the session at a Thursday press conference.
According to Karen Jarmoc, director of CCADV, the group’s goals are two-fold: change how law enforcement responds to incidents of domestic violence, and provide more resources for safeguarding victims.
Many items on the CCADV’s legislative agenda were gleaned from a draft report of the Task Force on Law Enforcement Response to Family Violence.
The task force hopes to establish a state-wide model policy – an update to the Police Officer Standards and Training Council’s domestic violence policy, which was adopted in 2006.
“We’re building upon the good work law enforcement has been doing to better serve victims of domestic violence and help keep them safe,” Jarmoc said.
Reporting data that accurately reflects trends in domestic violence cases will allow law enforcement and groups like CCADV to better serve victims, Jarmoc said.
Revising the form police use to report domestic violence statistics to document the reason for a dual arrest is one recommendation. The CCADV also wants police departments to establish a domestic violence liaison.
Another recommendation calls for the establishment of a Family Violence Model Policy Governing Council that would review police protocols and ensure all state departments comply with new regulations.
To better protect victims, the CCADV believes that protective order laws should be amended. If a victim of domestic violence is a college student, the restraining order would automatically be reported to her school. It also recommends extending restraining orders from six months to one year.
Attorney General George Jepsen spoke about how laws can help diminish the public’s tolerance for endemic problems like drunk driving and domestic violence.
“Prudent changes in the law move our civilization forward and move our society forward,” Jepsen said.
Rep. Mae Flexer, D- Danielson, said that changing how the public views domestic violence is an important goal.
“We want to change perception from ‘Why does she stay with him?’ ‘Why does she put up with it?’ to ‘Why does he treat her that way,’” Flexer said.
JoAnn Calnen, president of the General Federation of Womens’ Clubs of Connecticut, said that clubs state-wide will host informational meetings at which members can “share concerns, thoughts and priorities” about domestic violence.
“There are advocates in Womens’ Club shelters 24 hours a day, seven days a week,”
JoAnn Calnen said.
The CCADV assists 54,000 victims of domestic violence annually, and more than 2,000 Connecticut women and children find safe housing in CCADV shelters every year, Jarmoc said.
State police Maj. Regina Rush-Kittle, former training academy commandant, said police officers are required to take 60 hours of continuing education every three years. The task force will recommend that four and a half hours of that training be dedicated to domestic violence, she said.
Officers will begin to be taught using the updated domestic violence curriculum on Feb. 1, the beginning of the next round of continuing education at the Connecticut Police Academy.
In addition, the Police Officer Standards and Training Council will work with the state police to provide additional domestic violence training to officers responsible for training their peers.
Douglas Fuchs, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association emphasized that Connecticut police assist and comfort domestic violence victims every day
He said the state has a “really robust model policy in place right now” and that “these recommendations will serve as a reminder as to our important role in this process.”
“We understand our role as a protector,” Fuchs said.
Last year the group was able to make substantial changes to the state’s domestic violence laws.
That bill corrected a statutory contradiction that exempted people in a dating relationship from arrest for committing a domestic violence crime. It created a task force to establish the best procedures for law enforcement to adhere to when dealing with situations of domestic violence.
It also established new protocols for the judicial branch when dealing with domestic violence, including requiring judicial staff to inform the Department of Children and Families if the defendant poses a risk to children.