A bill that would help protect victims of domestic violence from being arrested along with their abusers – a “dual arrest” – if they report a domestic violence incident to the authorities has been co-sponsored by State Rep Fred Camillo.
SB 466 – An Act Concerning Dual Arrests and the Training Required of Law Enforcement Personnel with Respect to Domestic Violence – received joint favorable report from the Judiciary Committee with all members voting in favor of the bill. The bill next makes it way to the appropriate chamber for a vote.
“We’ve been working with CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence,” said Meredith Gold, adding that SB 466 has the full support of the Greenwich YWCA. “We’re part of that coalition to understand the dual arrest problem in our state and we hope that this legislative change will be a part of the solution in reducing dual arrest rates.”
According to Ms. Gold, YWCA CEO Mary Lee Kiernan sat on a task force with prosecutors, law enforcement and domestic violence advocates at the state level to work to produce a dual arrest report in the state.
“We’ve been very active in this issue for quite some time. We felt strongly that a change in legislation was an important approach,” Gold said.
Connecticut has a dual arrest rate twice the national average and this has caused re-traumatization for many victim of domestic violence by being arrested and having to go through the court process which is a deterrent to call the police in the future when they need help.
Gold explained that before 1985, when police came to the scene of a domestic violence incident it was up to the victim whether or not to instruct police to press charges.
After Tracey Thurman sued the city of Torrington, Connecticut and won, the law changed and a mandated arrest law was enacted to alleviate the burden on victims having to instruct the police about pressing charges in front of their abuser, which could put them in greater danger.
In 1983, after Ms Thurman was attacked, stabbed, and nearly killed by her husband. Ms Thurman was the first woman in America to sue a town and its police department for violating her civil rights, claiming the police had ignored the violence because she was married to the perpetrator.
Today, law enforcement personnel are trained to identify the aggressor in many instances, but more training is necessary to reduce the number of dual arrests.
Challenges presented by Connecticut’s dual arrest rate include significant financial and capacity burden to multiple systems including public safety, criminal justice, child welfare, and community-based providers.
Police have new ways of investigating family violence crimes and use the Lethality Assessment Program, (LAP) a screening tool to understand the risk of being killed by an intimate partners.
Unfortunately, one of the unintended consequences of the current law is that victims are getting arrested along with abusers who claim they were just defending themselves.
“Current law does not provide law enforcement officers with enough discretion when making arrests at the scene of a domestic violence situation,” Gold said.
As a result, Connecticut’s dual arrest rate is 20 percent, which is 13 percent above the national average.
There are 27 other states that have a dominant aggressor law, and much lower dual arrest rates than Connecticut.
According to Camillo, legislators hope to reduce the number of dual arrests substantially while encouraging victims to come forward and report cases of abuse.
“We thank Representative Camillo for his support on this very important issue,” said Gold. “If this new law goes through, it will give police greater discretion to follow the guidelines clearly stated in the statute to identify who the primary aggressor or dominant aggressor is.”
Click here for Dual Arrest Factsheet 1.18