Law aims to re­duce dual ar­rests in do­mes­tic dis­pute cases

The News-Times (Sunday) - - News - By Ta­tiana Flow­ers

NORWALK — Po­lice, law­mak­ers and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ad­vo­cates are hop­ing a new law that takes ef­fect Jan. 1 will greatly re­duce the num­ber of “dual ar­rests” in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dents.

Con­necti­cut had been ranked worst na­tion­wide in the ar­rest of both par­ties af­ter in­ci­dents, ad­vo­cates said, in ef­fect re­vic­tim­iz­ing those who suf­fered abuse.

The new law re­quires po­lice to iden­tify a pri­mary ag­gres­sor in a do­mes­ticvi­o­lence in­ci­dent. Ad­vo­cates and law­mak­ers said dual ar­rests are dam­ag­ing for vic­tims who call on law en­force­ment for help in an abu­sive sit­u­a­tion but are in­stead ar­rested as a re­sult.

That means vic­tims might avoid call­ing po­lice again in the fu­ture, and chil­dren who wit­ness the vi­o­lence might see the par­ent they iden­ti­fied as the vic­tim be­ing pun­ished.

“It’s a huge waste of re­sources,” Pamela Davis, di­rec­tor of le­gal ser­vices at the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Cri­sis Cen­ter said of dual ar­rests. “It pun­ishes the vic­tim for call­ing law en­force­ment and seek­ing help even when the case is later nolle’d.”

Some­times af­ter a dual ar­rest, a vic­tim is forced to pay at­tor­ney’s fees and seek child care be­fore at­tend­ing court hear­ings, Davis said. If a vic­tim is con­sid­ered an ag­gres­sor by po­lice, the DVCC is un­able to of­fer ser­vices.

Con­necti­cut has the high- est per­cent­age of dual ar­rests in com­par­i­son to other states, ac­cord­ing to Kevin Shippy, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Cri­sis Cen­ter. Data com­piled by ProPublica sup­ports his claim and sug­gests — na­tion­ally, dual ar­rests take place in 2 per­cent of all in­ti­mate part­ner vi­o­lence ar­rests. In Con­necti­cut, that num­ber rises to 18 per­cent.

Most re­cent data from the Con­necti­cut Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence shows 87 of 106 law en­force­ment agen­cies in the state have a dual ar­rest rate dou­ble or more than dou­ble the na­tional av­er­age of 7.3 per­cent.

“The big­gest prob­lem with the cur­rent law is that it’s a manda­tory ar­rest law so if the po­lice go into the scene or home and they’re both point­ing fingers at each other, the po­lice of­fi­cer … has to ar­rest both par­ties,” Davis said. In other words, if the of­fi­cer sus­pects both par­ties are en­gaged in vi­o­lent be­hav­ior, he or she must ar­rest both peo­ple.

Be­fore 1986, Con­necti­cut po­lice of­ten re­sponded to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence calls with the goal of keep­ing the peace rather than in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial crimes, ac­cord­ing to ProPublica.

But that changed in 1983, when a Tor­ring­ton woman was stabbed 13 times by her abuser.

She lived to suc­cess­fully sue the city and law­mak­ers passed a fam­ily vi­o­lence law that cre­ated do­mes­tic vi­o­lence units in courts and re­quired judges to hold hear­ings within 24 hours of a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dent, ac­cord­ing to ProPublica. Po­lice were re­trained in how to han­dle do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dents and were re­quired to make ar­rests if they found prob­a­ble cause.

Ar­rests sky­rock­eted and po­lice were ar­rest­ing both par­ties in many cases, in­stead of just the pri­mary ag­gres­sor, ac­cord­ing to ProPublica.

State Rep. Fred Wilms, R-Norwalk, was one of the bill’s spon­sors. He said the Rep. Craig Fish­bein, RWalling­ford, was the only dis­sent­ing voter in the House, and that the Se­nate passed the mea­sure unan­i­mously.

“I don’t want peo­ple to be ar­rested who shouldn’t be ar­rested,” Wilms said of his spon­sor­ship of the leg­is­la­tion.

The new law has been well-re­ceived by po­lice, ac­cord­ing to Sgt. David Orr, in­ves­tiga­tive su­per­vi­sor for the spe­cial vic­tim’s unit at the Norwalk Po­lice De­part­ment.

“There will still be dual ar­rest sit­u­a­tions, but this law is de­signed to more clearly iden­tify vic­tims and pro­vide re­sources and not sub­ject them to an ar­rest,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Orr at­tended train­ing held by the Se­nior As­sis­tant State’s At­tor­ney Pa­trice Palumbo, who briefed of­fi­cers on the new law and dis­trib­uted a Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion that Orr uses to train pa­role of­fi­cers and su­per­vi­sors at the Norwalk Po­lice De­part­ment.

“We are in­structed to try to iden­tify the pri­mary ag­gres­sor in the vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion and only ar­rest that per­son even if the non-dom­i­nant-in­volved party has caused in­jury to a per­son or prop­erty,” he said. “Any sea­soned pa­trol­man will tell you in most do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases, there is an iden­ti­fi­able vic­tim. If an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and in­ter­views yield one per­son is more fear­ful than the other, they will be noted as the vic­tim, not the dom­i­nant-ag­gres- sor,” he said.

Come Jan. 1, who­ever is in the most fear will be con­sid­ered the non-dom­i­nant in­volved party, he said.

While the mea­sure re­quires that po­lice de­ter­mine the pri­mary ag­gres­sor, it doesn’t re­strict them ar­rest­ing both par­ties.

“There’s a fair amount of data out there and stud­ies that show hav­ing a dom­i­nant pri­mary ag­gres­sor statute in place re­duces the num­ber of dual ar­rests, but there’s a lot of data and re­ports and stud­ies that show it doesn’t af­fect it as much as in­tended,” Davis said. “It re­mains to be seen whether or not this new lan­guage will en­able the po­lice of­fi­cer to re­ally bet­ter as­sess and to not make that ar­rest where there’s an un­true dual.”

Wilms said law­mak­ers could re­visit the mea­sure in the fu­ture and amend it if it isn’t work­ing.

“But for right now we’re hope­ful this will lead to bet­ter out­comes,” he said.

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