LAP program could save victims’ lives

One of the challenges police officers face when responding to domestic violence calls is gauging how much danger the victim is in. Will the attacker be truly remorseful and not be a threat in the future? Or will he or she escalate the violence?

Even if officers fear for the victim’s safety, they often have difficulty convincing her or him of the danger.

A new evaluation system, the Lethality Assessment Program, may help. Though relatively unknown in Ohio, it has been adopted by several law enforcement agencies.

The LAP uses a serious of questions asked of the victim in a domestic violence call. Three initial questions are posed to judge whether substantial risk is involved. One question is whether the perpetrator has ever used a weapon against the victim or threatened to use one.

If the answer to any of the first three questions is “yes,” officers put the victim in contact with a domestic violence hotline.

If negative responses come from the first three questions, seven more are asked. They also involve levels of violence used or threatened. “Yes” responses also prompt calls to a hotline.

Police and sheriff’s deputies using the LAP system are better able to judge whether a perpetrator is a continuing, perhaps escalating, threat.

Even more important in some cases, the questions cause domestic violence victims to think about their abusers – and in some cases, to conclude they need to get away from them.

Police and sheriff’s departments in 30 states already have found the LAP system to be useful.

Local law enforcement agencies in our area should consider LAP, if they have not already. In some situations, it could prove to be a life-saver.