House bill aims to prevent domestic violence-related homicides

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A bill introduced in the state House would provide more training for police officers responding to domestic violence situations, with a goal of reducing the number of domestic violence-related homicides.

House Bill 175 was introduced by State Representative Kate Klunk of York County.

The bill would establish a Lethality Assessment Program across Pennsylvania, requiring police officers to receive training that would help them determine the likelihood that a domestic violence incident could ultimately lead to serious injury or death.

A series of questions would determine the danger of the situation. If it ranked high on the lethality scale, the responding officer would call a local 24-hour domestic violence hotline to seek help. They would also give the victim the opportunity to talk to that hotline advocate, who could provide information or help them get set up in a temporary shelter.

“If somebody rates high on the lethality, and the police officer does call us, and we are able to get that victim to a shelter immediately, then their chance lessens 60 percent for re-victimization,” said Michelle Schaffer, Director of Safe Home at YWCA in Hanover. “Anything we can do to prevent one fatality from domestic violence is, in my opinion, a good thing to strive towards.”

The program is similar to one introduced in Maryland. Representative Klunk says that program has reduced the number of domestic violence-related homicides in the state by 25 percent in six years.

House Bill 175 is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.

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