All University of Utah police officers have completed training in the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s Lethality Assessment Program—a protocol designed to reduce risk of violence and save lives.
The intervention program presents police officers and other first responders with questions they can use to assess a victim’s risk for serious injury or death.
The training is one of 30 recommendations made by an independent review team last year after the death of U student Lauren McCluskey. The recommendation was for all university police and dispatchers to be trained on domestic violence indicators and the lethality assessment to help officers recognize warning signs and respond appropriately.
The questions help officers identify potential high-risk victims and connect victims with resources, emergency housing, counseling. It also enables officers and Utah’s support and prevention service providers to partner in a more coordinated way with victims who may otherwise be unlikely to seek services on their own.
As officers identify victims who meet the “high-risk” or “danger” category, the officers make initial contact with a local organization to start a conversation and connect the victim with those resources.
The use of the protocol is mandatory for the U’s officers, but it’s not a catch-all. Even if questions don’t identify that a threat exists to the victim, the officer still has the discretion of screening someone at high risk based on that officer’s experience and overall investigation.
The Lethality Assessment Program originated in Maryland and was created in conjunction with professor Jacquelyn Campbell’s research on intimate partner violence. Campbell, a national leader and professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, says the questions used represent some of the factors found in these studies to be the most predictive of homicide in relationships with intimate partner violence/abuse.