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Together with the Westchester County Office for Women, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, Westchester Medical Center, Pace Women’s Justice Center, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, members the New Rochelle Police Department and domestic violence advocates from across Westchester, County Executive George Latimer announced the success of the Domestic Violence High Risk Training (DVHRT) Program.

The training program, which was recently completed by officers of the New Rochelle Police Department, uses a multi-disciplinary team-based approach to identify, serve and support victims of domestic violence who may be at risk of serious harm or homicide by their offender. DVHRT, which is gradually being implemented into Westchester County’s local police departments, involves training responding police officers in the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), a danger assessment tool for law enforcement that they conduct at the scene of a domestic incident with trauma-sensitive interviewing techniques. The County’s DVHRT Program is being used as a model for other counties across New York State, creating and solidifying a bond between law enforcement and domestic violence service providers to protect victims from harm and increase offender accountability.

The Westchester County Office for Women was just awarded a $1 million dollar grant from the Department of Justice to continue implementing the high risk team over the next four years.

Latimer said: “The impetus for this program, as successful as it has proven to be in our local police departments, is borne out of tragedy. We have seen murder-suicides here in Westchester County, and we did not like what we saw. But – we are problem solvers and we are innovators, and serious family violence and domestic partner violence is something that just will not be tolerated. We have introduced this program in an attempt to limit future high risk domestic violence, and we have seen this training pay dividends in the communities who are using it. Survivors who have been part of this extraordinary program are the best promoters of the program, and play an active role in the police training. With their help, we have been able to work towards establishing long-term safety and security for these victims.”

The current  training team includes members of the Westchester County Office for Women, the District Attorney’s Office, police chiefs from Pound Ridge and White Plains, the senior director of Westchester Medical Center’s Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Advocacy Program, civil legal services including Pace Women’s Justice Center, and a domestic violence survivor. When police officers respond to a domestic violence call, they are trained to use the lethality assessment tool to determine if the victim is at risk of being killed or seriously harmed by their partner. From the scene, responding officers call a 24/7 support line that is staffed by well-trained advocates at Westchester Medical Center. The advocate will speak with the victim, offer safety planning and available resources, and make an immediate connection to the appropriate services. The Officer for Women schedules all training, reviews all LAP’s and monitors all DSVP referrals.

The New Rochelle Police Department most recently completed the training, and within the past year the program has been implemented in Dobbs Ferry, Hastings, North Castle, Peekskill, Tuckahoe, Yorktown, Rye Brook, Eastchester, Sleepy Hollow, White Plains and Westchester County Department of Public Safety. Lewisboro, North Salem, Bedford, Pound Ridge and Somers have been using the program since 2017, and the County hopes to start training Yonkers PD, the County’s largest municipal department, next month.. 

Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah said: “The Domestic Violence High Risk Team and the Lethality Assessment Program are instrumental in our efforts to ensure victims of domestic violence are protected and that their abusers are held accountable in the criminal justice system. Through the LAP training, the District Attorney’s Office works with our law enforcement partners to train officers to evaluate the risk of danger present in a case, connect a survivor to resources immediately, use trauma-aware interview techniques to collect critical information, and possess a heightened sensitivity to the impact of abuse on survivors. The LAP training truly can make a difference in saving a victim’s life and I am so proud that our Special Prosecutions Division has played such a crucial role in this community safety initiative.”

Director of the Westchester County Office for Women Robi Schlaff said: “In the Office for Women, our utmost concern will always be protecting the safety of Westchester County’s residents and families, especially victims of domestic violence. We took a great deal of time investigating models that have been proven successful in assessing the gravest risk to families, and implementing enhanced safety protections.  We are fortunate to have the most professional and competent partners in law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office and our service providers, all of whom are committed to this mission of protecting our most vulnerable residents and families.”

Police Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety said: “The Lethality Assessment Protocol gives police officers a practical tool they can use when they respond to any domestic incident.  It  enables them to better identify offenders who are at high-risk for taking the lives of their intimate partners and even their children. There is nothing theoretical about the potential for this kind of violence.   We know all too well that it can happen here because it has happened here. We were proud to be an original partner in bringing the Lethality Assessment Protocol to Westchester, and we have provided this training to our officers and made it a part of our Police Academy curriculum.”

Police Commissioner of the New Rochelle Police Department Robert Gazzola said: “The Domestic Violence High Risk Training Program recently conducted by the Westchester County Office for Women Collaborative Staff will ensure that our Officers know how to protect and serve victims of domestic violence, from identification and intervention on through to placement with specialized advocates.”

Executive Director of Pace Women’s Justice Center Cindy Kanusher said: “We are privileged to be a part of the DVHRT program. As a civil legal services provider representing victims of abuse, we understand the critical need for this training and for the LAP program in our county.  There is no doubt that training police on high risk factors, combined with referral protocols that provide emergency safety planning and enhanced services for victims will help to reduce the risk of continued serious and lethal violence for victims of domestic violence and save lives.”

Executive Director of Hope’s Door CarlLa Horton said: “Hope’s Door is grateful for the work of our many partners in the Westchester County Domestic Violence High Risk Team. We collaborate with one singular goal - to save the lives of domestic violence victims identified as high-risk for lethality or life-threatening assault. From the trained police officer responding on the scene, to the advocate at the medical center, to the counselors providing on-going support, to the prosecutors in the D.A.’s office – all of us are working together across systems to hold offenders accountable, to enhance victim safety, and to save lives. Hope’s Door joins with our partners in acknowledging the commitment to this collaborative work demonstrated by the New Rochelle Police Department.”