New program launched to train law enforcement to better handle cases of domestic violence

AG's Office working to train law enforcement officers to better handle domestic violence cases

(WAFB) - Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office is hosting Protecting Louisiana’s Families training throughout the state. The goal is to train law enforcement on how to deal with victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Law enforcement officers are often the first point of contact for domestic violence victims and their possible abusers. Monica Taylor with the Louisiana Department of Justice says most likely, everything you need to know will come from them.

“Your victims are the crime scene, the victim, and the witness as well,” she said.

Landry’s office has been hosting training sessions throughout the state for weeks now. Taylor says they’re teaching patrol cops that respond to domestic violence calls that they should get to a scene already believing the victim.

“If evidence later proves something different, then you can investigate that, but as law enforcement, we say please start by believing the victim,” Taylor said.

Taylor says the best leads will come from the people on the scene, like the victim and witnesses. She says the initial interaction with victims is key in the investigation process.

“When victims first disclose that they’ve been sexually assaulted, the reaction of the very first person they tell, whether it’s law enforcement, a friend, colleague, or teacher, the way that a person reacts is how they interpret everyone will act. If that person doesn’t believe them or has questions for them, then they may not pursue it any further or tell anybody else," Taylor said.

“For so long, the victims have gone unnoticed and a lot of times, in my opinion, not treated fairly or properly. They are kind of put on the back burner, “said Police Chief Brad Joffrion with the Livonia Police Department.

Taylor says priority number one is helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, while also focusing on putting perpetrators in jail.

The call officers are responding to is just the tip of the iceberg. People trained to handle cases like that say victims are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Taylor calls it a “circle of power.” She says there’s a honeymoon phase.

“But that victim never knows what’s going to set the perpetrator off," Taylor said.

Understanding the inner thoughts of a victim is just a portion of this exercise, but that helps mold the case. Collecting the right evidence helps too, like when law enforcement officers spoke with a victim in 2016 about past issues.

“We respond to the same houses over and over. A lot of times, officers want to ask the question, ‘Why do you stay in the situation?’ But this particular class helps them to understand why the victims stay in the situation. It’s not as easy to get out as one may think,” Chief Joffrion said.

Experts say law enforcement officers place themselves in the line of fire when they respond to calls like that, so knowing how to handle the people they come into contact with can potentially help them and the victim.

Taylor says her department also wants law enforcement officers to be safe.

“Domestic violence and traffic stops are the two most dangerous calls for a law enforcement officer to go on,” Taylor said.

The AG’s office wants law enforcement to have all the tools to be safe and protect the community to the best of their ability.

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