Are lethality assessment protocols reaching those they need to reach? – Deseret News
Are lethality assessment protocols reaching those they need to reach? – Deseret News

Last week, Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson spoke at the second annual “A Bolder Way Forward” summit about the progress Utah has made and still needs to make on several issues. She began by talking about learning the value of incremental progress from Martha Hughes Cannon. She said, “It can be tempting to get discouraged by the fact that we think we’re not solving the problems — but let me offer my perspective. … It’s OK if you don’t see a problem being solved. An entire problem will probably never be solved.” However, we can take “really meaningful” steps to solve some of Utah’s most difficult problems.

One of the areas where Utah has made progress and will continue to make progress is in the area of ​​domestic violence and particularly domestic partner homicide. “This is an area where we can make a change, where we can work specifically,” she said. It is something that may Henderson told the story of her cousin Mandy Mayne, who was shot 13 times by her ex-husband in 2022 while waiting at a bus stop.

As a result of Mandy’s death, and because it exposed some gaps in an information and coordination process that could have ensured her safety, the Utah Legislature passed a law in 2023 requiring law enforcement to conduct a lethality assessment on domestic violence calls. In cases where there is a high risk of death to the victim, the law requires police to connect victims with support services at the time of the call. The law also created a statewide database to facilitate information sharing with law enforcement across multiple jurisdictions and to track repeat offenders.

Current data

From July 1, 2023, when the Intimate Partner Lethality Assessment Protocols (LAPs) came into effect, to May 31, 2024, 10,189 LAPs were submitted by 144 agencies. Of these, 63% (6,454) of the LAPs were classified as “potentially lethal.” Of the 6,454 victims connected to domestic violence support services, only 500 declined those services, according to Henderson.

Of the more than 10,000 LAPs (3,266), 32 percent were classified as “non-potentially fatal” and 460 (4%) were filed for non-intimate partner violence. 14 percent (1,469) of perpetrators had already been involved in LAPs, up from about 5% at the start of the program.

The Wasatch Front (Salt Lake, Utah, Davis and Weber Counties) accounted for 78% of all LAP applications since the program began. This number is nearly consistent with population density, as the Wasatch Front accounts for 75% of Utah’s population. South Valley Services and YWCA together received 43% of LAP referrals.

From the LAP responses, 61% of victims reported that the attacker is violent, constantly jealous, or controls most of the victim’s daily activities. This is the most common response. The second most common response (55%) is that the victim left or separated from the attacker after living with them. The responses that automatically produce a “potentially fatal” assessment are “attacker attempted to choke victim” (38%), “attacker threatened to kill victim and/or children” (29%), “victim believes attacker will try to kill her” (28%), and “attacker used/threatened victim with a weapon” (22%).

How will Utah measure its success?

Jen Campbell, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, has been conducting training and education for law enforcement with Sergeant Jen Faumuina of the Utah Department of Public Safety. Feedback has been positive, said Mikaylee Sanchez Paz, the coalition’s prevention program coordinator and point person for the coalition’s LAP work.

Asked about the data cited by the lieutenant governor, Sanchez Paz said Utah expects to see an increase in screenings and referrals of about 70 to 80 percent statewide since the implementation date of July 1, 2023. One of the successes Sanchez Paz sees with this program is that “85 percent of the referrals that providers are receiving are people who have never used any services before this lethality screening. That’s exactly what we wanted to do with this program,” she said, to reach the people who have been overlooked.

Lieutenant Governor Henderson told the Deseret News that the increase in LAPs and the creation and use of the statewide database means more victims are receiving support, law enforcement is better able to identify high-risk individuals and more people are aware of warning signs. “Success means the number of people murdered by a domestic partner is decreasing every year. The ultimate success is when the number is zero,” she said.

By Isla