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police & fire

NJ authorities unveil online domestic violence training for police officers

Photo Credit: NJ Attorney General’s Office

A horrifying real-life 911 call from a girl whose mother is being assaulted is part of a free online training program designed to help police officers in New Jersey respond to domestic violence incidents.

The online course gives officers “complete flexibility regarding scheduling” and “will save police departments time and money,” state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said this afternoon.

The in-house program teaches officers how to respond to and investigate such incidents, as well as how to protect and assist victims.

An officer can complete the training program alone, breaking it into several sessions to fit his or her schedule. Or it can be used interactively in a classroom, state authorities said.

It includes an online test, which county prosecutors and police executives can, at their discretion, require officers to take. When an officer answers a question incorrectly, the program gives the correct answer, with an explanation.

It also includes this video:

“More than 70,000 domestic violence offenses are reported in New Jersey each year – an average of about 200 each day,” Chiesa said. “In addition to the victims, there usually are children or other loved ones whose lives are also shattered when domestic violence occurs.

“Given the huge impact across the state and the challenges officers face in responding to these emotionally volatile and frequently dangerous situations, it’s vital that we provide comprehensive training.”

The program has the support of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP), whose members, with reduced numbers of officers, have had to schedule mandatory training on officers’ days off.

“This new online program will enable agencies to schedule training when officers are on duty and during shift overlaps,” said South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond J. Hayducka, president of the NJSACOP.

“This will bring a substantial monetary savings to many municipalities around the state, because it gives the police executive the ability to operate more efficiently and effectively,” Hayducka said.

The program was created by attorneys in the Division of Criminal Justice — in consultation with police and the Training Bureau of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness – in response to the legal requirements of New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, Chiesa said.

All police officers in New Jersey are required to receive four hours of in-service training each year in the handling and investigation of reports of domestic violence, as well as abuse and neglect of the elderly and disabled.

Police departments and other law enforcement agencies have used a variety of formats to meet the annual in-service requirement for their officers, including police academy programs, in-house training by superior officers, and training provided by outside consultants.

The new online training program can be used as a stand-alone offering, or in conjuction with others, to meet the annual in-service training required by the 1991 domestic violence prevention law, Chiesa said.

He emphasized that state authorities don’t intend to restrict county prosecutors or police executives if they elect to continue to require other forms of annual in-service training for the law enforcement officers under their supervision.

The PowerPoint combines instructional text with photos and videos to illustrate various domestic violence scenarios and required responses.

Among the instructions:

  • Because victims typically fear the offender or fear the impact on their lives if they testify, officers should investigate with the assumption the victim will not willingly testify in court. They should prepare for an evidence-based prosecution, including taking numerous photos.
  • Officers should interview both parties separately, as well as family members, neighbors, friends and emergency medical crews, where applicable. They should write a detailed report.
  • If an officer finds probable cause to believe that domestic violence occurred, the officer must arrest the alleged offender if (1) the victim exhibits signs of injury; (2) there is an arrest warrant for the offender; (3) there is a violation of a restraining order; or (4) there is probable cause to believe a weapon was involved.
  • Officers should seize any weapon they reasonably believe would expose the victim to risk of serious bodily injury, and also seize firearm ID cards or permits to purchase a firearm. They should obtain a domestic violence warrant for search and seizure of weapons if necessary.
  • Officers must notify victims of their Domestic Violence Victims’ Rights under New Jersey law, as well as the availability of various services, including the name and number for the local domestic violence advocacy agency.
  • They must promptly assist the victim in filing a domestic violence criminal complaint and an application for a temporary restraining order, if desired.
  • In most instances, officers must notify the county Domestic Violence Response Team, or if there was a sexual assault, the Sexual Assault Response Team.

VIDEO: Courtesy NJ Attorney General’s Office

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