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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Prince George’s County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team Releases 2012 Report and Recommendations

                                      
                                                                               
Prince George’s County Domestic Violence
Fatality Review Committee
P.O. Box 187
Hyattsville, MD  20781

Upper Marlboro, MD…The Prince George’s County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team released its first Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report and Recommendations since the Team was initially convened in 2007.  Judith Wolfer, Managing Attorney for the House of Ruth Maryland and chair of the Team, said the 2012 Report was completed in January and distributed to the Governor, Prince George’s County Executive, county agency heads, law enforcement officials, and organizations providing services to victims of domestic violence. 

The purpose of Domestic Violence Fatality Review Teams is to study the facts surrounding domestic violence homicides and make recommendations aimed at improving a community’s response to these incidents, and to reduce or eliminate domestic violence-related deaths. Almost every county in Maryland now has a Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. 

“We’re pleased by the completion of our first Report and the opportunity to share our work with state and county officials, and with the public, “said Judith Wolfer. “This is an important undertaking that can literally save lives.  I so appreciate the dedication and participation of all the partners in the completion of the Report.”  

Wolfer said the 2012 Report includes recommendations for Law Enforcement, Court Commissioners, Parole and Probation, the Judiciary, domestic violence agencies and faith-based communities.  “We have a diversity and strength of partners putting their powers of investigation into both the systemic causes of domestic violence homicides and their prevention.”

The bottom line of the Report according to Wolfer is the Team’s finding that proactive intervention at the first moment a victim seeks help leads to better evaluation and response by community agencies, which has a deterrent effect on domestic violence.  An important example of proactive on-site evaluation is addressed in the Report’s top recommendation for law enforcement – the suggestion that all County law enforcement agencies immediately begin to use the Domestic Intervention – Supplemental Report pioneered by the Office of the Sheriff or a similar form when responding to domestic violence emergency calls for service.

Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Colonel Regina Taylor, Bureau Chief of Field Operations said, “The Supplemental Report is critically important to the investigation of a domestic violence incident. The comprehensiveness of the report can be central to following up on a case and to court proceedings.”

Taylor said the Office of the Sheriff can review Supplemental Reports for law enforcement partners that don’t have specialized domestic violence units, and have the Sheriff’s Domestic Violence Advocates contact victims directly who may be in need of assistance. “The Report’s recommendation will improve Domestic Violence Response countywide, and will allow access to the assistance provided to victims by our Domestic Violence Advocates, “said Taylor.

Similar recommendations were made for court commissioners offices.  Court commissioners often see victims immediately after an abusive incident and therefore are critically important players in working to prevent domestic violence homicides. 

The Report notes that domestic violence incidents have risen every year that statistics have been kept in Prince Georges’ County.  From January through November of 2011 there were 12,979 domestic violence calls for service.  In 2010, the Report says that the 10,574 protective and peace orders filed in the County comprised one-fifth of all state filings.

“There is no question that there’s a great deal of work to be done, but our continuing review of domestic violence fatalities only strengthens our understanding of where we can make a difference in preventing future fatalities.  These Recommendations can focus our community’s ability to make important changes in the way we work with victims or perpetrators, and ultimately, prevent deaths,” said Wolfer. 

A complete copy of the Report and Recommendations is available at the House of Ruth:  http://www.hruth.org/files/library/FRTReportandRecommendations2012.pdf.  

For additional information, please contact Judith Wolfer from the House of Ruth Maryland, Inc., at (410) 554-8463.
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