Pittsburgh cops to offer domestic violence surveys

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – City police will soon begin giving victims of domestic violence an 11-question survey that seeks to predict the likelihood that they could be killed by their partner.

Officers will begin using the survey Monday, under a revamped policy approved by City Council, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/IHrciQ ). Acting Chief Regina McDonald declined to comment until the city announces the program at a news conference Friday.

The survey includes such questions as, “Has he/she ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?”

Under the city’s new policy, if the victim answers yes to any of the 11 questions, a responding officer must call a supervisor to bring a police-issued cellphone to the residence and call a domestic violence hotline for the victim. That prevents a partner from tracing or monitoring the victim’s call.

The survey was developed by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence and is being used, in part, in response to the death of Ka’Sandra Wade.

The 33-year-old woman’s body was found in her home the day after she made a 911 last New Year’s Eve that was disconnected. The man police later determined killed Wade, Anthony Brown, 51, told officers through a window that she was OK, and officers left without physically seeing or speaking to Wade.

Brown killed himself the next day during a standoff at another residence, during which he tossed police a note suggesting they could have saved Wade. It said, “The police had a chance to save her last night and they didn’t do it. They came and left. I did it right before midnight. May God have mercy. I know he won’t.”

Police union president Sgt. Robert LaPorte said he’s concerned about the practical implementation of the policy.

LaPorte said the city typically sends two officers to domestic disputes to make sure neither is left alone with a violent person should someone have to be taken to jail. By making a supervisor go to the scene, manpower is spread even thinner, LaPorte said. Also, supervisors are also required at the scenes of major crimes, like homicides, and might be forced to try to be in two places at once more frequently under the policy.

City police responded to an average of 34 domestic dispute calls a day last year.

But David Sargent, the retired officer who helped develop the survey, said concerns raised by officers typically die down once they’ve used the surveys in the field. The survey is being used in 32 states, though mostly in departments smaller than Pittsburgh’s.

“If you do nothing, if you say it takes too long and you don’t have time for that, what happens then?” Sargent said. “Do you have a homicide?”

Questions on Pittsburgh domestic violence survey

The questions Pittsburgh police officers responding to a domestic violence call must ask accusers, starting Monday:

1. Has he/she ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?

2. Has he/she threatened to kill you or your children?

3. Do you think he/she might try to kill you?

4. Does he/she have a gun or can he/she get one easily?

5. Has he/she ever tried to choke you?

6. Is he/she violently or constantly jealous or does he/she control most of your daily activities?

7. Have you left him/her or separated after living together or being married?

8. Is he/she unemployed?

9. Has he/she ever tried to kill himself/herself?

10. Do you have a child that he/she knows is not his/hers?

11. Does he/she follow or spy on you or leave threatening messages?

Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com

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