May 3, 2016

Governor Cuomo Announces Changes to Help Combat Domestic Violence

Governor Cuomo Announces Changes to Help Combat Domestic Violence

Streamlined form allows police agencies to better document domestic incident calls, enhancing victim and officer safety and investigation of domestic violence crimes

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State has revised its Domestic Incident Report, which will allow law enforcement to collect more detailed information to enhance investigations, improve officer safety and connect domestic violence victims with services to help them break the cycle of abuse. Police officers are required by law to complete the report whenever they respond to a domestic incident call, regardless of whether they make an arrest. On average, officers statewide complete an estimated 400,000 Domestic Incident Reports every year.

"We must do all we can to protect domestic violence victims, ensure they have access to the resources that they need, and help law enforcement bring abusers to justice," Governor Cuomo said. "The wide range of information collected by this redesigned report will play a vital role in holding these offenders accountable and providing victims with the support they need to break this cycle of violence."

New York State last redesigned the Domestic Incident Report, which police have been required to use for more than two decades, in 2011. The latest revisions eliminate duplication and provide more space for narrative details, victim interview information and statements from witnesses and/or suspects. The redesign also allows officers to more accurately document factors that put victims at risk, a victim's emotional state and any prior history of domestic violence – all of which are crucial to assessing the physical danger a victim is facing.

Additionally, the updated report allows officers to better detail evidence at a scene that can aid in prosecution if an arrest is made. For example, officers can now document information about the crime of strangulation, a common form of domestic violence that can be difficult to prove because often there are no visible physical injuries to a victim. Yes/No questions with corresponding check boxes will also improve the accuracy of data collection.

The state Division of Criminal Justice Services and the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence coordinated the redesign, relying on input from police, prosecutors, victim advocates, civil legal service providers, probation and parole officers to ensure the report would be easy and effective to use. Once redesign was complete, the Albany and Schenectady police departments began using the report earlier this year to ensure it was effective in the field.

Police agencies across the state will begin using the revised report this month. The Division of Criminal Justice Services is offering an online training that provides an overview of the revised report and how it should be completed. About 2,000 officers have taken the course to date.

Division of Criminal Justice Services Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, "As a former prosecutor, I know how critical it is to have as much detail as possible about a crime when preparing a case for grand jury or trial. Domestic violence calls can be unpredictable and complex, requiring officers to quickly assess and often diffuse situations before they escalate. The redesigned form is streamlined, which will make it easier for officers to better document evidence that will help prosecutors strengthen their cases and bring offenders to justice."

Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Executive Director Gwen Wright said, "The new and improved report has the potential to increase safety for victims of domestic violence. Police officers are required to ask a series of questions that indicate risk, and if any are answered affirmatively, they must immediately refer the victim to appropriate services. In addition, the report will assist law enforcement by providing officers with more information for evidence collection, which can support enhanced criminal charges."

In addition to documenting details of an incident, the report includes a notice of victim rights in English and Spanish. Legislation signed in February by Governor Cuomo now requires police agencies to provide that notification in the five other most common non-English languages spoken by individuals in New York State: Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Russian and Chinese. To assist agencies with this statutory requirement, the Division of Criminal Justice Services translated the victim rights notice into those languages and made it available online:

The New York State Office of Victim Services also uses these reports to help determine if crime victims are eligible for assistance from the agency, which pays medical and dental bills, funeral and moving expenses, and provides compensation for lost wages and support, among other forms of assistance.

Office of Victims Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said, "For 50 years, OVS has been the lead state agency providing aid, care and support to innocent victims of crime in New York State. Law enforcement is, more often than not, a victim's first point of contact after a crime. This is why it is crucial for law enforcement to utilize the best tools possible, such as this new report. The improvements made to the domestic incident report will help to gather additional information, which in turn will help crime victims get quicker and improved service from OVS."

The following agencies and associations assisted the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence with the redesign the form: the Office of Victim Services, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the New York State Police, the New York City Police Department, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, the District Attorneys' Association of New York State, the New York State Sheriffs' Association and the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state's DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence is responsible for improving the response of state and local communities to domestic violence. OPDV provides guidance to Executive staff on policy and legislation; conducts statewide community outreach and public education programs; and trains professionals on addressing domestic violence in a wide array of disciplines, including child welfare, law enforcement and health care.

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault can seek help 24 hours a day by calling the state’s multilingual, toll-free hotline – 1-800-942-6906 – or 711 for the hearing impaired. In New York City: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673), 311 or TTY: 1-866-604-5350.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

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