It was one simple, but specific question that helped NOPD Domestic Violence Detective Eric Rish learn everything he needed to know about a survivor’s history with domestic violence: ‘Describe the time you were most frightened or injured by him.’
The survivor was from out-of-state and she had no prior documented history of domestic violence in New Orleans.
“I was already aware of a specific incident in which the survivor and her child had been shot multiple times by the same offender. I assumed this was probably the worst possible incident, but I continued with the risk assessment questions as part of our policy,” said Rish.
The survivor’s answer led to an extensive dialogue between the two about a previous and equally violent incident involving the offender.
“We had already talked about the history of domestic violence between the survivor and the offender, but she never offered information on the other incident until she was specifically asked this risk assessment question.”
Two years ago, the City of New Orleans launched Blueprint for Safety, a unified approach for how the city should respond to domestic violence incidents from the moment police receive a 911 call for help to when the offender is granted probation and parole.
One of the most significant accomplishments for the NOPD was changing the electronic reporting system to automatically generate the four risk assessment questions officers ask. Officers are required to ask the questions in every domestic violence incident involving allegations of a crime committed against person or property.
The answers to those questions in the narrative and gist of the police report provide prosecutors and judges with detailed information on the history of violence and enhancing their ability to assess for risk, danger and making determinations on whether or not to release a defendant before trial.
These questions and answers are also providing the criminal justice system with a great deal more information on the history of violence and level of risk than ever before. The interactions are captured on body-worn cameras, which help to convey the seriousness of the situations when the case heads to court.
A comprehensive response is more important than ever in a state that sees one of the largest reports of domestic violence in the country. Louisiana ranked 2nd in the nation in the number of female victims killed by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents according to a recent report by the Violence Policy Center. This year alone, the NOPD has responded to 3,100 domestic violence-related incidents since September.
The Blueprint for Safety initiative is managed by the New Orleans Health Department in partnership with the New Orleans Family Justice Center, Orleans Parish Communications District, NOPD, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, Domestic Violence Monitoring Court, Municipal Court and the Louisiana Department of Corrections.