AMID the political grandstanding that tends to take center stage during any legislative session, lawmakers do occasionally get it right. This was the case in the 2014 session, when a bill designed to reduce domestic violence got the nod from the Legislature.
House Bill 2526 by Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, and Sen. David Holt, R-Bethany, takes effect Nov. 1. It will require police officers to ask suspected victims of domestic violence a series of questions. The “lethality assessment protocol” will help officers determine the level of danger that victims might be facing and require officers to contact a victim advocacy organization.
“Intervention is immediate,” Floyd said in a news release. “This legislation directly addresses our domestic violence crisis by giving law enforcement the tools to help victims receive the appropriate security or services they need.”
We hope the law proves effective. Floyd said police departments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa already use the practice. Data from a three-year study of the protocol involving Johns Hopkins University, Arizona State University, the University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Health and seven police departments is undergoing analysis.
Of course, the best situation would be that such a law wasn’t necessary. That simply isn’t the case in Oklahoma, where domestic violence is a well-documented problem:
Oklahoma ranks third in the nation for deaths attributed to domestic violence.
In 61 percent of domestic violence homicide cases, someone else knew of ongoing domestic violence prior to the homicide. The most likely people to know of the problem include family, friends and law enforcement.
One-fourth of all women in Oklahoma will be domestic violence victims during their lifetime.
In Oklahoma City in 2012, police were dispatched to 36,385 domestic violence calls. In Tulsa during the same time period, the number of calls was 21,747.
The new law has the potential to save lives. But it’s not just the adults we should all be concerned about. Statistics indicate the impact of domestic violence on children is huge — and heart wrenching. In 2011, the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board found that in 33 percent of the domestic violence homicide cases reviewed, children witnessed a homicide. The result: about 30 children a year see the death of at least one parent.
Oklahoma can’t move quickly enough when it comes to domestic violence prevention and intervention efforts. A generation of children is depending on it.