DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TRIAGE TEAM
The Denver Domestic Violence Triage Review Team began meeting in January 2006. “Triage” is a multidisciplinary team with representatives from the criminal justice system (DA’s Office, City Attorney’s Office, DPD DV Unit and VAU) and community based agencies serving domestic violence victims, which meet each morning, Monday through Friday, to review domestic violence cases for risk assessment, safety planning and coordination of victim services. This includes cases filed at the City Attorney’s Office, defendants in custody on misdemeanor and felony charges and incident reports where the defendant is still at large.
The Triage Review Team is based on the knowledge that the most effective response to domestic violence crimes requires well-coordinated policies and protocols that include both legal sanctions and community resources to hold batterers accountable and assure victims that their safety is a priority. Given the recidivist nature of domestic violence, it is not unusual for a defendant to have concurrent cases at both the city and state levels. Batterers often count on the inability of the first responding officer, the prosecutor, the advocate and the judge to have relevant information in front of them at the time they are making critical decisions about appropriate intervention or sanctions. They count on their ability to manipulate, coerce or frighten their victim into staying silent.
The goals of the Triage Review Team are intended to address these issues and include:
- Early coordination of information between criminal justice agencies with defendants that have multiple cases.
- Facilitate re-filing of cases that are more appropriately filed at the District Attorney’s Office.
- Identify risk factors as determined from criminal history, facts of current and or prior incidents and victim contact. Forward information to assist with decisions regarding bond, conditions of bond, sentencing and victim safety planning.
- Support and outreach to the victim can be initiated by the Team, rather than requiring a victim to seek out services when she is in crisis or may be reticent and least able to access a range of services that may be of assistance to her and her children.
- In circumstances where the defendant is still at large, or where prosecution may not be possible, outreach and intervention by community based advocates can still be offered.
- Increase the likelihood of victims participating in the prosecution process through better coordination of victim services with community based advocates who can attend to a broad range of needs.
Law enforcement officials meet first to address specific case issues and legal decisions. Once this is completed, community agencies join the meeting to coordinate information on repeat or high risk defendants and gain any additional input regarding risk factors from community members. The primary concerns addressed at this meeting are:
Providing referrals to community agencies in those cases where the victim has requested services (from VAU or DA/CA VA contact) or where information in the police report indicates she may be in need of services.
- Victim Safety issues. Advocates who have concerns about the safety of the victim (indications that the offender may be violating to protection order or harassing the victim or there are concerns for her physical safety) can request that the DV advocates from DPD and a detective do a home visit with the victim.
- The Triage Team may also flag high risk cases that are appropriate to request GPS monitoring or other bond conditions. In cases where the defendant is still at large, they can be flagged for a more pro-active warrant pick up which is coordinated with the DV Detectives, Fugitive Unit and /or District officers.
The Triage Coordinator follows up on any information gathered at the Triage Meeting and also enters all the cases into a database/s to track case information and outcome. This information also helps determine if there are trends that need to be addressed. Examples are increases or decreases in certain case filings, training issues, gaps in protocols or services. Are there trends that need to be addressed or looked into to try to provide a safer environment for victims? The Triage Review Team meets monthly to address non-case specific issues that are identified and develop strategies and resources to resolve them.
Early Intervention for Domestic Violence: County Court Advocate
It is critical to provide outreach to domestic violence victims in the early stages of the criminal justice process. Given the dynamics of domestic violence, these victims are particularly vulnerable to repeated assaults or on-going abuse from the offender and in need of immediate safety planning and referral information. Confusion, ambivalence, fear, lack of resources, and lack of knowledge may play a part in the victim’s reluctance or refusal to participate in prosecution. Victims may become less reluctant when they are informed of every stage of the criminal justice system. An advocate can make sure that the victim has information about domestic violence, resources, safety planning, and help the victim better understand and anticipate the criminal justice system.
Early intervention strategies are making a contribution in breaking the cycle of violence and protecting the women and child victims of domestic violence.
The Early Intervention Victim Advocate provides all initial contact for cases of domestic violence and sends out notification letters and the Mandatory Protection Order. The Victim Advocate also compiles a summary sheet listing all previous criminal history and case outcome regarding domestic violence for the defendant. The prosecutor then has easy access to this information at the first court appearance for consideration of bond conditions. The Early Intervention victim advocate also tracks case statistics on all misdemeanor domestic violence cases.