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Saving Lives: The Critical Role of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP)

Domestic violence is an issue that transcends state boundaries, affecting countless lives across the United States. It's a problem that demands proactive solutions to prevent intimate partner homicides and serious injuries. The Lethality Assessment Program-Maryland Model (LAP), developed by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV), has emerged as a groundbreaking, nationally recognized practice in this regard. In this article, we'll delve into the vital role played by LAP in preventing domestic violence-related fatalities and injuries.

Understanding the LAP

The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) is an innovative, multifaceted strategy designed to prevent domestic violence homicides. Trained law enforcement officers and other community professionals employ a research-based lethality assessment instrument to identify victims at the highest risk of being killed or seriously injured by their intimate partners. What sets LAP apart is its immediate connection of high-risk victims to local domestic violence service programs (DVSP) through a hotline call. This swift transition to a service provider is a key factor in the program's effectiveness.

History of LAP

Recognizing that intimate partner homicides are often preventable, the MNADV partnered with Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell of Johns Hopkins University to develop the LAP. This collaboration involved extensive research and development efforts, leading to the creation and implementation of the lethality screen and protocol in 2005.

LAP's Empirical Foundation

The LAP draws heavily from the Danger Assessment (DA), an empirically developed risk assessment tool. Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell and her colleagues conducted extensive research between 1994 and 2000, reviewing cases of women killed by their intimate partners in 11 diverse U.S. cities. Simultaneously, they conducted qualitative studies of women who had narrowly escaped homicide attempts. This research informed the development of the DA, highlighting risk factors predictive of intimate partner homicide.

The LAP employs an adapted field version of the DA, making its efficacy closely tied to the underlying research supporting the DA. Multiple studies have confirmed the validity of the DA and its ability to predict intimate partner violence.

Effectiveness of the LAP

The LAP has consistently demonstrated its effectiveness through various studies and evaluations:

  • High Sensitivity: The LAP exhibits high sensitivity, accurately identifying 92-93% of women who subsequently experience near-fatal violence.

  • Decreased Violence: Participants in the LAP experience less frequent and less severe violence compared to those in a control group.

  • Increased Protective Actions: LAP participants are more likely to engage in protective actions both immediately and in follow-up assessments.

  • Improved Criminal Justice Involvement: Abusive partners of LAP participants are more likely to be separated from the victim, potentially involving the criminal justice system.

  • High Satisfaction: LAP participants express higher satisfaction with the police response, fostering improved relationships between law enforcement and domestic violence programs.

  • Reduction in Female Homicide Victimization: A significant reduction of 35-45% in female homicide victimization by males was observed in jurisdictions implementing the LAP.

Supporting Survivors

Beyond its predictive capabilities, the LAP empowers survivors by connecting them to vital resources, increasing their safety, and enhancing community collaboration. The LAP's success lies not only in its ability to identify high-risk cases but also in its dedication to immediate action and support for victims.

Implementing LAP - A Critical Step for Police Departments

The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) stands as a powerful and essential tool for police departments across the country in their fight against domestic violence and the prevention of intimate partner homicides. It is imperative for law enforcement agencies to recognize the pressing need to address domestic violence, given that these tragedies are preventable.

To successfully implement LAP, police departments should prioritize comprehensive training programs for officers, ensuring they understand the LAP's core principles and their pivotal role in saving lives. LAP should seamlessly become part of standard operating procedures, with a strong emphasis on victim-centered approaches and close collaboration with domestic violence service providers and community organizations. Police leadership must actively champion LAP, allocating necessary resources to support its implementation. Community awareness campaigns should be used to inform survivors and encourage them to seek help when needed.

By adopting LAP and adhering to these best practices, law enforcement agencies can take a monumental step toward protecting their communities and ensuring the safety and well-being of survivors, making LAP not only a worthwhile investment but a moral imperative in their mission to serve and safeguard their residents.



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