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New State Law On Domestic Violence In Effect



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A new state law concerning police enforcement actions during domestic violence incidents took effect on January 1.

Under the terms of the law, a peace officer, when responding to a family violence complaint made by two or more opposing parties, is required to arrest the person the officer believes is the dominant aggressor in the situation. The new law does not prohibit dual arrests, but discourages such arrests when appropriate.

The new law does not apply to college students who live together in on-campus housing and to tenants who live together in a residential rental property who are not in a dating relationship.

Newtown Police Captain Christopher Vanghele is the instructor for town police officers on domestic violence issues. Capt Vanghele said January 2 that he soon will be training Fairfield County municipal police officers on the topic at Western Connecticut State University.

Of the new law, Capt Vahghele said, “I think it's positive because it gives the officers more discretion to investigate the dynamics of the relationship of the parties” involved in a domestic dispute, encouraging police to arrest the “dominant aggressor.”

The new law does not require police to arrest the person who is the apparent “victim” in a dispute, he pointed out.

Maureen Will heads Newtown Emergency Communications Center, the local agency which dispatches police on calls for service. A former Brookfield police captain, Ms Will has worked closely with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Ms Will said she will be working to develop a training program for dispatchers which is specific to the State of Connecticut. Existing training programs for dispatchers on the subject can be made better and more specific to the state, she said.

In domestic violence situations, the dispatchers who receive calls for help play a crucial role in relaying information to police responders, which can aid the police in their investigation of domestic incidents, Ms Will said.

Under the terms of the new law, local police will receive comprehensive training in spotting the person who is the dominant aggressor in a domestic violence situation with the goal of better helping the victims.

The new law establishes the factors that a police officer must consider in determining which person is the dominant aggressor. The law allows the officer to submit a report to the state’s attorney for further review and advice on the conduct of the person or the persons who are not arrested.

The law provides police with legal immunity from civil liability.

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