Lynchburg Police now trained to gauge lethal risk in domestic violence situations

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Brenda Dunning is a Court Advocate with the Domestic Violence Prevention Center.

"He actually went into the house. Shot and killed her,” Dunning said, recalling one of the many stories she has seen unfold in her line of work.

Stories that are not uncommon for Dunning to hear.

Of all the people that she works with the most common thing she sees in victims of domestic violence is an inability to acknowledge how dangerous or serious his/her situation is.

Officials are stepping in to help. The Lynchburg Police Department has teamed up with the Domestic Violence Prevention Center to roll out a new protocol. It's called the Lethality Assessment Program.

When responding to reports of domestic violence police will now ask victims a series of questions. If the victim answers “yes” to the first three questions on the top half of the guide or any four in the bottom half, officers will be triggered to call the DVPC immediately.

The questions range from, "Do you think he/she might try to kill you"…to the more subtle, "Does he or she follow or spy on you?"

"It is a great tool for us to help victims get connected up with the services, immediately,” said Lt. Dave Gearhart with the Lynchburg Police Department.

The LPD rolled out the protocol Monday and every officer has been trained.

The Prevention Center answered over 7,000 hotline calls last year and provided court advocacy for more than 800 victims in the Central Virginia region. Dunning says this new protocol is needed.

"They need to know that there is help out there. They need to know that police officers do care,” said Dunning.