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Milgram touts new domestic violence plan

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Attorney General Anne Milgram warned law enforcement agencies in New Jersey that they could be sued by domestic violence victims of their survivors if they don’t adopt the state’s new guidelines for handling domestic violence involving police officers.

Milgram says the new guidelines, adopted last week, help protect victims who feel intimidated because their alleged abusers are cops. For one thing, it requires a supervisor to join any rank-and-file cop dispatched to a domestic incident involving a brother officer.

Milgram, who will be replaced by Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow after incoming Governor-elect Christopher Christie takes office next month, produced the policy at the urging of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Domestic Violence Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board, part of the Division on Women in the state Department of Community Affairs.

There didn’t seem to be much input from local police chiefs. However, Milgram didn’t try to make the policy mandatory — a nod, her office said, to those departments that can handle such incidents just fine on their own. She also said other departments were free to develop their own guidelines.

The model not only serves as a blueprint for those agencies to follow when a domestic incident involves a law enforcement officer: It also puts the onus on supervisors to intervene when officers show tendencies that could lead in that direction.

It also requires an officer responding to a domestic incident involving another officer to bring his or her shift commander, who must fill out an Internal Affairs report if no action is taken. Police also must immediately notify their county prosecutor’s office.

Supervisors should encourage officers to seek counseling or other forms of help if they are in the middle of a separation or divorce or any other “high conflict period” with a spouse in which the officer could be prone to violence, the guidelines say.

Going even further, the policy urges county prosecutors to designate someone to keep the alleged victim up-to-date on all developments. If the officer or another agent from his or her department contacts the spouse, that person must be notified.

But that’s not all: The policy requires mental examinations of all applicants for police jobs, with a particular eye for potential violence or abuse. Those with any kind of abusive history should be rejected, it says.

Dow — who, like Milgram, is a former federal prosecutor — hasn’t expressed an opinion on the policy yet.

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