LAP program identifies, helps domestic violence victims in danger

An average of four domestic violence victims every week are at a high risk of homicide in Paducah. Police officers use a special protocol in these situations to help save lives.

It’s called the Lethality Assessment Protocol, or LAP, and Paducah and Louisville Metropolitan Police are the only two in the state using it. The LAP program involves a list of 11 questions Police use to help them determine if they need to connect victims in a crisis to counselors at Merryman House who can help.

“The first three questions that automatically trigger protocol are: Has he or she ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon? Has he or she threatened to kill you or your children, and do you think he or she may kill you?” Niki Jehnke said. She’s the director of client services at Merryman House.

The answers to this list of scientific, research-based questions expose domestic violence victims who are in danger of dying. Jehnke said it can be a wake up call for people in abusive relationships, saying, “That lethality factor changes how they see the threat that they’re in.”

The program runs in partnership with the Paducah Police Department. Officers bring the list to domestic violence calls and use it to determine if they need to call Merryman House. “Domestic violence has been an issue in Paducah for us for some years now. Since implementation of the LAP process, we have seen decreases,” Assistant Police Chief Brian Krueger said.

Domestic violence calls went down 12 percent in 2013 and about 7 percent last year. “Another reduction we’ve seen is the number of specific cases where LAP may be used…specific to intimate partners. Those numbers have decreased, as well, so we are obviously going in the right direction,” Krueger said, 

It’s a vital partnership saving victims from deadly violence.

An affirmative answer to one of the first three questions or a combination of four affirmative answers to the last eight questions will trigger the officer to call Merryman House. Counselors there said their next goal is to get the Lethality Assessment Protocol going at hospitals, counseling offices, or other places domestic violence victims may go if they aren’t ready to deal with police yet. Counselors with Merryman House and police both check back in with victims after two days.

Merryman House, The United Way, and Paducah police are sponsoring a domestic and sexual violence prevention training event. It’s scheduled for Friday, May 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will be held at West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Emergency Technology Building at 4810 Alben Barkley Drive in Paducah.

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