New legislation passed by the State Senate would require new domestic violence training regimens for law enforcement, as well as some county prosecutors as well as certain judges and judicial personnel.
“Victims of these crimes need to have the assurance that their cases will be heard in a forthright, professional, and non-judgmental manner, from the police first to arrive on the scene, to prosecutors and judges hearing the cases,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), who sponsored a package of five bills approved by the Senate with State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-7).
In addition, efforts would be made to bring more uniformity to existing procedures in the judicial system when connected to domestic violence.
“These victims need to know there are people in authority who will hear their stories, understand their predicament, and respond accordingly. We need to be sure all our police and court officers are trained up to recognize the signs of abuse, and be able to tap any available support resources that may be needed,” said Singleton.
Assembly Moves on One Bill
Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21) announced that the bill requiring domestic violence training for certain judges and personnel had been passed by the Assembly.
“Domestic violence has been a shadow pandemic as victims lost work or became isolated due to government shutdowns. COVID has underscored the urgency to get this bill passed and signed. We need to rebuild survivors’ safety nets,” she said.
Law Enforcement Training
According to the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, requests for domestic violence services jumped 20% in 2020. One program recorded a 188% increase in the number of shelter nights provided to survivors and their children in the last quarter of 2020, and another had the highest number of hotline calls they had received in 10 years.
“In order to save lives and protect survivors, it is so important to equip our judicial system and officers with the tools to appropriately respond to domestic violence cases,” Munoz said.
The bill (A1964/S384) requires assistant county prosecutors, municipal and Superior Court judges, and judicial personnel involved with domestic violence complaints, to participate in training on the dynamics of domestic violence, the impact on children, danger assessments, batterer intervention, survivor services, and risk factors and lethality. Judges would also focus on restraining order issues.
“While law enforcement is our first line of defense, a better informed and thoughtful response from judges handling domestic violence cases will serve to encourage more survivors to come forward. A more coordinated approach can help stop dangerous patterns of abuse,” Munoz added.
Police officers would be required to undergo periodic in-person training and gain an understanding of when domestic violence incidents trigger mandatory or discretionary arrests.
The legislation is a result of the formation in February 2015 by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner of the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence to study the issue of domestic violence. The package of Senate bills were designed to embody the recommendations from the extensive report issued in 2016 as a result of thai committee. Additionally, reforms sought by victims’ advocates were included in the bill.