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Police Departments' Use of the Lethality Assessment Program: A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation

NCJ Number
Jill Theresa Messing, Ph.D., M.S.W.; Jacquelyn Campbell, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN; Janet Sullivan Wilson, Ph.D., R.N.; Sheryll Brown, M.P.H.; Beverly Patchell, Ph.D., R.N.; Christine Shall, M.S.W.
Date Published
March 2014
109 pages

This quasi-experimental evaluation examined the effectiveness of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), a collaboration between police and social service providers that aimed to decrease rates of repeat, severe, lethal and near-lethal domestic violence while increasing rates of emergency safety planning and help-seeking.


Under LAP, a police officer responding to the scene of a domestic violence incident uses a brief 11-item risk assessment in order to identify victims at high risk for homicide victimization. Women who screen as high risk are put in immediate telephone contact with a collaborating social service provider who assists them with advocacy, safety planning, and referral services. Overall, the evaluation concluded that although additional research is need on LAP, it shows promise as an evidence-informed intervention that increases survivors' safety and empowers them to make self-care decisions. At follow-up (7 months), the evaluation found a significant decrease in the severity of domestic violence according to the Conflict Tactics Scale, controlling for baseline differences between the intervention and high-violence comparison groups. In addition, women in the intervention group reported using significantly more protective strategies both immediately after the index event and at follow-up. During the intervention phase, the majority (61.7 percent) of women who screened in at high risk spoke to the domestic violence advocate on the phone, although this proportion differed by police jurisdiction and was partially dependent upon women's experiences of violence, prior engagement in protective actions, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Also, women who participated in the intervention were significantly more satisfied with the police response and were likely to report that the advocate was at least somewhat helpful. The screening instrument showed considerable sensitivity (92.93 percent) and a high negative predictive value (93-96 percent) for near-lethal and severe violence; however, the specificity and positive predictive value were low. 23 tables, 15 figures, 56 references, and detailed description of evaluation methodology