An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced a bipartisan bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gabriela Mosquera to enhance domestic violence training for all facets of law enforcement.
The first bill (A-2185), sponsored by Singleton and Vainieri Huttle, would establish mandatory domestic violence training for municipal prosecutors.
"We've come a long way from the days when domestic violence was viewed as just a 'family problem,'" said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Heightened awareness and training throughout the law enforcement community has actually helped increase prosecution rates against offenders. Taking domestic violence training to the next level with a coordinated approach among all facets of law enforcement will help us protect even more women and families."
In doing so, the bill directs the Attorney General, in consultation with county and municipal prosecutors, to develop a mandatory training program for all municipal prosecutors which shall include, but not be limited to, domestic violence training. Currently, participation in such training is voluntary.
"Domestic violence has a long past, but a relatively short history when it comes to our response as a society," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We've seen tremendous progress in the last few decades and as a result more offenders have been prosecuted and more families saved. But the fact is, it's still prevalent and tearing families apart so we need to boost our coordinated response at all levels of law enforcement."
The second bill (A-4040), sponsored by Singleton and Mosquera, would insure that law enforcement officers are periodically required to attend in-person, instructor-led training on domestic violence. Under the bill, every three years the statutorily required in-service training could be satisfied through in-person instructor-led training.
"Having lived through domestic violence growing up, I can tell you that it's a frightening experience, particularly when you're a child who is witnessing it but is essentially helpless to resolve the situation," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "It makes a world of difference to know that there are people on your side who are trained, equipped and ready to advocate for you and that's what this bill will ensure."
Currently, the Office of the Attorney General is responsible for training all law enforcement officers in the handling and investigation of domestic violence reports. Law enforcement officers are required to attend an initial training within 90 days of appointment or transfer. In addition, the officers are required to attend an annual in-service training of at least four hours.
In 2012, the Office of the Attorney General established an online domestic violence training program for law enforcement officers. The new online training program is intended to be used as a "stand-alone" program by officers to meet their annual in-service training requirement or to be used in conjunction with other forms of training.
In addition, the bill would require training for assistant county prosecutors involved in the handling of domestic violence cases. The training would be consistent with the training requirement for judges and judicial personnel. Initial training would be within 90 days of appointment or transfer and the prosecutors would attend an annual in-service training of at least four hours.
Both bills were recommended in the report issued in June by the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence.
The measures were approved today by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.