Legislature passes bill requiring police to perform lethality assessment for domestic violence calls
Mar 2, 2023, 10:26 AM | Updated: 10:26 am
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah police will soon be required to conduct lethality assessments when responding to domestic violence reports under a bill passed for the final time in the Senate Wednesday afternoon.
The bill would require law enforcement officers to conduct a 12-question lethality assessment whenever they respond to a domestic violence call, regardless of whether an arrest is made.
Some agencies in Utah have voluntarily used lethality assessments, but Henderson said one was not completed in her cousin’s case.
“I feel I represent my family and my cousin, but I represent everybody in this state, as well,” Henderson said in January. “And there are a lot of people, a lot of victims, a lot of families that have suffered.”
Henderson appeared alongside the parents of Gabby Petito‘s parents at a press conference to support the bill after its initial Senate passage on Jan. 30. Petito, a young woman from New York, was killed by her boyfriend in 2021 shortly after the pair traveled through Utah.
“It is a proud moment to be here, and I thank everyone for the hard work that you did and the way that you voted today. That was awesome,” Joe Petito, Gabby’s father said. “But it’s not just about the bill, all right. These questions are only the first step in the way of helping these individuals that find themselves in a situation.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, would also create a database of assessment data and facilitate data sharing between agencies so that officers could access information about previous offenses by alleged aggressors.
It comes with a fiscal note of $1.2 million ongoing to administer lethality assessments and $100,000 in one-time funds to create the lethality assessment reporting database.
SB117 passed the House unanimously Wednesday morning, before being given final approval by the Senate in the afternoon.
Henderson took to her personal Twitter account to praise the bill’s passage.
“Today we turned horror into hope with the final passage of a bill requiring law enforcement to conduct lethality assessments on victims of domestic violence. This simple series of questions could have saved my cousin’s and so many other victims’ lives,” she said. “No parent should be in the devastating position of having to advocate on behalf of their murdered child. It has been an honor for me to work side-by-side with my aunt, uncle and cousins to advocate for changes that will save others from a similar fate.”
No parent should be in the devastating position of having to advocate on behalf of their murdered child. It has been an honor for me to work side-by-side with my aunt, uncle, and cousins to advocate for changes that will save others from a similar fate. pic.twitter.com/w3SaZNmCfT
— Deidre Henderson (@DeidreHenderson) March 1, 2023