State’s first detailed report on domestic-violence cases has a wealth of data on how courts and law enforcement handle them

Kentucky Health News
“Kentucky has long had a problem with domestic violence,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. “A 2012 survey found that 45% of women and 35% of men” in the state have been victims of domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking, “according to a new report released Friday, marking the first time the commonwealth has ever tracked the data. Now the commonwealth will begin to dig into the details with a debut domestic-violence report that will set a baseline for police reports, protective orders issues, court cases and other information.”

The 207-page report has a wealth of information about how domestic violence is handled by courts and law-enforcement agencies at regional and local levels. It covers the 14,199 charges and 8,867 arrests related to domestic violence in 2022, and the outome of the 19,986 petitions courts received for emergency protective orders in criminal and civil cases.

For example, it gives the average number of days that it takes individual law-enforcement agencies to serve EPOs on people accused of domestic violence or threats of violence, based on reports by the agencies. Statewide, the average is 2.22 days, but in many counties, especially in Appalachian Kentucky, service is much slower, perhaps putting potential victims at greater risk.

Law-enforcement agencies that averaged 10 days or more (excluding those with fewer than 10 EPOs served) to serve EPOs were: Adair County sheriff (12 days), Bell County sheriff (13), Breckinridge County sheriff (12), Calloway County sheriff (14), Corbin Police Department (19), Garrard County sheriff (15), Laurel County sheriff (10), Lawrence County sheriff (11), Martin County sheriff (11), McCreary County sheriff (15), Perry County sheriff (10), Rockcastle County sheriff (15), Spencer County sheriff (13), Wayne County sheriff (10), Whitley County sheriff (12), Williamsburg Police Department (10); and Wolfe County sheriff (13).

Agencies that averaged 7 days or more (excluding those with fewer than 10 EPOs served) were: Anderson County Sheriff’s Department (8 days), Danville Police Department (8), Estill County sheriff (9), Fayette County sheriff (7), Franklin County sheriff (7), Grayson County sheriff (7), Harrison County sheriff (7), Jefferson County sheriff (7), Jessamine County sheriff (7), Knox County sheriff (9), Letcher County sherifff (7), Lincoln County sheriff (7), Marshall County sheriff (7), Pendleton County sheriff (8), Pulaski County sheriff (8), Russell County sheriff (7), and Todd County sheriff (9).

Data on how courts handle domestic violence is not given by judge, court or jurisdiction, but by the state’s 15 area development districts.

It shows that judges in the Lincoln Trail ADD (Meade, Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, LaRue, Marion, Nelson and Washington counties) approved only 40 percent of the petitions for EPOs regarding domestic violence, and 31 percent of those for tempotrary interpersonal protective orders.

Judges in the Northern Kentucky ADD (Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Owen, Grant and Pendleton counties) had the next lowest approval rates, 63 and 45 percent. The statewide averages, respectively, were 72 and 60 percent.

In divorce and other civil cases where domestic violence was alleged, judges in the Cumberland Valley ADD (Jackson, Rockcastle, Laurel, Clay, Knox, Whitley, Bell and Harlan counties) had the lowest approval rate, 16.9%. Lincoln Trail was second-lowest at 19.8%, just ahead of the Kentucky River ADD (Wolfe, Owsley, Lee, Breathitt, Leslie, Perry, Knott, and Letcher counties), at 19.9%.

In civil cases where other interpersonal violence was alleged, judges in the Gateway ADD (Bath, Montgomery, Menifee, Rowan and Morgan counties) had the lowest approval rate, 9.1%. The next lowest rate, 12 percent, was in the adjoining Fivco ADD (Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Greenup and Lawrence counties). It was 14.9% in the Cumberland Valley ADD.

Generally, judges in the Bluegrass, Purchase and Green River ADDs were the most likely to issue protective orders.

The report was required by a 2022 law sponsored by state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Christian County. “Before this report, domestic violence advocacy groups had used a newspaper clipping service to keep track of domestic violence homicides,” the Herald-Leader reports.

Westerfield, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, learned of the lack of centralized reporting from Herald-Leader Opinion Editor Linda Blackford. “It’s just unacceptable,” he told her as the bill mved through the legislature. “We can’t make informed public policy decisions without good information.”

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