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Domestic violence training proposed for Pittsburgh officers

| Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

Pittsburgh police would be trained to evaluate the risk of death for victims of domestic violence and offer them immediate access to a telephone helpline under a plan from city Councilman Ricky Burgess.

Burgess said he plans to introduce legislation on Tuesday that would require officers who answer domestic violence calls to undergo training provided by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

He said the bill was prompted by the death of Ka‘Sandra Wade, 33, of Larimer, who police believe was shot by her boyfriend on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

“I've always been concerned about domestic violence,” Burgess said. “We have been looking at models (for evaluating domestic violence victims). The incident in Larimer certainly sped up and focused that analysis.”

Two Pittsburgh police officers answered an “unknown trouble” call from Wade on New Year's Eve, but left her home without talking to her. Her boyfriend, Anthony L. Brown, 51, of Point Breeze told police there was no problem and refuse to let them in.

Police found Wade dead in her home the next day. Brown killed himself on Jan. 2 during a standoff with police at his home.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said Burgess discussed his bill with Chief Nate Harper, but she could provide no further details.

Harper was unavailable on Monday.

Mike LaPorte, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, representing Pittsburgh police officers, did not return a call.

Under Burgess' legislation, police would be trained to ask a suspected domestic violence victim 11 questions to determine the risk of homicide or serious harm. If the risk is high, they would immediately offer the person on-spot access to a domestic violence helpline provided by the Woman's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

Counselors would advise the person of warning signs that can predict escalating violence and offer information about shelters.

The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, which designed the training program, reports a 60 percent reduction in severe assault when victims use domestic violence advocacy programs.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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