What is the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement?

The Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement (DA-LE) is an 11 question, evidence-based risk assessment instrument that identifies victims at the highest risk of intimate partner homicide (IPH) and near-lethal assault.

The DA-LE was designed to be easily administered by responding law enforcement officers and to supplement the police report. High-risk victims are immediately connected to services and the DA-LE is provided to the court to inform criminal proceedings.

Below, we have included more information about the Geiger Institute and the role the DA-LE plays in preventing intimate partner violence.

Use of the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement

The DA-LE instrument was designed to be useful to the court and has a built-in cutoff score that screen in approximately 30% of cases into the high-risk category. This helps decision-makers focus on the most dangerous cases and helps to identify a manageable volume of cases for intensive risk management when used within the context of Domestic Violence High Risk Teams (DVHRT).  

The survivor is the sole source of information used to complete the DA-LE. It does not rely on the defendant’s criminal record to measure risk, reducing the likelihood that its results will reflect systemic bias in the justice system. The DA-LE is completed on-scene and is immediately available for use by the domestic violence response system.

Development of the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement

The DA-LE was developed through a researcher and practitioner partnership between the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center and two leading researchers in the field of IPH, Dr. Jacquelyn C. Campbell (PhD, RN, FAAN of Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing) and Dr. Jill Theresa Messing (MSW, PhD of Arizona State University School of Social Work).  It is a shorter derivative of the Danger Assessment instrument, also created by Dr. Campbell. 

Two separate data sources were used from previously conducted studies to both create and test the DA-LE.  Risk assessment instruments are measured by their predictive validity, the accuracy with which they can predict future events.  Testing revealed that the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement has considerable predictive validity with no significant differences across race or ethnicity.

DA-LE Approach to Intimate Partner Homicide Reduction

Identifying victims at risk of being killed is only the first step. The Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement approach to reducing IPH includes two key intervention points: 

  1. there is a coordinated response from law enforcement and domestic violence advocates to connect high-risk victims with supportive services
  2. the DA-LE is provided to the court to inform decisions. The DA-LE can also be used to identify high-risk cases for monitoring by a DVHRT or another multi-disciplinary team. 

Law Enforcement and Domestic Violence Advocates

Close partnership between law enforcement and domestic violence advocacy organizations is critical to the DA-LE approach. Due to the complex nature of domestic violence, a law enforcement response alone is often not enough. After identifying high-risk victims through use of the DA-LE, law enforcement officers immediately connect them to services through a customized connection protocol.

How Intimate Partner Homicide is Preventable

Research has found that many victims of intimate partner homicide have contact with law enforcement prior to their murder. Anywhere between 39-91% of female victims of IPH were in contact with law enforcement prior to their homicide. Victims are also more likely to underestimate than overestimate their risk of being killed by their partner. 

These findings indicate that law enforcement has a unique opportunity to identify cases that are escalating towards homicide and help survivors understand their risk. Once a victim understands their risk, they are more likely to take self-protective actions including engaging with domestic violence services and reaching out to friends and family.

Risk Information Provided to the Court

The DA-LE is a supplement to the police report that contains information about risk and the history of violence in the relationship beyond the current incident. It is immediately available to the court and is intended to inform decisions that are critical to victim safety.  

The pretrial period can be a dangerous time for victims, particularly if they have recently left the relationship or have become estranged from their abusive partner. The Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement provides critical information to prosecutors, judges and others making pretrial decisions. 

Pretrial release decisions must balance the constitutional rights of the defendant with victim safety concerns. Detention and monetary bond should be reserved for defendants who pose a greater risk to a specific victim or to the public. The DA-LE provides critical information about risk to the court and helps the court distinguish between defendants who pose a greater risk to their victims from those who pose a lower risk. 

For more information regarding the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement, please do not hesitate to contact Geiger Institute today.

To continue reading about the DA-LE approach, download a PDF of this information here.

Why the Geiger Institute? Why Now? 

New solutions are needed. Intimate partner violence and intimate partner homicide disproportionately impact certain communities. While rates of women killed by intimate partners declined in the U.S. between 1980 and 1995, this trend reversed and, as of 2008, there has been a 5% increase in the proportion of women killed by an intimate partner since 1980. Further, Black women are murdered by men at a rate more than 2.5 times higher than white women and 61% of all homicides of Hispanic women were IPV-related, a higher proportion than any other ethnic group. Now, there is even more urgency as the risk and severity of domestic violence has increased due to the environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We want to again work to identify and close systemic gaps, closely examine the effectiveness of approaches in groups experiencing higher rates of intimate partner violence and customize our work in Black and brown communities to make sure they have pathways to safety. There is an unprecedented opportunity to look at how we can better partner with communities and bring together effective practices, the latest research and strong partnerships with sharpened focus and attention in order to affect change and have greater impact in reducing domestic violence homicide. 

Origin of the DVHRT Model

In 2002, while advocates at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center were trying to help a woman named Dorothy find safety from her abusive husband, she was killed in her home as her daughter was on the phone with the police. Her husband was released by the court four days before on low-cash bail. After Dorothy was killed, the advocates set out to understand where the system had failed her and how to prevent this from happening again.

From this event, the Domestic Violence High Risk Team (DVHRT) was born. The model is based on the research of Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell from Johns Hopkins University that identified the risk factors present when a woman is killed by their intimate partner. The team-based model looks to identify and close systemic gaps and bring together community partners that previously operated in silos.

The first DVHRT in Newburyport, Massachusetts is still in place today. In the ten years prior to its implementation, there were eight domestic violence-related deaths in the greater Newburyport community; since starting in 2005, the team has accepted 200 high-risk cases resulting in zero homicides.

Working in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, advocates and community leaders, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center has now trained communities in over 200 jurisdictions across the U.S. in the DVHRT model as well as the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement Tool (DA-LE). The Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) recognized the DVHRT Model as a “leading promising practice” in intimate partner homicide prevention.