TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly on Monday passed a bill expanding training for judges, law enforcement officers and assistant county prosecutors on the handling of domestic violence cases. The bill is based on recommendations from a report issued by the 2015 Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic Violence and is sponsored by committee member Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz.
“In order to save lives and protect survivors, it is so important to equip our judicial system and officers with the tools to appropriately respond to domestic violence cases,” Munoz (R-Union) said. “Domestic violence has been a shadow pandemic as victims lost work or became isolated due to government shutdowns. Covid has underscored the urgency to get this bill passed and signed. We need to rebuild survivors’ safety nets.”
The bill (A1964/S384) requires assistant county prosecutors, municipal and Superior Court judges, and judicial personnel involved with domestic violence complaints, to participate in training on the dynamics of domestic violence, the impact on children, danger assessments, batterer intervention, survivor services, and risk factors and lethality. Judges would also focus on restraining order issues.
“While law enforcement is our first line of defense, a better informed and thoughtful response from judges handling domestic violence cases will serve to encourage more survivors to come forward. A more coordinated approach can help stop dangerous patterns of abuse,” Munoz added.
Police officers would be required to undergo periodic in-person training and gain an understanding of when domestic violence incidents trigger mandatory or discretionary arrests.
According to the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, requests for domestic violence services jumped 20% in 2020. One program recorded a 188% increase in the number of shelter nights provided to survivors and their children in the last quarter of 2020, and another had the highest number of hotline calls they had received in 10 years.