Lawmaker wants domestic violence deaths tracked

A state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require that domestic violence homicides and other related crimes be tracked for the first time in Kentucky.

State Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, said Wednesday that the legislation he is sponsoring would require the Administrative Office of the Courts to create a database of domestic violence convictions that he hopes will lead to better laws and policies.

"I don't think we can't get a true picture of the scope of domestic violence in Kentucky until we get the statistical information," Lee said.

"We know its bad. But we don't know how bad."

Lee said he decided to introduce the bill after constituents contacted him in response to a Herald-Leader article published in September that showed that Kentucky does not systematically collect information on domestic violence.

"I think a lot of people were shocked that we didn't," said Lee.

The Sept. 11 murder in Lexington of 29-year-old Amanda Ross, allegedly by her ex-fiance Steve Nunn, has refocused attention on preventing domestic violence. Nunn, a former state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate, has pleaded not guilty to the crime.

Lee, the chairman of the House human services budget subcommittee, said he thought the costs of collecting a database of information would "be very small" since data about other convictions are already collected.

Lee's bill specifically calls for tracking domestic violence convictions and diversion program sentences that involve deaths, physical injuries, sexual contact and unlawful restraint. It would be searchable by offense, county and date.

The court would withdraw the entry if the conviction was reversed.

Lee's bill would also require all law enforcement agencies to provide their officers with domestic violence training every two years.

Several advocates said Wednesday that they supported the legislation.

The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, based in Frankfort, has been working with Lee on the legislation and supports it, said Sherry Currens, executive director.

Teri Faragher, director of the Fayette County Domestic Violence Prevention Board, said: "I think we can do a lot better job of addressing domestic violence if we can really understand how often it occurs, what tactics people use, how cases move through the criminal justice system."

"When we can't even identify how many fatalities we have in our state in a year, we can't learn much," Faragher said. "To me it's all about preventing injuries and deaths in the future."

Lee's bill is the second piece of legislation that would allow dating couples to get domestic violence orders. A similar bill has been introduced by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively.

Another bill, proposed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would allow a court to impose electronic monitoring as a condition of bail for a person charged with a crime of domestic violence or violation of a protective order, which orders an alleged assailant to stay away from a victim.

Victims of domestic violence would be allowed to wear a device, if they choose, to alert them when the person with the order comes within a certain distance.