Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joann Downey, Gabriela Mosquera, Pamela Lampitt and Daniel Benson to enhance domestic violence training at the local level gained unanimous approval Thursday from the full Assembly.
The bill (A-2185) would establish mandatory domestic violence training for municipal prosecutors.
"We've come a long way from the days when domestic violence was viewed as just a 'family problem,'" said Singleton (D-Burlington). "Heightened awareness and training throughout the law enforcement community has actually helped increase prosecution rates against offenders. Taking domestic violence training to the next level with a coordinated approach among all facets of law enforcement will help us protect even more women and families."
"Domestic violence has a long past, but a relatively short history when it comes to our response as a society," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We've seen tremendous progress in the last few decades and as a result more offenders have been prosecuted and more families saved. But the fact is, it's still prevalent and tearing families apart so we need to boost our coordinated response at all levels of law enforcement."
Under the bill, the Attorney General, in consultation with the county and municipal prosecutors, shall develop or identify curricula for domestic violence training and may develop or identify curricula for other training programs for municipal prosecutors. Participation in the domestic violence training program would be mandatory while other such training programs would be voluntary.
"This is extremely important because local officials are usually the first line of defense for domestic violence victims," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "Requiring training for local prosecutors will ensure that they are full prepared to recognize and respond appropriately to domestic violence offenses."
"Having lived through domestic violence growing up, I can tell you that it's a frightening experience, particularly when you're a child who is witnessing it but is essentially helpless to resolve the situation," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "It makes a world of difference to know that there are people on your side who are trained, equipped and ready to advocate for you and that's what this bill will ensure."
The bill also stipulates that a municipal prosecutor may satisfy the requirement of participating in the domestic violence training program if they successfully complete a training program offered by the Attorney General, a county prosecutor, or any other public entity that provides a training program that conforms to the requirements described in paragraph of the domestic violence statutes. Nothing in the bill would preclude the provision of continuing legal education credits for the completion of such a training program.
"This training requirement is part of a concerted statewide effort to make sure everyone involved in responding to domestic violence victims is properly trained on the issue," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "This sends a message to domestic violence victims that we are all on your side - from local prosecutors and police officers to county prosecutors and state police"
"Municipal prosecutors deal with an untold number of domestic violence related cases," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "It's important that they're thoroughly trained on every facet of the issue so they can recognize the signs, symptoms and severity of abuse in order to more effectively protect victims and their families."
Additionally, the bill stipulates that no governing body shall appoint, and no person shall serve as, a municipal prosecutor unless they have successfully completed a domestic violence training course of at least four hours.
The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration. It would take effect on the first day of the sixth month following enactment.