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Stonington police partner with Safe Futures to tackle domestic violence issues

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Stonington — Stonington police, who have handled a homicide and three serious assaults related to domestic violence in the past year, are joining with the area's domestic violence experts to prevent more incidents and assist victims.

Under an agreement signed Friday with Safe Futures, Lindsey Michaels, a victim advocate, will be available to review domestic violence calls and follow up with victims. Michaels already works with police in Norwich, Groton Town, Ledyard, Waterford, East Lyme and, soon, New London, according to Katherine Verano, executive director of Safe Futures.

Michaels likely will be at the Stonington Police Department one day a week and available by phone at other times. The service will be funded through a federal Victims of Crime Act at no extra cost to the town. The start date and other logistics are being worked out and will be announced soon, according to police Capt. Todd Olson.

The police department had a domestic violence coordinator on its staff for about five years, beginning in about 2000, which was paid for by a federal grant. When the grant ended, the position was funded by the town for a few years before ending. Police Chief Darren Stewart said Stonington police have continued to undergo domestic violence training and maintain a good relationship with Safe Futures.

"We're always talking to each other about what we can do, and this fell into place," Stewart said Friday. 

Domestic violence cases are difficult because police departments have limited staff and don't have time to spend on domestic cases.

"You're at the scene, an arrest is made and there are certain requirements," Stewart said. "But at this time, it goes into the court system and there's no follow-up with the victim."

The partnership involves Safe Futures, the Stonington Human Services Department, the police youth officer and its chaplain program.

Safe Futures offers a wide array of free and confidential services and wants to help prevent more cases like the Nov. 30 fatal stabbing of Brandia Irvin, 41, at her Pawcatuck home. Her live-in boyfriend, Carlton Henderson, was charged in the crime, which police said was witnessed by Irvin's 12-year-old son. Irvin had not sought help from police or Safe Futures.

The Law Enforcement Victim Advocate will be working with police but officers won't be involved in every case. Verano said Michaels would be able to look at police reports of domestic violence and reach out without the police if somebody did not want them involved. The victim advocate will help with safety planning and protective orders and steer the person toward other services.

Michaels also could go out on calls with police, Verano said.

In February 2019, Stonington police charged a local woman with repeatedly stabbing a man at the America's Best Value Inn on Route 1.

A month later, police say a Pawcatuck man stomped on his girlfriend's chest, breaking several ribs that required surgery to repair.

In May, police said a 44-year-old man stabbed his girlfriend numerous times in front of her children.

"We don't want this to happen in our communities," Stewart said. "We want programs available to people and want the public to know if there's issues in the family they can get help."

In addition to Stewart and Verano, Friday's signing ceremony was attended by First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough, Police Commissioners Robert O'Shaughnessy, Robert Tabor and Bill Turn, and Kristen King, the town's youth and family services administrator.

k.florin@theday.com

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