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EDITORIAL: Reform Pa. domestic violence laws now

York Dispatch
YorkDispatch

We ask the community to join us in our call for swift reform following the heartbreaking and infuriating deaths of Laurie Kepner and her friend Barbara Schrum.

Laurie's estranged husband, Martin Kepner, killed the pair when they returned to Laurie's former home to gather her belongings. Martin Kepner then turned the gun on himself.

Laurie called state police barracks in Loganville to request an escort. She tried.

But state police tell us they don't "get involved in civil matters involving asset distribution" unless, when the victim is already in the home there is "a problem that rises to the level of criminality."

So, after the abuser commits a criminal act, the police will come.

In this case, that procedural response was too little too late.

Schrum accompanied Laurie to the home knowing she was frightened and could not get law enforcement to do what is referred to as a "standby."

We hope you are as outraged as we are.

We understand that law enforcement must follow protocol, which is put in place to protect officers and the community in potentially volatile situations.

We know that domestic violence calls can be among the most dangerous of law-enforcement calls. But police are often required to respond to dangerous calls. That's a part of the job description.

For victims of domestic abuse, the bureaucracy can be an insurmountable obstacle.

For example, police won't accompany a domestic abuse victim to retrieve their belongings without a protection-from-abuse (PFA) order. But those orders can be difficult to obtain.

Additionally, if you are a victim of domestic abuse and you call law enforcement, you will likely be referred somewhere else, such as to a constable.

However, constables typically will not perform that service due to personal safety and insurance concerns. So why are victims referred to them?

This potentially life-threatening circle of bureaucracy has to stop.

We ask the community to join us in calling on the state Legislature and law enforcement agencies to come together immediately to find a solution.

Public servants must now be focused on protecting the most vulnerable among us before one more life is lost.