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December 15, 2012

Terre Haute Police change protocol for DCS notification

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute Police are now notifying the state’s child protection agency when officers respond to a scene that meets a domestic violence protocol followed when children, drugs or weapons are found at the scene.

The change in practice has resulted in the state Department of Child Services being notified at least four times in the past week about incidents that meet the protocol, Police Chief John Plasse told the Tribune-Star on Friday.

Plasse and THPD came under scrutiny after DCS officials said the police department, which had signed the protocol last year, had not notified DCS of a domestic violence incident involving a handgun at the North 12th Street home of Larry and Nikki Russell in May 2012. Five children resided in the home at the time that Larry Russell was arrested on a charge of domestic battery in the presence of minors.

The Russells, who were still foster parents only a month prior to the May incident, were arrested Nov. 23 on allegations of neglect and abuse of three of their adopted children.

Plasse said that the uniform division of the police department has been reminded of the domestic violence reporting protocol, and it is up to the supervisors of each shift to report qualifying events to the state DCS hotline or office.

Domestic violence events involving drugs or weapons in the presence of children have been reported at least four times recently, the police chief said. The THPD protocol has been expanded to include faxing a copy of the incident report to DCS, and to keep a confirmation receipt of that fax as proof that DCS has been notified.

Plasse said that the reporting officers have requested a confirmation number from the hotline operator, but are not given a code or number to verify a phone call has been made and the guidelines are being followed.

DCS spokesperson Stephanie McFarland said that verbal confirmation of the call is what is given to officers who follow the protocol. She said that police may request a written confirmation as soon as the next day. However, calls that are not investigated by DCS or that are unsubstantiated are purged from the DCS call center reporting system in six months.

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    March 12, 2010