Gabby Petito case places focus on how local police handle domestic incidents

Jeff Reynolds, with the Family and Children's Association, says what happened or didn't happen during that police response in Utah is a teachable moment for police and the public.

News 12 Staff

Sep 22, 2021, 7:43 PM

Updated 1,024 days ago

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The police body camera video of Utah authorities speaking with Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie after receiving a 911 call is raising questions about how local police are trained to handle domestic incidents.
The country has been captivated by the disappearance and death of 22-year-old Petito and the search for Laundrie.
The Aug. 12 video shows a distraught Petito and a calmer Laundrie following an argument that caused two people to call 911 and report it. No charges were filed, but the two were separated.
One of Petito's best friends in Florida, Rose Davis, told News 12 that Laundrie was controlling and jealous.
"Like that's a red flag. That's a toxic trait," says Davis.
Jeff Reynolds is with the Family and Children's Association, a social services organization for vulnerable children and families. Reynolds posted on Instagram that the police response speaks volumes about how much work still needs to be done to train law enforcement personnel.
Reynolds says the incident was written up as a mental health episode not as a domestic violence case.
A newly obtained police statement from one of the witnesses to the fight said, "From my point of view something definitely didn't seem right."
No charges were filed and Laundrie was taken to a hotel. Reynolds points out that in the video Laundrie fist bumps with the male officer.
"The fact that he got the ride, the fact that he got the fist bump that may speak to the need for more training," says Reynolds. "I think it needs to be top of line in terms of the ongoing training, and quite frankly, exposure to victims on an ongoing basis might help the sensitivity on these issues."
Here on the Island, police receive 14 hours of domestic violence training in the academy and retrain every few years. Nassau and Suffolk police departments say they have a strong pro-arrest policy for domestic violence incidents and that all incidents are recorded on a New York state Domestic Incident Report.
A few years ago, the Suffolk County Legislature added another layer of protection for domestic violence victims, requiring police officers who respond to incidents to give victims a risk assessment.
Legislator Kara Hahn crafted the law and said, "It's important that victims know their true risk."
Reynolds says there are resources on the Island, like VIBS and the Safe Center of Long Island. People can also call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1800-799-SAFE.


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