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Panel OKs Bill to Put Teeth Into Restraining Orders

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Assembly committee on Tuesday approved legislation intended to prevent domestic violence by requiring police to respond quickly to threats against people who have restraining orders protecting them from harassment.

The bill, approved by the Public Safety Committee, was prompted by the killings of Maria Navarro and three other women in East Los Angeles last year. The women were slain minutes after Navarro called the 911 emergency line to request police protection because she had been warned that her estranged husband was on his way to her home and had threatened to kill her.

The sheriff’s dispatcher told Navarro that there was nothing police could do until the man arrived at her house. The next call from the home was from someone reporting that four women, including Navarro, had been fatally shot.

The intent of the bill is to give teeth to the court-approved restraining orders that women such as Navarro obtain to protect themselves from others, usually husbands or boyfriends, who have threatened them, Assemblyman Patrick Nolan (R-Glendale) said.

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“Women receive these orders thinking they are receiving protection, but they’re only worth the paper they’re printed on,” said Nolan, author of the Assembly bill.

There are 40,000 restraining orders outstanding in Los Angeles County alone, said CarolAnn Peterson, a consultant to the California Assn. of Business and Professional Women. But Peterson said police in Los Angeles and elsewhere do not do enough to enforce those orders.

“Victims of violence have been abandoned by the legal system that was designed to protect them,” Peterson said.

Under Nolan’s bill, police and sheriff’s departments would have to prioritize the kind of calls received and rank among the most important domestic-violence calls from women who have protective orders. “This is not just someone calling and saying, ‘Gee, I think I’m in danger,’ ” Nolan said. “This is someone who already has convinced a court that they are in danger.”

Nolan originally proposed requiring departments to give domestic violence calls priority “over other requests for assistance where violence has occurred.” But on Tuesday he amended the bill to allow police to delay their response if other calls they are handling are more important.

The amendments were aimed at winning support from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which has defended its action in the Navarro case and opposed Nolan’s bill. The department has said it would be overwhelmed if it responded to every call it gets from people who feel threatened.

Deputy Sheriff John T. Cleary said the department may support the amended bill. “We just felt that (the original bill) took a lot of discretion away from us,” Cleary said.


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