February 29, 1996 By Wayne Hanson
While Cartier was in jail, Boston Municipal Court issued an arrest warrant for failure to report to his probation officer. Corrections didn't know what probation was doing, judges in one town didn't know what judges in another town had ordered, and suspended sentences were disconnected from probation violations.
"The system is so witless," wrote Lardner, "that when the dead Cartier failed to show up in Boston Municipal Court as scheduled on June 19, a warrant was issued for his arrest. It was still outstanding when the Post article I wrote was published the following November."
As testament that good can come of even the most terrible events, Lardner's article on his daughter's death won a Pulitzer Prize for feature stories, and brought attention to the problem of domestic abuse and its neglect by authorities.
On Sept 23, 1992 -- four months after Kristin Lardner's murder -- Massachusetts Gov. Weld signed a bill authorizing a computerized Domestic Violence Registry. Into the statewide registry -- the first of its kind in the nation -- go domestic restraining orders and violations of those orders. The bill requires judges to check the registry when considering petitions for domestic restraining orders to spot prior offenses, outstanding warrants or probationary status. Now, when a restraining order is issued, a simple database search effectively closes the door on repeat or multiple offenders like Cartier.
According to Charles McDonald, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety, the Kristin Lardner case was partially responsible for the new registry. At the bill's signing in 1992, Lt. Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci said "While we cannot reclaim the lives already lost, we can help other lives from being claimed."
During the Domestic Violence Registry's first year of operation, more than 50,000 victims asked for civil restraining orders. More than 75 percent of the abusers had at least one prior criminal offense. Half had a history of assaults, rapes and threats. Twelve percent of abusers were already under probation supervision at the time of the new restraining order.
The registry also corrected a legal absurdity. In The Stalking of Kristin, Lardner cites Suffolk County, Mass., Sheriff Robert Rufo and McDonald, both of whom decried "the absurdity of a system that prevented drivers from getting their licenses renewed if they had an outstanding parking ticket but routinely permitted criminal defendants to go free when there were warrants out for their arrest." Parking tickets had a central registry which could be accessed by every DMV office in the state -- criminal offenses didn't. The registry's success has spurred other information coordination efforts.
Kathleen O'Toole, secretary of Massachusetts' Executive Office of Public Safety, oversees 22 agencies ranging from motor vehicles to corrections and fire services. Historically, she said, valuable agency databases were not linked.
O'Toole -- who began as a Boston police officer and is now on loan to Gov. Weld's cabinet from the Massachusetts State Police -- knows firsthand the reluctance to share sensitive information. "But we've got to put those days behind us," she said. She cited the example of Public Safety overseeing parole, while the courts oversee probation. "Sometimes we're supervising the same clients."
O'Toole is an enthusiastic supporter of information technology and information sharing. Her vision encompasses a statewide voice and data infrastructure for all public safety officials.
She described police cruisers becoming "paperless offices" with access to a wide range of information. Already the state has streamlined drunk driving arrests, giving officers access to prior arrest records and cutting -- from two hours down to five minutes -- the time required to process a suspect. The state
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