HARTFORD — The bruises on the woman's face and neck are turning purple, and the police officer who has responded dutifully describes the injuries in his domestic violence report and arrests the offender.

But two weeks later, with the case still in the early stages of the court process, the woman's injuries have healed and other factors that make crimes like these so difficult to prosecute - fear of uprooting the children, economic dependence - have kicked in. The woman in this hypothetical case is hesitant to cooperate with prosecutors. With words in a police report the only link to the incident, the batterer is emboldened by her reluctance.

On Tuesday, state law officers will begin to distribute digital cameras and other new tools to the police that will dampen that boldness, that will take the consequences of these crimes, and, in the words of Hartford Assistant Police Chief Brian Heavren, "put it right in front of you."

Inspector Ken Edwards of the chief state's attorney's office in Rocky Hill obtained 400 domestic violence evidence kits through a $100,000 federal grant.

Twenty-seven police departments, including those in Hartford, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Manchester, and Torrington, will be getting a share of the kits based on the size of the department. Hartford will get 45, for example, and Rocky Hill, 10.

Each embroidered, black nylon bag will include a compact digital camera, a straight ruler to provide scale to the wounds, checklists and guides on the strangulation and sexual assault laws, and reference numbers and information on victims' rights, emergency shelters and protective orders.

Putting more cameras in the hands of uniformed patrol officers, who don't typically carry them, means more timely, compelling documentation of injuries in family violence cases, where minutes matter.

"If an officer has to send for a camera from headquarters, circumstances can change by the time we get it to the scene," said Lt. Bruce Whiteley of the Torrington Police Department. "The victim might be bandaged by that time, or at the hospital. Having the cameras on hand will make it more convenient for the victim and help the investigation."

Edwards, a retired New London police captain, works in State's Attorney Kevin Kane's special domestic vio- lence unit. He's teamed with a prosecutor, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Dunn. They want to equip another 35 departments with the kits next year, and eventually distribute them to every police agency in the state - if the grant money from the federal Office on Violence Against Women holds out.

If a victim is unable or unwilling to cooperate in a case, "these digital pictures can speak for the victim," Edwards said. "Sometimes, domestic violence cases are pushed to trial because the offender becomes confident - there's no visible injuries and the victim may not want to testify. The pictures take the confidence away."

In Hartford, domestic violence accounts for more than half of the aggravated assaults in the city each year. The police department is in the process of assigning a sergeant and two detectives to a unit that will focus solely on family violence investigations.

The combination of the team, which is on track to start work in January, and the 45 evidence kits for patrol officers, should make for stronger cases in court, Heavren said.

"There's still some undervaluing in society of the seriousness of domestic violence," Heavren said. "The pictures will truly demonstrate the extent of the problem. And they provide a permanent record that will document an escalation of violence in the case of repeat offenders."

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