OFFICERS KNOWLEDGE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & ITS VICTIMS
Megan Bums Pratt
B.A., University of Colorado Boulder, 2003
A thesis proposal submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Criminal Justice (M.C.J)
School of Public Affairs
This thesis for the Master of Criminal Justice
Megan Bums Pratt
has been approved
Pratt, Megan B. (Master of Criminal Justice)
First Contact: Officer Knowledge of Domestic Violence and its Victims
Thesis directed by Mary Dodge
Law enforcement agencies continue to struggle with issues related to
understanding, defining, and investigating domestic violence incidents. This
research was designed to explore the perceptions, opinions, and impact of training
for officers who deal with domestic violence offenders and victims in the criminal
justice system. Survey data were collected from municipal and county law
enforcement agencies in Colorado. The research provides insights into how
officers respond to making arrests and the strengths and weaknesses of
departmental education. Overall, officers are better trained and subscribe to fewer
myths regarding intimate partner violence. The results provide context and
content for developing a more successful training program in domestic violence
for police officers.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
To my father for his inspiration and life-long support. His dedication to the
empowerment of women has inspired me to follow his lead. To Mary Dodge for
her mentorship and friendship. To my husband, John, for his love and support.
I would like to acknowledge Drs. Mary Dodge and Angela Gover and Jerry
Williams for their support and use of resources to make this research possible. I
would also like to acknowledge Dagmar Paul and Lindsey Apodaca for their
contributions to the research. To Kelly Anderson-Block for her advise and
expertise of research and domestic violence.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. A PREVIOUS REVIEW OF LITERATURE..............................4
The Arizona Study........................................4
How Well Are Officer Training............................6
Arrest Policies and Research.............................7
Officer Perceptions of DV Incidents.....................12
Victim Perceptions of Police............................17
Victim Perceptions of Police........................18
3. METHOD .....................................................20
Participants and Procedure..............................20
Situational & Training Perceptions......................26
Opinions Related to Arrests........................28
Attitudes Toward Contextual Dynamics...............32
Influence of Same-Sex Relationships................36
Influence of Substance Abuse.......................37
Influence of Race..................................37
A. HUMAN SUBJECTS APPROVAL...............................43
B. INFORMED CONSENT LETTER...............................45
C. SURVEY INSTRUMENT.....................................48
LIST OF FIGURES
4.1 GENDER FREQUENCY .................................24
4.2 RACE & ETHNICITY..................................25
4.3 REPEAT CALLS ARE A PROBLEM........................28
4.4 IT IS BEST TO ARREST BOTH PARTIES.................32
4.5 VICTIMS COULD EASILY LEAVE........................35
4.6 DV CALLS TAKE TOO MUCH TIME & EFFORT..............35
LIST OF TABLES
4.1 OFFICER RANK.....................................25
4.2 YEARS AT CURRENT AGENCY..........................26
4.3 OFFICERS NEED MORE TRAINING......................27
4.4 MANDTORY ARREST RESPONSES........................30
4.5 OTHER FACTORS INFLUENCING ARREST.................31
4.6 OFFICER PERCEPTIONS OF DV CALLS..................34
4.7 INFLUENCE OF SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS..............36
4.8 INFLUENCE OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE.....................37
4.9 INFLUENCE OF RACE................................38
In the 1970s, the womens movement shed substantial light on the hidden
problem of domestic violence (DV). Once the public became aware of the plight
of battered women, focus turned toward the lack of action by law enforcement.
Soon, women brought litigation against law enforcement agencies for not being
more proactive in their attempts to assist and protect victims of domestic violence.
Eventually, attitudes toward domestic violence changed and mandatoiy arrest
policies were implemented across the nation. Almost forty years later, however,
the criminal justice system faces many of the same challenges related to providing
treatment and protection to victims of intimate partner violence.
Previous research on domestic violence varies widely in substance and
method. Domestic violence studies are multifaceted and include, for example,
police attitudes and victims perceptions (Ferraro, 1989; Robinson, 2000;
Stanko,1989; Worden & Pollitz, 1984); the increase in female arrests (Henning &
Feder, 2004; Martin, 1997); changes in domestic violence policies (Mignon &
Holmes, 1995; Simpson, Bouffard, Gemer & Hickman, 2006); and treatment of
same sex partners in domestic violence incidents (Herrell, 1996; Pattavina, 2007;
Stanley, Bartholomew, Taylor, Oram, Landolt 2006). In general, research shows
that many factors influence a police officers decision whether to make an arrest
as well as a victims decision to report the incident. The current study focuses on
police perceptions of domestic violence and enduring myths that stem from older,
more conservative viewpoints. In the past, police officers often subscribed to
beliefs that family violence represented a private issue and felt that if the situation
was bad enough, the woman should leave. Research studies and the development
of more progressive attitudes show that these previously held beliefs are
detrimental to the family and the criminal justice systemcontinuing education is
essential to best practices. Many academics and domestic violence advocates
argue that police recruits should receive more in-depth training, despite
substantial efforts that have resulted in positive changes related to law
enforcement attitudes (Eigenberg, 2001; Gaines, Kappeler, & Vaughn, 1999;
Manning & Van Maanen, 1978).
Over the past 30 years, the expectations placed upon law enforcement
officials have changed substantially. Long considered a private family matter,
domestic violence is now treated as a crime by the criminal justice system (Elliot,
1989; Skolnick, 1975; Wilson, 1968). Historically, police officers were trained
to consider domestic violence as a disturbance call that necessitated merely the
restoration of order. Before widespread policy changes were enacted, domestic
violence was seen as a family matter best handled by the parties themselves or by
social service agencies. Domestic violence calls were not seen as real police
work. The preferred method of dealing with domestic violence situations was to
mediate the argument and possibly, separate the couple for a short period of
time while they cooled off. Making arrests in cases of DV was believed to be a
waste of an officers time and a method of last resort. Some commentators
argued that arrest increased the likelihood of future violence. Also, many police
officers thought that victims were untrustworthy and probably did something to
instigate or deserve the abuse. Some law enforcement officials believed that if the
victim was intoxicated, uncooperative, or unlikely to prosecute his or her case,
arrest was a poor use of officer resources. Officers are now instructed to approach
such calls as any other criminal offense (Gosselin, 2003; Buzawa & Buzawa,
2003; Roberts, 2002, Toon & Hart, 2005).
Officers no longer mediate or separate the parties involved in domestic
violence disputes and arrest is the required police response. In many cases, victim
statements taken by officers provide sufficient probable cause for arrest. Finn,
Blackwell, Stalans, Tuddard, & Dugan (2004) found that the presence of injury is
also a good indication for officers as to who is the primary aggressor. In most
jurisdictions, when probable cause exists, arrests are to be made regardless of the
victims characteristics or preferences.
This study looks at current attitudes and beliefs that police officers hold
about domestic violence and its victims. Officers responded to a survey designed
to explore knowledge of polices and procedures pertaining to domestic violence
and perceptions of domestic violence and its victims. The objective is to
determine what policies should be changed or how officer training programs
could be altered to better help victims of domestic violence.
A REVIEW OF PREVIOUS LITERATURE
The Arizona Study
Toon and Hart (2005) from the Morrison Institute for Public Policy
conducted an extensive survey on police attitudes of domestic violence in the state
of Arizona. The researchers hypothesized that most Arizona officers recognize
the seriousness of domestic violence, and would agree that it is best handled by
police intervention. Toon and Hart solicited the views of active-duty officers
throughout Arizona. A total of 777 patrol-level officers completed a confidential
two-page questionnaire. In addition, 31 hour-long interviews were conducted
with detectives. Nearly all officers accepted domestic violence as a real crime
that warrants police intervention. Many officers did not believe that arresting
batterers is an effective deterrent in most cases. Of the officers surveyed, 72%
agreed that many DV victims could easily leave their relationships, but
dont,(Toon & Hart, 2005, p.36) and only 20% agreed most DV victims are
receptive to interventions by law enforcement,(Toon & Hart, 2005, p.33). The
majority of officers indicated that they wanted greater discretion and fewer
guidelines from supervisors about how to handle domestic violence calls.
Many officers seemed resigned to the conclusion that intervening at a
domestic violence scene will, at best, protect the victim for one night. Over time,
this pessimism has further eroded officers appreciation of victims needs,
rendering them less sympathetic and less meticulous in gathering the evidence
necessary for effective prosecution (Toon & Hart, 2005). According to Toon and
Hart, officers take domestic violence seriously and want to protect and help
victims. The research findings also suggest that officers feel caught between a
numbers of conflicting forces and feel isolated in their efforts when handling DV
cases. The researchers, based on the results of the survey, made several
recommendations to help strengthen the domestic violence initiative in Arizona.
First, they promoted domestic violence intervention training for officers. Further
education can aid officers when dealing with domestic violence situations.
Second, they suggested that the community should strengthen its efforts to
prevent domestic violence as well as strengthen Arizonas criminal justice
response to domestic violence. Finally, the researchers proposed that a review be
done on how prosecution functions as part of the overall system.
Like most states, Arizona has criminalized domestic violence by adopting
laws and policies that bolster law enforcement officers arrest powers and require
them to arrest suspects under certain circumstances. On-scene officers often are
the first point of contact with the victim and serve as the gatekeeper to the
criminal justice system. Officers are required to operate within a comprehensive
set of definitive guidelines. They must gather and record sufficient evidence at
the scene to enable prosecution even without victim cooperation serve as de facto
counselors for traumatized victims and their families.
Other research efforts have explored the myths that continue to influence
perceptions and attitudes among police officers. Huisman (2005), for example,
found that police firmly maintained many of the misconceptions of domestic
violence commonly held in the past (see also, Roberts, 2002). Officers in
Huismans study were reluctant to believe the vast majority of batterers are men
and the vast majority of domestic violence victims and survivors are women.
Respondents also believed that many women falsely accuse their partners of
abusing them or their children.
How Well Are Officers Trained?
The primary focus of this research is to determine how officers view
domestic violence calls. In order to productively train police officers, Huisman
(2005) found that trainers must first examine their own stereotypes and biases the
officers hold in order to dismiss the us versus them mentality. Research should
be conducted prior to the actual training to better understand preconceived
notions. Training likely will have more impact when presented by officers who
are well informed on the dynamics and issues in domestic violence. Previous
reseearch shows that follow-up after training sessions is essential to the
effectiveness of the educational process (Huisman, 2005).
Toon and Hart (2005) discovered that officer responses to the need for
more training were mixed. The variance among responses depended on the
content and wording of the questions. Many of the supervisors who supported
more officer training ...saw its main utility in teaching officers about the law,
arrest procedures, and evidence gathering, rather than about the nature of
domestic violence (Toon & Hart, 2005, p. 47). The researchers found that,
despite officers lukewarm feelings towards further training, repeat training did
have a positive effect on certain key understandings of domestic violence issues.
They suggested that further training focused on domestic violence is warranted,
especially for officers fairly new to law enforcement.
The results of Coulter, Kuehnle, Byers, and Alfonsos (1999) study
indicated the need for further systematic training for police officers. Their
research also showed the need for policy development that provides law
enforcement officers a structured format for addressing domestic violence cases.
Without this structure, an officer may be influenced by his or her own personal
history and values. The results suggest that law enforcement members need more
education in recognizing emotional abuse and other less physical forms of
domestic violence. Current barriers to victims reporting emotional abuse and
more covert forms of abuse may be related to the lack of response and protection
by police (Coulter et al., 1999).
Arrest Policies and Research
One important source of change in police pro-active response can be
traced to the famous Minneapolis domestic violence experiments in which arrest
was reported to deter batterers (Sherman & Berk, 1984; Sherman & Cohn, 1989).
In light of these findings and with the support of many victim advocates, most
jurisdictions across the country enacted preferred or mandatory arrest policies that
either allowed or required officers to make an arrest without a warrant in
misdemeanor domestic assault (Simpson et al., 2006). Mandatory arrest policies
became increasingly controversial as arrests increased for women. Researchers
have examined the influence of these policies on a police officers decision to
make a dual arrest.
Between 1991 and 1997 there was an apparent increase in the likelihood
of arrest for domestic assaults. There also appears to be a jump in arrest around
the time of the policy change. Prior to legislative change in November 1994,
arrests were made in about 27% of cases statewide. After the legislation went
into effect, about 39% of domestic violence cases resulted in an arrest (Simpson et
Finn, Backwell, Stalans, Studdard, and Dugan (2004) studied the policy
implications of mandatory arrest. They asked officers to select the best method
for handling a DV incident from a set of pre-determined options. When both
parties involved were injured, 45.8% of officers chose dual arrest. When only the
female was injured, 8% chose dual arrest and 71.3% chose to arrest the male only.
When both parties were injured, women were significantly more likely to be
perceived as acting in self-defense compared to their injured male partners.
Injured women were seen as less credible and more likely to have initiated the
fight with the intention of hurting the man. Overall, the authors found that
officers appear to follow the directions of their agencies. If a permission dual
arrest policy is implemented, officers are more likely to arrest both parties even
without investigation to verify probable cause for each arrest (Finn et al., 2004).
Eitle (2005) used data from the FBIs National Incident Based Reporting
System (NIBRS), the Bureau of Justice Statistics Law Enforcement Management,
and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) to examine arrest probabilities for
domestic violence. His research findings included more than 57,000 domestic
violence cases from 115 police departments nationwide. This study showed that
mandatory arrest policies are associated with an increased arrest risk for domestic
violence cases. Average arrest risk in jurisdictions that have employed a
mandatory arrest policy remained at only 50%. He also found that the gender of
the suspect did not play a role in the arrest. DeLeon-Granados, Wells, and
Binsbacher (2006) also studied the increase in domestic violence cases since
mandatory arrest policies. In contrast to Eitle (2005), their results supported the
hypothesis that female arrests for domestic violence have significantly increased
since the new policies came into place.
To compare the relative changes in domestic violence arrests between
males and females, DeLeon-Granados et al. (2006) explored arrest rate ratios.
Through their analysis, they found that aggregate felony domestic violence arrest
rates more than doubled from 1987 to 1997 in California. The results showed that
rates then declined by 23% from 1997 to 2000, after mandatory arrest policies
came into effect. The researchers also discovered that female arrest rates for
domestic violence increased more than 500% between 1987 and 2000. In 1987,
females represented 5% of all arrests for domestic violence. By 2000, women
represented 18% of all domestic violence arrests (DeLeon-Granados et al., 2006).
The increase in females arrested has caused great concern and questions about
whether or not women are becoming more violent, or if the new policy changes
contributed to the phenomenon.
According to Davis, Smith, and Taylor (2003), the implementation of
mandatory arrest policy in early 1995 produced immediate changes in case
screening practices. The researchers found that the defendants gender remained
one of the best predictors of prosecution after the new charging policy; that is,
male defendants were more likely to be prosecuted than female defendants. One
effect of the new policy was to bring a larger proportion of cases with
uncooperative victims into the court system. After the policy change, a larger
percentage of victims reportedly told officials that they wanted the case dropped.
The conviction rate also declined while pre-trial crime increased. Victim
satisfaction with prosecutors and with court outcomes declined after the
implementation of the new screening policy. Carlson and Nideys (1995) research
supported previous findings and concluded that arresting more batterers does not
necessarily result in more prosecutions (p. 138). They also discovered that
instituting mandatory sentences for domestic violence offenders may reduce
With respect to domestic violence policy, some proponents of mandatory
or pro-arrest policies argue that the laws remove discretion from officers and
sends a message that domestic violence will not be tolerated. Many advocates
also believe that these policies will encourage victims to take action through the
criminal justice system or shelters (Simpson, et al., 2006). Similarly, DeLeon-
Granados et al. (2006) concluded that there has been a failure to adequately plan
for the implementation of mandatory arrest policies and a lack of consideration
for the local realities and wishes of stakeholders such as patrol officers.
Robinson (2000) studied the effect of domestic violence policy change on
police officers schemata. She concentrated on the two different schematics
concerning domestic violence formed by police officers depending on whether
they joined the force before or after the policy change. Overall, the research
showed no statistically significant differences between the two groups. Pre-policy
change officers, however, were more likely to think victims would not support
prosecuting the case compared to post-policy change officers.
Some research efforts have focused on police officer perceptions of
domestic violence and their reasons behind making an arrest. Robinson (2000)
found that officers were three times more likely to make an arrest when the victim
was cohabiting with the suspect. Simpson et al (2006) discovered that police
officers, after the passage of mandatory arrest statutes, were almost equally likely
to make an arrest whether couples were cohabitating or estranged. The same
study showed that the odds of an arrest occurring increased when witnesses were
present and the officers were White. Hall (2005) found that the presence of injury
more than doubled the odds of an arrest being made but only when the suspect
was present at the scene.
According to DeLeon-Granados, Wells, and Binsbacher (2006), some
male batterers have learned how to act and behave in a manner that reduces their
chances of being arrested. There is some evidence to suggest that male domestic
violence suspects manipulate officers at the scene. Compared to their female
counterparts, male suspects minimize their actions, deny responsibility, and shift
blame to the victim (DeLeon-Granados et al., 2006). Batterers manipulations of
the system provide self-protection and helps perpetrators to maintain power and
control over the victim.
Patrol officers have the greatest amount of discretion in domestic violence
cases because they deal with clients alone and are almost solely in charge of
enforcing the most ambiguous laws (Simpson et al, 2006). According to Simpson
and colleagues, the factors believed to affect police arrest decisions include both
legal and extra-legal characteristics. Legally relevant criteria, such as offense
seriousness and prior arrest record, appear to have a more consistent and powerful
affect on arrest decisions than extra-legal factors such as the relationship between
offenders and victims and cohabitation status of the parties. Historically, many
scholars have argued that police are less apt to arrest batterers in domestic
violence situations compared to other violent offenders (Simpson et al., 2006).
Klinger (1995), however, found that arrest is an unlikely outcome for either
spousal assault or other violent disputes.
Simpson et al. (2006) also found that the number of domestic violence
incidents reported to law enforcement and the percent of those incidents resulting
in arrest have risen fairly steadily over time. In 1978, about 16% of police
contacts resulted in arrest. By 1997, that number had increased to nearly 41% of
incidents. They also discovered that there was both an increasing likelihood of
arrest during the time period of their study and a significant and positive impact of
the policy on the likelihood of arrest. However, they discovered less support for
the idea that the arrest policy affected groups of offense types differently. The
results showed that males, in general, tended to be arrested more than females in
cases of domestic violence both before and after the policy went into effect.
Arrest rates increased similarly and significantly for both male and female
offenders as a result of the legislative change. According to Simpson et al.
(2006), it does not appear that expanding police powers to arrest necessarily
impacts women more than men. The mere fact that female arrest rates have
increased as a result of the domestic violence policy suggests that interventions in
this area must focus greater attention around these new offenders (Simpson et
Officer Perceptions ofDVIncidents
Previous research shows that the level of cooperation by the victim
contributes to how perceptive police are with regards to domestic violence
incidents. Robinson (2000) found that officers were three times more likely to
view the victim as cooperative when they felt the abused was likely to support
prosecution of the offender. The study also discovered that police officers were
frustrated because they often felt the victim was likely exaggerating the incident
and then dropping the charges at a later date. Officers were more likely to view
victims as cooperative when witnesses were present. In addition, cooperation
decreased when victims were thought to have a drug or alcohol problem
Bankroft (2002) explored why men commit domestic violence and
discovered that police officers often portray a cold demeanor toward victims. She
noted that officers tend to share the same attitudes of the abusers. Also, many of
the women that she interviewed reported that by the time the police arrived, the
abuser was cool as a cucumber. This attitude, according to Bankroft (2002),
tended to leave the victim in a state of panic and the police thinking there is
something wrong with the victim.
Same-sex relationships. Several studies of domestic violence and police
perceptions have focused on same-sex relationships. Many stereotypes of
homosexual relationships exist which, may affect whether or not incidents are
handled appropriately by law enforcement (Pattavina, Hirschel, Buzawa,
Faggiani, Bentley, 2007; Herrell, 1996; Tjaden & Theonnes, 2000). The
feminization of gay male partners and the masculinization of lesbian partners, for
example, may preclude true victimization. Domestic violence in these
relationships may be denounced as just a cat fight. Homosexual relationships
are frequently characterized as fleeting one night stands rather than real
marriages and therefore are undeserving of legal intervention (Younglove, Kerr,
& Vitello, 2002).
Younglove et al. (2002) conducted a study that focused on domestic
violence with same-sex partners. Eighty-two police officers in a midsize, central
California city were asked to read one of four vignettes depicting a domestic
violence incident. Three scenarios contained a sentence indicating that the
imaginary couple was lesbian, gay male, or heterosexual. The fourth did not
indicate a sexual orientation. Ten questions were designed to elicit perceptions
about the specific features of the scenario and consequences for the parties
involved. Interestingly, there were no statistically significant differences between
the scenarios and police perceptions.
According to Stanley, et. al. (2006), the majority of homosexual males
interviewed reported that violence occurred infrequently in their relationships.
The researchers also discovered that physical and emotional consequences of the
violence were mild. Often, according the studys results, physical violence co-
occurred with emotional abuse in all of the violent incidents and as reports of
emotional abuse increased so did severity of physical and emotional impact.
Overall, there was strong evidence for some decree of reciprocity of violence in
most of the relationships; that is, men appeared to perpetrate approximately equal
levels of violence.
The nature of same-sex intimate violence can vary widely and it is
necessary to assess multiple aspects of the violence and the relationship in order
to accurately reflect the varied forms of intimate violence. The most consistent
themes in participants stories involved unmet or threatened emotional needs,
incompatible needs for closeness versus autonomy, frustrated desires for
commitment and monogamy, and loss of the relationships (Stanley et al., 2006).
In summary, the researchers found that the majority of the violence reported was
mild and infrequent, but situations of severe violence were also revealed. Further,
most violence was expressive in nature and included destructive conflict tactics,
such as yelling, criticism, and withdrawal. Participants in the Stanley et al. (2006)
study described their violence as motivated by anger and frustration. These
findings are in strong contrast to the suggestion that violence is used to establish
and maintain power and control over a partner.
Substance Abuse. Domestic violence cases show a high prevalence of
substance abuse, particularly during the violent episode. Hutchinson and Hirschel
(2003) interviewed 419 women after their domestic violence incident and found
that victims rated 54.6% of the offenders as high level users or binge drinkers.
The responses also revealed that women call the police more often to report
domestic violence incidents when their partners are drunk and have a problem
with both alcohol and drugs. Similarly, officers in the Hutchinson and Hirschel
study reported that drinking was one of the most apparent causes of domestic
violence, almost three times more often than any other variable. Felson,
Ackerman, and Gallegher (2005) noted that offenders who were drinking or using
drugs at the time of the incident were more likely to re-offend. While Hutchinson
et al. (2003) found that substance abuse by victims had no impact on the decision
to arrest. Robinson (2000), in contrast, discovered that police were three times
more likely to make an arrest when they believed the victim had a drug or alcohol
According to Leonard (2005), alcohol simply serves as an excuse for the
aggression. Many research studies support the theory that partner-violent men are
heavy drinkers and heavy drinking often accompanies the violence. There is,
however, substantial disagreement regarding whether alcohol consumption plays
any causal role in intimate partner violence (Leonard, 2005). Lipsey, Wilson,
Cohen, and Derzon (1997) reported that the upper half of drinkers had twice the
risk of violence as the lower half. While many of these studies failed to control
for other factors that might be associated with both drinking and marital violence,
a growing number of studies have controlled for such variables in the context of
multivariate analyses and continued to find that drinking behavior is associated
with domestic violence (Leonard, 2005).
Some evidence exists that treatment for alcohol dependence is associated
with reductions of intimate partner violence. According to Leonard (2005),
research has demonstrated that alcoholics who relapsed did not reduce their
violence, whereas alcoholics in remission did reduce their violence.
While previous research has failed to find drinking to be related to assault
episodes, more recent studies have been supportive of such a theory. Leonard and
Quigley (1999) reported that among newlywed couples, the husbands alcohol
consumption was more prevalent during physically violent events than during
verbal arguments. They also found that when the husband was drinking there
were more violent incidents, and the DV was more likely to involve severe
violence compared to sober violent episodes. Leonard (2005) concluded that
heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages is a contributing factor to intimate partner
Minorities. According to Rasche (1989), minority women in America may
be viewed as bearing a cross on each shoulder racism and sexism. This dual
burden of racism and sexism affects not only the interests of the dominant class,
but also the interest of minority women themselves. The experience of battering
for minority women is quite similar to White females but at the point of seeking
help or escape from the abuse, women of color face many problems that White
battered women are less likely to encounter. Real differences may exist in the
frequency of abuse for different ethnic groups, though Rasche (1989) argues that
previous data to be inconsistent and contradictory. Some evidence suggests that
certain minority ethnic groups face a higher risk of victimization and arrest.
According to Rasche (1989), the crime victimization rates for Blacks, the largest
racial minority group in the United States, are consistently higher than those for
Whites, especially for personal crimes and crimes of violence. Rasche (1989)
also notes that the victimization rate for Black women has frequently been shown
to exceed not only the rate for White females but also for White male. Black
women suffer a higher proportion of aggravated assaults compared to Whites
and women of Spanish origin (Rasche, 1989).
Rasche (1989) asserts that cultural tradition represents the biggest hurdle
faced by abused women who are seeking help. To some, seeking help from
outside of their community means confronting cultural prohibitions against
causing loss of face for oneself or ones family. In addition, minority women
who have immigrated to the United States and speak little or no English may face
difficulties in communicating with authorities and victim advocates. Also,
immigrant women fear that they may still find themselves vulnerable in the legal
system if their visas were sponsored by the men who abuse them. According to
Rasche, nearly all minority women are afraid of the policea substantial
contributing factor to their underreporting. Previous research shows this fear is
attributable to perceptions that police support and enforce the political, social and
economic interests of the dominant community (White male), (Rasche, 1989).
Some minorities also believe that police officers will not act upon any call unless
they actually see someone being assaulted. This sends the message that if you
are a woman, any woman, in a low status area, the police may not be much help
unless they actually see you being physically assaulted (Rasche, 1989).
Victim Perceptions of Police
Reporting Victims. There are many factors that contribute to a victims
decision to report abuse. Hutchinson & Hirschel (2003) found that abused women
called the police twice in the preceding six months but only three times over the
entire length of the relationship and concluded that most of the violence
experienced was never reported to the police. Fleury-Steiner, Bybee, Sullivan,
Belknap, and Melton (2006) discovered that 10% of victims of domestic violence
called the police. According to Fleury-Steiner et al. (2006) even women who have
contacted the police about some incidents with their partners, do not contact them
regarding all incidents.
A womens decision to invoke the criminal legal system may be impacted
by many factors, including the effects of the violent act itself, or what they may
expect to gain or lose from the legal process (Fleury-Steiner et al., 2006). Some
research has shown that women who experienced more severe physical abuse
were more likely to contact the police and were more likely to appear in court to
take part in prosecution of their abusers (Fleury-Steiner et al. 2006).
Many of the women in Fleury-Steiner et al.s (2006) study used the system
to support their own, unique needs. They found that 80% of the women they
interviewed initiated the call to the police by either making the call themselves or
asking someone else to make it for them. The remaining 20% reported that
someone else made the phone call without being asked. A woman's intention to
reuse the system is based upon a number of factors. These factors include
situational, relational, community-level, and system level variables. Overall,
women were less likely to re-use the system if they were legally or financially tied
to the abuser (Fleury-Steiner et al. 2006).
Victim perceptions of police. Research on the perceptions of police by
female victims is instrumental in improving policies in domestic violence cases.
Apsler, Cummins, and Carl (2003) asked three police officers within a domestic
violence unit in a Boston suburb to conduct 100 interviews with 95 female
victims of domestic violence over the course of a year. They found that nearly all
victims who wanted help getting or enforcing a restraining order or wanted police
to arrest the offender felt they received the desired assistance. Seventy-five
percent of the victims interviewed felt that the police were very helpful when
arriving at the scene. Respondents gave the highest rating of helpfulness when
they wanted the offender arrested and an arrest was made. When no arrest was
made despite the victim request, victims rated police helpfulness as a 3.0 on a 5.0
scale. Victims who wanted help obtaining counseling and received it, gave police
the highest rating of helpfulness. Lowest ratings of helpfulness came from
women who did not want the help but received it anyway. Fifty-nine percent of
victims reported that they had wanted help and police did not offer assistance.
Overall, Apsler et al. (2003) found that 81% of victims said they would call the
police again in the future for a similar incident. Other research has concluded that
the duration of the abuse, ones education, the victims affective response to
violence and the victims prior arrest influenced a domestic violence victim to
contact police (Coulter et al., 1999).
This current research was designed to explore the perceptions and attitudes
of law enforcement officers. In collaboration with local police departments, the
survey study examined the opinions and impact of training for officers who deal
with domestic violence offenders and victims in the criminal justice system. The
research also provided officers the opportunity to have direct input on how to
improve the response to and investigation of domestic violence calls. The results
of the study inform decisions around training and assist in the development of a
data driven decision-making policy.
The current research is exploratory in nature and designed to examine the
attitudes of law enforcement officers toward domestic violence. The purpose of
the study is to explore officer perceptions of the dynamics surrounding DV
incidents. The findings provide insight into what officers believe and why, which
represents the basic framework toward developing future curriculum development
for academy and in-service training.
Participants and Procedure
Surveys were completed by 583 officers from 6 police and sheriff
departments in Colorado. Participating agencies included one large municipal
department and one large county sheriff department (over 700 sworn and non-
swom personnel). Four of the agencies were midsized, urban departments with a
minimum of 100 sworn officers. To protect confidentiality, specific agency
demographics are not listed. The initial target estimated 800 completed surveys.
The study employed non-probability and purposive sampling procedure.
Surveys and letters of informed consent were distributed to supervisory
personnel in each department and officers were asked to voluntarily complete the
questionnaire (see Appendices B & C). The surveys were anonymous and, in
most cases, after completing his or her survey, each officer was asked to place the
questionnaire in sealed envelopes that were then returned to the researchers. One
department chose to directly distribute the surveys without the envelopes, though
the identity of the participants remained anonymous to the researchers.
The study was approved by the University of Colorado at Denver and
Health Sciences Centers Institutional Review Board (Appendix C).
The questions were designed to explore four general areas related to
officer attitudes and perceptions of domestic violence: effectiveness of training,
views of mandatory arrest policies, overall perceptions of domestic violence
incidents, and perceptions of unique dynamics in abusive relationships. The
survey items were based on prior research studies, input from domestic violence
experts, and officer training modules (see Appendix C).
The survey specifically explores the adequacy of officer training.
Previous research has found officer attitudes that support the need for more
training to be mixed and that a need may exist for stricter policies. The following
seven questionnaire items were analyzed to gain insight into training needs:
Difficulty identifying the primary aggressor at a DV call.
Its often hard to know who to arrest in DV incidents.
A major problem with DV is repeat calls to the same address.
DV offenders must be arrested even when the victims dont feel it is
Deciding whether theres probable cause for arrest in DV cases.
Most DV incidents stem from abusers need for power and control over
More training helping officers assess DV scenes.
The survey includes 7 questions that explore officers feelings about
mandatory arrest policies and whether or not these policies are implemented. The
questionnaire included the following items that address issues involving arrest:
A mandatory arrest policy is the best approach to DV calls
I need more freedom in deciding how to handle situations at DV calls
Its often best to arrest both parties in DV calls.
Arresting someone at a DV call seldom helps reduce future DV incidents.
Police should arrest DV cases only when there is clear evidence of injury.
Likelihood of DV arrests when children are present
Likelihood of making an arrest if the victim is cooperative at the scene.
The questionnaire explores officer attitudes of DV incidents. Previous
research, for example, has shown that victim cooperation and the presence of
injury contributes to an officers willingness to help. The nine items related to this
DV is best handled as a private matter, rather than by law enforcement.
Many DV victims could easily leave their relationships, but dont.
DV calls take too much of officers time and effort.
lam more likely to be injured during a DV call than any other type of call.
Prosecutors usually follow up effectively in DV arrests.
Women are just as likely as men to engage in DV.
Men abused by their partners are less likely than abused women to report
Belief that too many DV calls are for verbal family arguments.
Likelihood of DV arrest if the suspect is cooperative at the scene.
The questionnaire requested responses to questions pertaining to 5 other
factors that might affect an officers attitude. Such items include:
Substance and/or alcohol abuse is the main cause of DV.
DV is higher among minorities compared to Whites.
Minority victims are more likely to call the police than White victims.
DV laws should provide protections to same sex partners.
Gays & lesbians DV occurs for the same reasons it does with
The results were derived from individual analysis of each survey item
using uni-variate statistics. The responses were measured on a Likert type scale
ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The 28 items were grouped
according to content category into the four major areas listed above. Each
respondent was asked to answer the questions with the following options:
l=strongly agree, 2=agree, 3=somewhat agree, 4=somewhat disagree, 5=disagree,
The survey included one open-ended question: What would help you in
dealing with domestic violence calls? Respondents were also asked to provide
any additional comments or thoughts about their experience with domestic
A total of 583 officers completed the survey. The mean age for the entire
sample was 36 years old. The majority of respondents were White males (Figure
4.1 and Figure 4.2) under the age of 40. The mean age for males was 36 years
old and ranged from 22 to 62 years old. The mean age for females was 34 years
of age and ranged from 24 to 53 years of age. Seventy-one percent of the
respondents were patrol officers at the time they took the survey (see Table 4.1).
Also, 62% had less than 10 years of experience working in a police or sheriffs
department (see Table 4.2), with a mean of 8.35 years.
Figure 4.1: Gender Frequency
Figure 4.2: Race & Ethnicity
Table 4.1 Officer Rank
Rank Frequency Percentage
Commander 2 .33
Lieutenant 4 .67
Sergeant 42 7.2
Technician/Corporal 40 6.8
Detective 24 4
Patrol officer (incl. deputy) 412 71
Other 6 1
Missing variable 53 9
Table 4.2 Years At Current Agency
Years Frequency Percentage
0-9 338 62.5%
10- 19 129 24%
20 + 73 13.5%
Situational & Training Perceptions:
The results showed that there is a need for more domestic violence
training among officers, despite several positive trends in perceptions. Of the 576
officers who responded to the question, 70% believe that an arrest must be made
even when the victim opposes the measure. The findings suggests that officers
understand the purpose of mandatory arrests and need to protect the victims. The
majority of respondents understand that domestic violence incidents stem from
the abusers need for power and control (Table 4.1). Of great concern, however,
is the 88% who believe that repeat calls to the same address is problematic
(Figure 4.3). The responses indicate that officers may view these repeated calls as
a waste of time. A definitive interpretation of the survey item is difficult because
of the wording.
Responses (N) Strongly Agree (1) Agree (2) Somewhat Agree (3) i ao 3 c3 3 .22 3 Q S Disagree (5) ? s IP a 3 3 5 5 Â£ Mean Median Mode
Repeat Calls 130 206 174 45 19 3
577 2.35 2 2
are a Problem (22.5%) (36%) (30%) (8%) (3%) (0.5%)
Victim 62 182 155 93 61 23
576 2.96 3 2
Opposes (11%) (31%) (27%) (16%) (11%) (4%)
55 162 209 82 55 6
Power & 569 2.89 3 3
Control (10%) (28%) (37%) (14%) (10%) (1%)
Primary 13 56 211 133 152 13
578 4.68 4 3
Aggressor is (2%) (10%) (37%) (23%) (26%) (2%)
4 38 152 167 191 25
Determine 577 4 4 5
(1%) (7%) (26%) (29%) (33%) (4%)
6 49 113 123 175 108
Would Be 574 4.28 4 5
Helpful (1%) (9%) (20%) (21%) (30%) (19%)
Table 4.3: Officers Need For More r 'raining
Figure 4.3: Repeat Calls Are A Problem
Responses to 3 items suggest the need for additional training. Half of the
respondents feel that identifying the primary aggressor is difficult and 66% find it
hard to determine probable cause. The majority (70%), however, did not feel as
though they need more training, despite the complexities and difficulties they face
in DV calls for service (Table 4.3).
Opinions related to Arrests
The data indicate that 64% (Table 4.4) of the officers do not believe that
mandatory arrest is the best policy. According to DeLeon-Granados et. al. (2006),
there has been a failure to adequately plan for the implementation of mandatory
arrest policies and a lack of consideration for the local realities and wishes of
stakeholders such as line-level police officers. Eighty-six percent of this studys
respondents indicate that they should be afforded higher levels of discretion. As
one officer noted:
DVs, like other calls, can sometimes be complicated. Especially
so now that theres a mandatory arrest statute. The victims as well
as the suspects will not discuss the incident for fear of an arrest.
To assist, I would like to be trusted with my discretion in these
cases once again.
Seventy-percent of the officers surveyed believe that an arrest should be made
even when the victim opposes the measure. The survey results also indicate that
64% do not believe it is hard to know who to arrest. Hall (2005) found that the
presence of injury more than doubled the odds of an arrest being made. The current
study, however, found that half of the respondents believe that an arrest should
always be made when there is clear injury (Table 4.5). Sixty-seven percent believe
that an arrest should always be made when children are present. Sixty percent
believe that arrest seldom helps prevent future incidents. Ninety-two percent of the
respondents would still make an arrest even if the suspect is cooperative. For 61%
of the respondents, the victims level of cooperativeness does not affect their
probability of arresting the suspect either. Twenty-four percent of the respondents
believe that it is best to arrest both parties (Table 4.5 & Figure 4.4).
Table 4.4: Mandatory Arrest Responses
Responses (N) Strongly Agree (1) Agree (2) Somewhat Agree (3) Somewhat Disagree (4) Disagree (5) Strongly Disagree (6) Mean Median
Opinions of 7 36 165 165 183 21
577 3.98 4 5
Mandatory (1%) (6%) (29%) (29%) (31%) (4%)
166 198 126 41 33 6
Discretion on 570 2.28 2 1.2
(29%) (35%) (22%) (7%) (6%) (1%)
Table 4.5: Other Factors Influencing Arrest
Responses (N) Strongly Agree (1) Agree (2) Somewhat Agree (3) Somewhat Disagree (4) Disagree (5) Strongly Disagree (6) Mean Median 1 Mode
Hard To Know
7 36 165 165 183 21
Who To Arrest 577 3.9 4 5
(1%) (6%) (29%) (29%) (31%) (4%)
When Clear 57 94 110 91 162 22
536 3.48 4 5
Injury Present (11%) (17.5%) (20.5%) (17%) (30%) (4%)
22 55 110 178 175 34
When Kids 574 4.01 4 4
Present (4%) (10%) (19%) (31%) (30%) (6%)
Best To Arrest 13 22 105 135 239 64
578 4.3 5 5
Both Parties (2%) (4%) (18%) (23%) (42%) (11%)
60 125 162 111 99 21
Prevents Future 578 3.21 3 3
Incidents (10%) (22%) (28%) (19%) (17%) (4%)
Less Likely To
Arrest When 4 7 36 118 312 102
579 4.78 5 5
Suspect Is (0.7%) (1.3%) (6%) (20%) (54%) (18%)
More Likely To
29 69 123 145 169 37
Arrest If Victim 572 3.81 4 5
(5%) (12%) (22%) (25%) (30%) (6%)
11%-X 2% x 4%
42% ' '-23%
Strongly Agree Agree
Somewhat Agree Somewhat Disagree
Disagree Strongly Disagree
Figure 4. 4: It Is Best To Arrest Both Parties
Attitudes Toward Contexual Dynamics
For the most part, the respondents demonstrated a higher level of
knowledge of the seriousness of domestic violence calls (Table 4.5). Only 11%
believe that domestic violence issues are best handled as a private family matter.
Eighty-five percent believe that women are just as likely as men to commit
domestic violence. Seventy-eight percent believe that men abused by their partners
are less likely to report the abuse. Seventy-eight percent believe that DV calls can
be dangerous for law enforcement and that they are more likely to be injured on a
DV call than any other call.
Roughly half (52%) of the officers do not believe that prosecutors follow-
up effectively. As one officer wrote, DAs office drops too many cases against
female suspects. They are as responsible as men are in many cases. Another
In my experience, the district attorneys office will not pursue
charges many times if the victim refuses to cooperate. Even if
victim has previously stated suspect is guilty of a DV crime and
wrote a witness statement to the effect cases are being dropped.
The results show that many officers continue to subscribe to the myth that
a woman can leave a battering relationship. Seventy-two percent believe that
many victims could easily leave (Figure 4.6). Additionally, officers appear to
feel high levels of frustration to DV calls. Seventy-one percent believe that
domestic violence calls take too much time and effort (Figure 4.6). As one officer
indicated, Victims that dont want to press charges need to take responsibility for
their decision. Its a waste of our time and everyone elses.
Table 4.6: Officer Perceptions of DV Call
C/3 c o o. C/3 /v 0) 7 Cd 6 Strongly Agree (1 Agree (2 Somewh: Agree (3 Â£ K 00 P 3 C C/3 o - cn O
Private Family 9 14 40 in 272 132
Matter 578 (1%) (2%) (4%) (24%) (43%) (26%) 4.76 5 5
Arguments 134 201 69 45 25 4
478 2.37 2 2
(28%) (42%) (14.5%) (9.5%) (5%) (1%)
Women Engage in DV 573 113 241 136 52 28 3 2.42 2 2
(20%) (42%) (23.5%) (9%) (5%) (0.5%)
Male Victims 93 190 158 82 43 3
Less Likely To Report 569 (16%) (33%) (28%) (14%) (8%) (1%) 2.65 3 2
Victims Could 572 106 139 168 84 56 19 2.82 3 3
Easily Leave (19%) (24%) (29%) (15%) (10%) (3%)
DV Calls Take
Too Much 578 122 146 143 75 82 10 2.79 3 2
Time & Effort (21%) (25%) (25%) (13%) (14%) (2%)
59 135 197 59 48 15
To Be Injured 513 (11.5%) (26%) (38%) (11.5%) (9%) (3%) 2.88 3 3
On DV Call
Prosecutors 21 70 177 116 128 46
Follow-up effectively 558 (4%) (12%) (32%) (21%) (23%) (8%) 3.71 4 3
Abused Men 67 148 230 66 51 15
Less Likely To Report 577 (12%) (26%) (40%) (11%) (9%) (2%) 2.65 3 2
Figure 4.5: Victims Can Easily Leave
Figure 4.6: DV Calls Take Too Much Time & Effort
Influence of Same-Sex Relationships
Eighty-five percent of the respondents believe that domestic violence
occurs for the same reasons in heterosexual couples as same-sex couples (Table
4.7). Nearly 80% believe that same-sex partners deserve the same treatment as
heterosexual couples. These findings fit with Younglove et al.s (2002) results that
showed no statistically significant differences between ones sexual preference and
an officers perception of the incident.
Table 4.7: Influence of Same-Sex Relationships
Responses (N) Strongly Agree (1) Agree (2) Somewhat Agree (3) Somewhat Disagree (4) Disagree (5) Strongly Disagree (6) Mean Median Mode
DV Occurs for
same reasons in 77 264 138 33 30 23
565 2.54 2
same-sex (13.6%) (46.7%) (24.4%) (5.8%) (5.3%) (4.1%)
Partners 77 255 116 49 41 29
567 2.66 2 2
Deserve Equal (13.6%) (45%) (20.5%) (8.6%) (7.2%) (5.2%)
Influence of Substance Abuse
According to Leonard (2005), substance abuse simply serves as an excuse
for the aggression. A large percentage (79%) believe that substance abuse causes
one to abuse their partner (Table 4.8). According to Leonard (2005), substance
abuse does not cause DV, it is merely a contributing factor.
Table 4.8: Influence of Substance Abuse
Responses (N) Strongly Agree (1) Agree (2) Somewhat Agree (3) Somewhat Disagree (4) Disagree (5) Strongly Disagree (6) Mean Median Mode
Abuse 575 71 150 232 76 43 3 2.78 3 3
Causes DV (12%) (26%) (40%) (13%) (7.5%) (0.5%)
Influence of Race
When asked whether they thought that domestic violence is higher among
minorities, 85% agreed (Table 4.9). Eighty-one percent of the respondents do not
believe that minorities are less likely to report a domestic violence incident
compared to their White counterparts (Table 4.9). Most experts agree that DV
spans across all socioeconomic levels and is equally prevalent among all races.
The higher use of police services among minority populations may account for
perceived differences among officers.
Minorities Less Likely To Report DV is higher among minorities
L/i ON o L/l 1 00 Responses (N)
18 (3%) 113 (19.5%) Strongly Agree (1)
36 (6%) 241 (42%) Agree (2)
55 (10.5%) 136 (23.5%) Somewhat Agree (3)
186 (33%) 52 (9%) Somewhat Disagree (4)
210 (37%) 28 (5%) Disagree (5)
55 (10.5%) 8 (1%) Strongly Disagree (6)
Table 4.9: Influence of Race
In general, the officers who participated in this research study are well
trained in the area of domestic violence. With that said, there are some areas of
training that could use some improvement. The majority of respondents believe
that repeat calls to the same address are a problem. This finding is concerning if
officers have a problem with going to the same address a number of times and
their attitudes towards the victim eventually turn into resentment. This resentment
could potentially cause re-victimization and contribute to the victims belief that
law enforcement agencies are un-trustworthy.
Officers appear to fully understand the policies and procedures related to
arresting suspects in DV calls. Historically, victim preference has substantially
influenced the decision to arrest (Black, 1980; Feder, 1998; Sheptycki, 1995).
Officers, for example, understand the need to arrest despite a victims opposition.
Officers also expressed the need to arrest when children are present and when the
suspect is cooperative, despite previous evidence that officers make decisions
based on the offenders demeanor (Black & Reiss, 1967; Buzawa & Hotaling,
2000; Mastrofski, Worden, & Snipes, 1995; Worden & Shepard, 1996). Most
researchers have reported a greater likelihood of arrest if an offense is committed
in the presence of children or children appear at risk of abuse or neglect, either
from the commission of the crime itself or from situational factors at the home
(Buzawa & Austin, 1993; Eigenberg et al., 1996). Kane (1999), however,
reported a much lower arrest rate when children were present.
Officers, for the most part, are not subscribing to archaic myths. DV calls
are no longer seen as private matters that should be left in the hands of the couple
squabbling. Men are beginning to be seen as potential victims to DV and
therefore, deserve the same resources as their female counterparts. Officers in
this study reported that they do not believe that men will report DV incidents at
the same rates as women. Officers also realize the importance of DV calls and the
potential for an officer to get injured.
The officers in this study continued to show some need for training to
improve their perceptions of DV and its victims. The majority of the respondents
continue to subscribe to the myth that victims could easily leave abusive
relationships. Officers also believe that DV calls take too much time and effort.
This perception could be related to their issue with repeat calls to the same
address. When an officer continues to go to calls at the same address and puts in
their time and effort into the call only to find that the victim returns to the abuser
the next day, it can be a frustrating process. Officers are also frustrated with
prosecutors and feel that they fail to follow-up with cases effectively.
The respondents in this survey appear to refrain from allowing outside
factors to influence their decisions when attending to a DV call. Respondents
tend to recognize same-sex couples as legitimate relationships and treat the parties
as they would heterosexual couples. Officers acknowledge the enhanced effect
that alcohol and illegal substances have on an individuals behavior and their
contribution towards violent tendencies. The respondents believe that domestic
violence is higher among minorities than Whites. They also believe that minority
victims are less likely to call authorities when a violent situation arises.
The data in the current study have several limitations. First, nonrandom
sample limits generalization. The possibility exists that officers who volunteered
to complete the survey differ from those who decided not to respond. Second,
training efforts, in academics and in-service, may differ widely among agencies.
Finally, the vague wording on several survey items limit interpretation. Many of
the same issues noted by Buzawa and Buzawa (2003) remain problematic:
Two major problems stand in the way of trying to fully understand
arrest decisions in domestic violence. First, as with all decisions, a
web of factors that are not well understood influences arrest.
These include jurisdictional and community requirements and
expectations, organizational policies and culture, and officers
individual characteristics and belief systems. This is further
affected by characteristics of the incident, the victims, and the
offender (p. 144)
The need for future research may include a comparison between
mandatory arrest and pro-arrest policies. Current research focuses on mandatory
arrest policies since pro-arrest policies are new a phenomena and not adopted as
widely as mandatory arrest. Future research should also examine training
curriculum difference among departments and the affects these trainings have on
officer attitudes. Many departments require that recruits study domestic violence
during academics, though in-service training is often limited because of
inadequate resources. Officer comments indicate that 911 dispatchers do not
always seem to be appropriately trained in domestic violence situations. The
domestic violence call begins with dispatch. It is the job of the dispatch operator
to determine the call as domestic violence. Once the call is labeled by dispatch,
the officer on the call must act accordingly. Some research indicates that even
when the officer gets to the call and determines it is a non-domestic violence call
or a loud argument, oftentimes, arrest is still required.
Increased knowledge of the complexities surrounding DV calls is essential
to providing effective police service. The more sophisticated attitudes among
officers in this study may, in part, be a result of increased training in academies
and in-service classes, though nationally the amount of time spent on DV in most
departments is estimated to vary from 2 to 40 hours (Buzawa & Buzawa, 2003;
Roberts & Kurst-Swanger, 2002). Despite the increased funding for law
enforcement training that began in the early 1990s (provided by the Office for
Victims of Crime of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Violence Against
Women Act), resources remain scarce for many police departments and hampers
their ability to engage in extensive education.
Proactive policing within the framework established by community
policing programs may greatly enhance an agencys ability to respond to DV calls
and change officer attitudes. The International Association of Chiefs of Police
recommends a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach that is tailored to meet
the needs of the community. While substantial positive progress in policing DV
is apparent in the literature and in the current study, further exploration of
integrated responses that team police with victim advocates and health-care
providers, for example, are needed. A need continues for an exploration of the
relationship between responses and resources by patrol officers, particularly with
the surge in specialized units. The continued emphasis on specialized DV units is
best exemplified by Ann Arbors Domestic Violence Enforcement Team, the
Family Violence Protection Team in Travis County, Texas, and Longview,
Washingtons Domestic Violence Impact Unit. Special units provide officers
with greater understanding of the circumstances and dynamics involved in DV
situations and create the infrastructure necessary for aggressive, proactive
responses to domestic violence rather than the traditional reactive policing
approach (Roberts & Kurt-Swanger, 2002, p. 113). Future studies that explore
officer attitudes under the community policing paradigm are needed, though
preliminary explorations show great promise.
Human Subjects Approval
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
Human Subjects Research Committee Institutional Review Board
Campus Box 120, P.0. Box 173364
Denver, Colorado 80217-3364
Phone: 303-556-4060, Fax: 303-556-3377
Your protocol has been approved as exempt under CFR Title 45 Part 46.101.b. This
approval is good for up to one year from this date.
Your responsibilities as a researcher include:
If you make changes to your research protocol or design you should contact the
HSRC so that we can determine if your exempt status continues.
You are responsible for maintaining all documentation of consent. Unless
specified differently in your protocol, all data and consents should be
maintained for three years.
If you should encounter adverse human subjects issues, please contact us
If your research continues beyond one year from the above date, contact the
HSRC for an extension.
The HSRC may audit your documents at any time.
July 27, 2006
Mary Dodge /
Dorothy Yates, HSRC Chair
Human Subjects Research Protocol'2007-009 Policing Domestic Violence
Thank you for submitting your protocol and good luck with your research.
Campuses Downtown Denver Frtzsimons at Aurora Ninth and Colorado
Informed Consent Letter
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
Mary Dodge, Ph D Graduate School of Pubic Affairs
Campus Box 142, P.O. Box 173364
Denver, Colorado 80217-3364
Phone: 303-556-5987, Fax: 303-556-5971
Law Enforcement Survey on Domestic Violenca Incidents Informed Consent
About the Study
This study is designed to explore the perceptions, opinions, and impact of training for law
enforcement officers who deal with domestic violence offenders and victims in the criminal
justice system. This survey is designed to explore your opinions and perspectives on policing
and domestic violence, so there are no right or wrong answers. We hope that the results of
the study will inform decisions around law enforcement training on domestic violence issues.
The survey will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete.
The choice of whether to participate in this study is completely up to you. Your participation is
completely voluntary, and refusal to participate will involve no penalty to you. If you decide to
participate in the study, you have the right to withdraw your consent or discontinue participation at
any time. You also have the right to refuse to answer any question you do not wish to answer.
We guarantee that all of your answers and comments are confidential. Your responses to survey
questions will be protected according to professional standards established by the Institutional
Review Board at the UCD&HSC. Please do not include your name on the survey materials to help
protect confidentiality. The information you provide will only be reported in aggregate form. Access
to the raw data is limited to the researchers and graduate student assistants working on this project.
The data will be securely stored for a 3 year time period only.
Benefits and Risks to Participation
Although you may not directly benefit from completing this survey, this research will provide you with
the opportunity to have direct input on how to improve the response to and investigation of domestic
violence calls. The minimal risks to your participation may include feelings of discomfort or
embarrassment about domestic violence issues.
Researcher Contact Information
If you have any questions or concerns about the research study, please contact Mary Dodge,
Ph D., Associate Professor at UCD&HSC by phone (303) 556-5987 or email:
marv.dodaecudenver edu. If you have questions about your rights as a participant, you
may contact the Human Subjects Research Committee Administrator, 1380 Lawrence Street,
Suite 300, at (303)556-4060.
Thank you for support,
Mary Dodge, Ph.D.
Angela Gover, Ph.D.
law Enforcement Survey on Domestic Violence Incidents
This survey is interested in your perspectives on domestic violence (DV) and policing. Your answers and comments are
confidential. If for any reason you have questions, please contact Mary Dodge. Ph.D. or Angela Gover, Ph.D. at UCD&HSC
at (303)556-5987. For questions about your rights as a research subject you may contact the HSRC Administrator, 1380
Lawrence Street, Suite 300. (303) 556-4060. Thank you for your cooperation and support.
Based on vour experience and opinion, please check your level of agreement with each of the following statements:
Strong A*m atm Somewftrt Atm Sowwhat Dba&M OiMffM Strongy
1 am more likely to be injured during a DV call than any other type of call.
Too many DV calls are for verbal family arguments.
1 need more freedom in deciding how to handle situations at DV calls.
ft's often best to arrest both parties in DV calls.
Arresting someone at a DV call seldom helps reduce future DV incidents.
Police should arrest DV cases only wlien there is dear evidence of injury.
DV calls take too much of officers* time and effort
Identifying the primary aggressor at a DV call is difficult
DV is best handled as a private matter, rather than by police.
Prosecutors usually follow up effectively in DV arrests.
It's often hard to know who to arrest in DV inddents.
1 am less likely to make a DV arrest if the suspect is cooperative at the scene.
A mandatory arrest policy is the best approach to DV calls. \n
Many DV victims could easily leave their relationships, but dont
A major problem with DV is repeat calls to the same address.
Substance and/or alcohol abuse is the main cause of DV.
1 am more likely to make DV arrests when children are present.
DV offenders must be arrested even when the victims dont feel it is necessary.
It's often hard to deckle whether there's probable cause for arrest in DV cases. -
Most DV inddents stem from abusers need for power and control over victims. -
1 am more likely to make an arrest if the victim is cooperative at the scene.
Women are just as likely as men to engage in DV.
DV is higher among minorities compared to Whites.
Men abused by their partners are less likely than abused women to report DV.
DV laws should provide protections to same sex partners.
Minority victims are more likely to call the police than White victims.
More training would help me assess DV scenes.
Gays & lesbians DV occurs for the same reasons it does with heterosexuals.
Please turn over and complete items on the other side.
Does your agency have a domestic violence unit? Yes No Don't Know
For statist teat purposes only, please indicate the following:
Gender Male Female
Age : ________
Race/Ethnicity: White African American Hispanic
Asian Native American Other (please specify)_______________________
How many years have you worked at your current agency? _________________
How many years of experience in law enforcement at a previous agency? _________________
.Have you ever responded to a domestic violence (DV) call? Yes_____No_______
Does your job involve any special domestic violence duties? Yes_____No_______
If yes, please specify._________________________________________________________________________________________
What would help you in dealing with domestic violence calls?
Please add any other comments or thoughts about your experience with domestic violence calls.
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