Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 5. Law Enforcement Responses

Section 7 — Does police domestic violence training improve law enforcement responses to victims?

Several studies suggest that general domestic violence training for law enforcement officers does not necessarily change attitudes toward domestic violence or, more important, change police behavior in terms of arrests of abusers or responses to domestic violence incidents. Although knowing a department's policy regarding domestic violence arrest preference increases the likelihood that officers will arrest alleged domestic violence suspects, the amount of domestic violence training received does not. [59, 65, 197] Research suggests that domestic violence arrest decisions are influenced more by an officer's assessment of the legal variables involved than by his or her attitudes. [117] At least one study suggests that failure of police managers to hold police officers accountable for failure to arrest in contravention of statutory requirements is responsible for their poor performance, not their lack of training. [187]

Implications for Law Enforcement

Clear policy pronouncements from the top administration may be more likely to change officer responses to domestic violence than is general domestic violence training aimed at education and attitude change. (Research basis: There is limited research in this area.)

Performance Measure: A survey of a sample of law enforcement departments across the nation finds that three-quarters have written domestic violence policies in place. Most have been in place for six years or longer. A large majority of departments (88 percent) require officers to complete incident reports for all domestic violence calls they are dispatched to, regardless of outcome. Almost two-thirds of departments (63 percent) require officers to fill out a supplemental form for domestic violence, and most require written justification when no arrest is made (68 percent) or when there is a dual arrest (86 percent). [213] (Research basis: A representative sample drawn from 14,000 law enforcement agencies across the nation.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009