Original Article

Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 617-625

First online:

An Inside View of Police Officers’ Experience with Domestic Violence

  • Susan H. HorwitzAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center
  • , Despina MitchellAffiliated withUnity Health System
  • , Michelle LaRussa-TrottAffiliated withComprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, Mental Health Services at the Hall of Justice, University of Rochester Medical Center
  • , Lizette SantiagoAffiliated withPrivate Practice
  • , Joan PearsonAffiliated withPrivate Practice
  • , David M. SkiffAffiliated withDepartment of Social Welfare, Roberts Wesleyan College
  • , Catherine CerulliAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical CenterLaboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization Email author 

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Since the recognition of domestic violence (DV) in the late 1970s, police officers have been frontline providers. Despite their changing role as a result of the criminalization of DV, little is known about their experiences and responses to this public health issue from their unique perspective. Via focus groups, 22 police officers discussed their scope of practice and emotional reactions to DV calls. Participants reported frustration with the recurring nature of DV and with the larger systems’ lack of accountability (e.g., courts, prosecution and community) that follow their initial interventions. Participants discussed the limitations of their role as protectors of public safety, attitudes that evolve over time and their beliefs as to contributing factors that perpetuate DV. Additionally, the officers recommend: more professional training, counseling, incident debriefing for officers including feedback on case disposition, better collaboration across professional groups, and evidence-based prosecution. Harsher penalties were also recommended.


Domestic violence Law enforcement Policing Community coordinated response Focus groups