Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 617–625

An Inside View of Police Officers’ Experience with Domestic Violence


  • Susan H. Horwitz
    • Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Rochester Medical Center
  • Despina Mitchell
    • Unity Health System
  • Michelle LaRussa-Trott
    • Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, Mental Health Services at the Hall of JusticeUniversity of Rochester Medical Center
  • Lizette Santiago
    • Private Practice
  • Joan Pearson
    • Private Practice
  • David M. Skiff
    • Department of Social WelfareRoberts Wesleyan College
    • Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Rochester Medical Center
    • Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and Victimization
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10896-011-9396-y

Cite this article as:
Horwitz, S.H., Mitchell, D., LaRussa-Trott, M. et al. J Fam Viol (2011) 26: 617. doi:10.1007/s10896-011-9396-y


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 violenceLaw enforcementPolicingCommunity coordinated responseFocus groups

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011