Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 617–625 | Cite as

An Inside View of Police Officers’ Experience with Domestic Violence

  • Susan H. Horwitz
  • Despina Mitchell
  • Michelle LaRussa-Trott
  • Lizette Santiago
  • Joan Pearson
  • David M. Skiff
  • Catherine Cerulli
Original Article


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 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan H. Horwitz
    • 1
  • Despina Mitchell
    • 2
  • Michelle LaRussa-Trott
    • 3
  • Lizette Santiago
    • 4
  • Joan Pearson
    • 4
  • David M. Skiff
    • 5
  • Catherine Cerulli
    • 1
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Unity Health SystemRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, Mental Health Services at the Hall of JusticeUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  4. 4.Private PracticeRochesterUSA
  5. 5.Department of Social WelfareRoberts Wesleyan CollegeRochesterUSA
  6. 6.Laboratory of Interpersonal Violence and VictimizationRochesterUSA

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