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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Domestic violence Law enforcement Policing Community coordinated response Focus groups 

References

  1. American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence. (2009). Domestic violence civil protection orders (CPOs) by state. American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence.Google Scholar
  2. Arrest without a warrant, by police officer, & when and where authorized. (2011). N.Y. C.P.L.§ 140.10.Google Scholar
  3. Berk, S., & Loseke, D. (1980). “Handling” family violence: situational determinants of police arrest in domestic disturbances. Law and Society Review, 15, 319–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buzawa, E. S., & Buzawa, G. (2003). The changing prosecutorial response. In J. Westby, E. Budd & D. Santoyo (Eds.), Domestic violence: The criminal justice response (pp. 191–211). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Cerulli, C., Edwardsen, E., Duda, J., Conner, K., & Caine, E. (2010). Proposed coordinated health care response for order of protection petitioners. Violence Against Women Journal, 16(6), 679–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualatative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  7. Davis, R., O’Sullivan, C., Farole, D., & Rempel, M. (2008). A comparison of two prosecution policies in cases of intimate partner violence: mandatory case filing versus following the victim’s lead. Criminology and Public Policy, 7(4), 633–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dejong, C., & Burgess-Proctor, A. (2006). A summary of personal protection order statutes in the united states. Violence Against Women, 12(1077–8012; 1), 68–88.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dobash, R. E. (2003). Domestic violence: arrest, prosecution, and reducing violence. Criminology & Public Policy, 2(2), 313–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eitle, D. D. (2005). The influence of mandatory arrest policies, police organizational characteristics, and situational variables on the probability of arrest in domestic violence cases. Crime and Delinquency, 51(4), 573–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Felson, R. B., Messner, S. F., Hoskin, A. W., & Deane, G. (2002). Reasons for reporting and not reporting domestic violence to the police. Criminology, 40(3), 617–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ford, D. A. (1983). Wife battery and criminal justice: a study of victim decision-making. Family Relations, 32, 463–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ford, D. A. (1991). Prosecution as a victim power resource: a note on empowering women in violent conjugal relationships. Law and Society Review, 25(2), 313–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ford, D. A., & Regoli, M. J. (1993). The criminal prosecution of wife assaulters: Process, problems, and effects. In N. Z. Hilton (Ed.), Legal responses to wife assault: Current trends and evaluation (pp. 127–164). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Hanna, C. (1996). No right to choose: mandated victim participation in domestic violence prosecutions. Harvard Law Review, 109, 1850–1909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hirschel, D., & Buzawa, E. (2002). Understanding the context of dual arrest with directions for future research. Violence Against Women, 8(12), 1449–1473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hirschel, D., & Hutchison, I. W. (2001). The relative effects of offense, offender, and victim variables on the decision to prosecute domestic violence cases. Violence Against Women, 7(1), 46–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hirschel, D., & Hutchison, I. W. (2003). The voices of domestic violence victims: predictors of victim preference for arrest and the relationship between preference for arrest and revictimization. Crime & Delinquency, 49(2), 313–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Homant, R. J., & Kennedy, D. B. (1985). Police perceptions of spouse abuse: a comparison of male and female officers. Journal of Criminal Justice, 13(1), 29–47. doi:10.1016/0047-2352(85)90024-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Horwitz, S. (2002). Community-wide professional response to partner violence. (doctoral dissertation, the union institute and university, 2002). Dissertation Abstracts International, 63, 1609.Google Scholar
  21. Lavoie, F., Joacob, M., Hardy, J., & Martin, G. (1989). Police attitudes in assigning responsibility for wife abuse. Journal of Family Medicine, 4, 369–388.Google Scholar
  22. Logan, Walker, & Leukefeld. (2001). Rural, urban influenced, and urban differences among domestic violence arrestees. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 16(3), 266–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Maxwell, C. D., Garner, J. H., & Fagan, J. A. (2001). The effects of arrest on intimate partner violence: New evidence from spouse assault replication program. Washington: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Dept. of Justice.Google Scholar
  24. Maxwell, C. D., Garner, J. H., & Fagan, J. A. (2002). The preventive effects of arrest on intimate partner violence: research, policy and theory. Criminology & Public Policy, 2(1), 51–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mills, L. (1997). Mandatory prosecution in domestic violence cases: intuition and insight: a new job description for the battered woman’s prosecutor and other more modest proposals. UCLA Women’s Law Journal, 7, 183–199.Google Scholar
  26. Mills, L. G. (1998). Mandatory arrest and prosecution policies for domestic violence: a critical literature review and the case for more research to test victim empowerment approaches. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 25, 306–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mills, L. G. (1999). Killing her softly: intimate abuse and the violence of state intervention. Harvard Law Review, 113, 550–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Muhr, T. (1993–2010). Atlas.ti 6.0. Berlin: Scientific Software Development GmbH.Google Scholar
  29. National Institute of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2000). Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner violence. Washington: US Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  30. Rauma, D. (1984). Going for the gold: prosecutorial decision making in cases of wife assault. Social Science Research, 13, 321–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rebovich, D. J. (1996). Prosecution response to domestic violence: Results of a survey of large jurisdictions. In E. S. Buzawa & C. G. Buzawa (Eds.), Do arrests and restraining orders work? (pp. 176–191). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. Saltzman, L. E., Green, Y. T., Marks, J. S., & Thacker, S. B. (2000). Violence against women as a public health issue. Comments from the CDC. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 19(4), 325–329.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sherman, L. (1991). From initial deterrence to long-term escalation: short-custody arrest for poverty ghetto domestic violence. Criminology, 29(4), 821–850.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sherman, L. (1992a). The variable effects of arrest on criminal careers: The Milwaukee domestic violence experiment. Criminology, 83(1), 137–145.Google Scholar
  35. Sherman, L. W. (1992b). Policing domestic violence. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sherman, L., & Berk, R. (1984). Police response to domestic violence incidents. American Sociology Revue, 49, 261–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sherman, L. W., Smith, D. A., Schmidt, J. D., & Rogan, D. P. (1992). Crime, punishment, and stake in conformity: legal and informal control of domestic violence. American Sociological Review, 57(5), 680–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stalans, L., & Finn, M. (2000). Gender differences in officers perceptions and decisions about domestic violence cases. Women and Criminal Justice, 11, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stephens, B., & Sinden, P. (2000). Victims’ voices domestic assault victims’ perceptions of police demeanor. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15(5), 534–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stewart, A., & Maddren, K. (1997). Police officers’ judgements of blame in family violence: the impact of gender and alcohol. Sex Roles, 37, 921–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques.Google Scholar
  42. Wolf, M., Ly, U., Hobart, M., & Kernic, M. (2003). Barriers to seeking police help for intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Violence, 18, 121–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations