This research paper discusses law enforcement training practices for handling domestic violence cases. It covers three broad topics: definitions of relevant terms, current training practices, and future training practices. It will begin with definitions of terms such as child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, and spousal abuse. However, realizing that there are many controversies as to the different forms and effects from these types of aggressive behavior, scholars of victimology, a relatively new academic field, have not come far enough to separate the definitions concisely. The following definitions are broad in nature and remain flexible until scholars and researchers learn more about the scope and ramifications of various types of violence to determine whether and where they fall within the realm of domestic violence. Subsequently, this research paper discusses the law enforcement training topics as they relate to domestic violence. It concludes with a series of recommendations for future training practices.
A. Domestic Violence
B. Child Abuse
C. Spousal Abuse
D. Elder Abuse
E. Law Enforcement
III. Nature of Laws and Classifying Domestic Violence Crimes
IV. The Dynamics of Domestic Violence
A. The Tension-Building Phase
B. The Explosion or Acute Battering Phase
C. The Calm, Loving Respite Phase
V. The Consequences of Domestic Violence
VI. Effective Training Response to Domestic Violence Calls
VII. Future Training
A. Domestic Violence
Applying a simple term to describe violence between intimate partners is not easy; some prefer the term family violence, while others use the term domestic violence. For the purposes of this research paper the term domestic violence is preferred. Domestic violence is defined as any act of violence, abuse, or mistreatment, either intentionally or uncontrollably inflicted on a current or former legal spouse, a person with whom one is cohabiting or has cohabited romantically, a person whom one is dating or with whom one has had a dating relationship, a person to whom one is engaged or has been engaged, or a person with whom one has a child in common. This includes heterosexual and same-sex relationships. This definition of domestic violence is extended to cover children who are dependent upon the intimate partners, as criminal justice agencies have gained a greater understanding of the effects of domestic violence on children. Some statutes have been altered to include emotional abuse. This definition may also be narrowed in scope to fit the definitions in each state law. There is no requirement as to how long ago an intimate partner relationship must have existed between an abuser and a victim.
Acts of violence include bodily injury or threat thereof, sexual battery, physical restraint, stalking, death threats or homicide, property crime aimed at the victim, and violations of a protective court order. Acts of violence can be perpetrated by both male and female partners, and in some circumstances, by both.
Domestic violence is not the same as domestic disputes. Domestic disputes are differences of opinion between family members that do not include acts or threats of violence, or violations of court mandates. Along the same lines, some statutes and criminal justice authorities include subgroupings in their definitions of domestic violence: elder abuse, spousal abuse, and sibling abuse. Because elder abuse, spousal abuse, and sibling abuse are included in some statutes, as well as in the research, it is important to include them in this discussion.
B. Child Abuse
Most statutes define child abuse in terms of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Physical child abuse is the physical injury of a child, resulting from, but not limited to, strikes, shoving, shaking, biting, burning, poking, twisting limbs, and bodily throwing. Child sexual abuse can occur as a single act or a series of abusive behaviors. It can occur in a single event or over the course of many years. Child neglect occurs when a caretaker by act or lack of actions places the child in a dangerous situation.
C. Spousal Abuse
There is no nationally accepted spousal abuse definition among professionals in the field or authorities in the criminal justice system; however, all authorities and scholars agree it exists. Spousal abuse can be defined in terms of a continuum. On one end of the spectrum, it can be defined as yelling, calling names, and throwing objects; on the opposite end, it can be said to include striking, hitting, or killing. Among the many different definitions of spousal abuse, shades of gray exist. For the purposes of this research paper, spousal abuse is defined as individual intentional acts or a series of intentional acts, either physical, emotional, or sexual, the purpose of which is to harm the spouse.
The definition of spouse in this case is gender neutral, which means that the abuse may be inflicted upon either a male or a female partner. The definition also includes heterosexual and same-sex partners who are legally married, cohabiting, or intimately involved in a monogamous or serious relationship.
D. Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is conduct that results in the physical, psychological, or material neglect, harm, or injury to an elderly person. This definition includes abuse by family members as well as institutional abuse. The term material in this definition refers to the exploitation of the elderly person’s financial resources. An elderly person is usually someone over the age of sixty-five.
E. Law Enforcement
A law enforcement officer or peace officer is defined as an individual who is employed by a branch of government and is sworn to uphold the laws of the United States, the state, county, and/or city by which he or she is employed. American law enforcement encompasses three independent levels: federal, state, and local. Although these entities have commonalities in powers of arrest, search and seizure, and upholding their allegiance to protect and serve, each entity has unique characteristics. The unique characteristics involve the enforcement of the law. Depending on their jurisdictional authority, each entity may enforce different criminal laws. For example, local police departments may be engaged in a domestic violence call, the state highway patrol officers enforce traffic laws on highways and streets, and the U.S. Customs Service may be involved with arresting individuals who violate federal laws concerning the importation of goods into the United States.
There are also differences between the two local entities: city police and county sheriffs. There exists a geographic jurisdictional difference between city and rural areas. Sheriffs’ deputies do not have access to immediate back-up from fellow officers when needed due to the vast area they cover. Therefore, deputies have to rely on community contacts, verbal skills, and intelligence when doing their jobs. Another difference is that sheriffs’ deputies work as bailiffs in courtrooms. The sheriff is also responsible for the operation of the jail.
Biblical and early legal principles allowed men to use physical force as a form of discipline on their wives, which should be distinguished from spousal abuse. For example, English men under English common law could apply the ‘‘rule of thumb,’’ which allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb. Women were looked upon as property, over which the husband was the absolute ruler. A woman was expected to obey her husband. These historical principles and ideologies relegate domestic disputes to private and family issues. Through much of the twentieth century, law enforcement held similar beliefs regarding domestic disputes, viewing them as intractable interpersonal conflicts and therefore inappropriate for police attention. It was not until the 1960s, with the rise of the women’s movement, civil rights movement, antiwar movement, and changing views on the commission of crimes, that American society began to change its values and social norms. In the decades since, the criminalization of domestic violence has gained recognition, and legal and societal efforts to combat domestic violence continue to evolve.
Police training manuals taught officers to avoid arrests whenever possible in domestic violence cases. The officers were instructed to defuse the immediate crisis and make the appropriate referrals for long-term intervention. However, law enforcement has in recent decades focused on improving its responses to protecting women and punishing offenders. Other reforms took place within laws, such as mandatory arrest laws, which required immediate law enforcement action. Previously, women could not obtain a restraining order unless they were willing to file for a divorce; when they did, their restraining orders were rarely enforced. It was not until the 1980s that legislative mandates improved access to and enforcement of restraining orders. Women can now obtain a restraining order without filing for a divorce and can obtain emergency protective orders from law enforcement.
In 1984 Lawrence Sherman conducted one of the most famous evaluations of domestic violence in the United States. He was the architect of the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. This study evaluated the effectiveness of arrests on prevention and deterrence of domestic violence. As a result of the study, Sherman made three recommendations. The first was to change existing laws to allow police to make warrantless arrests for misdemeanor spousal assault not committed in their presence. The second recommendation implied that mandatory arrest of perpetrators would deter future acts of domestic violence. The third recommendation was that there be additional studies on prevention and deterrence of domestic violence conducted in other cities. In fact, there were five additional studies. These studies were inconclusive as to the effect of arrests and deterrence on future violence. In 2001, the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reevaluated the results of the original Minneapolis experiment and its five replications. This reevaluation supported the proposition that arresting batterers did in fact reduce subsequent aggression against their female partners.
As a result, police agencies changed their procedures in response to domestic violence calls. Police agencies nationwide began to adopt pro-arrest policies for domestic violence cases. Today, in every state, legislation gives law enforcement officers the authority to make warrantless arrests for misdemeanor and felony assaults and for violations of protection orders.
Law enforcement has met with barriers in its attempt to improve responses to domestic violence cases and ensure victims’ safety. Typically victims of domestic violence will contact either a domestic violence hotline or call 9-1-1. Even a call to a domestic violence hotline can result in an officer being called to the scene. Law enforcement professionals need training regarding how to respond to domestic violence calls for service because an officer’s response can influence a victim’s future behavior. The officer’s response is crucial to fostering the victim’s belief that he/she is safe and that the offender will be held accountable. Moreover, the victim’s decision to report future incidents or to participate further in the court process is impacted by the officer’s initial response. In addition, sexual assault by one’s partner poses a unique challenge for law enforcement because previously sexual assault was generally thought to be perpetrated by strangers, not husbands. Other challenging situations faced by law enforcement include dating violence, same-sex domestic violence (as they may find it difficult to determine which partner is the aggressor), stalking, and responding to domestic violence in rural communities. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 sanctions the approval of funds to be distributed to law enforcement agencies promoting community policing philosophies; Title IV of this act is the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), which offers grants for law enforcement training, domestic violence shelters, and assistance to victims of sexual assault.
As a result of all these factors, law enforcement in every jurisdiction receives a broad spectrum of training on how to respond to domestic violence. Historically law enforcement focused on the legal aspects of arrests when enforcing domestic violence laws. Since police work is complex and can be difficult, states have enacted Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) for all law enforcement officers. Academies provide basic instruction on various topics pertinent to law enforcement. There are twenty-four common topics covered by nearly all POST academies, one of which is domestic violence. Domestic violence training includes the nature of laws classifying domestic violence crimes, the dynamics of domestic violence, the consequences of domestic violence, and effective training responses to domestic violence calls. The median number of hours of instruction required for covering domestic violence is twelve. Officers’ basic academy training should be reinforced through periodic in-service training.
III. Nature of Laws and Classifying Domestic Violence Crimes
Call screening is a law enforcement agency’s process of assigning priority to the services it provides. Oftentimes domestic violence is downgraded in seriousness, resulting in slower response time by the police, as compared with responses to other crimes and concerns. This occurs partially because of a lack of understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence. The decision-making process involved in prioritizing services in and of itself is difficult for law enforcement because officers may have to choose between responding to two equally violent acts occurring simultaneously. For example, police personnel may be required to consider the history of recurring domestic violence incidents in their decision-making process. Nevertheless, domestic violence usually involves escalating violence, which is one of the dynamics that law enforcement personnel may not realize. In fact, several violent incidents may occur and victims may leave and return to the abuser several times before calling for help or terminating the relationship. The danger of downgrading domestic violence calls gives the perpetrator more time to either continue the violence or flee the scene. In addition, downgrading the priority of domestic violence calls gives the abuser more power over the victim, which may lead the victim to believe that he or she is truly alone and helpless.
Other factors affecting the classification of domestic violence crimes are the statutory limits on arrest for certain types of crimes. In the United States, state constitutions or statutes of criminal law violations are divided into two major classifications: felonies and misdemeanors. A felony is regarded as the most serious type of criminal act an individual can be charged with and is punishable by imprisonment. A misdemeanor is regarded as a less serious criminal act that is punishable by confinement in a local jail not to exceed one year. Normally, police have the power to arrest a person who has committed a felony if officers have probable cause. Probable cause is a set of facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the offense has occurred. It is not necessary for the police officer to witness the felony before he/she has the power to arrest a suspect. Misdemeanor arrests, however, require the officer to witness the criminal act. If the officer did not witness the offense being committed, he/she could ask for the victim to make a citizen’s arrest and then, in support of the citizen’s request, would take the offender into custody.
The nature and classification of crimes can have direct impact on the ability of police officers to make arrests for domestic violence assaults. For example, many statutes define battery as the unlawful use of force against a person. Battery is the unlawful touching of another, whereas assault lacks the required physical touching classification. Absent serious injury, state laws have generally placed battery under the classification of a misdemeanor. Thus, until recently, officers did not have the authority to make an arrest unless they witnessed the assault or the victim made a citizen’s arrest.
IV. The Dynamics of Domestic Violence
One of the most frustrating aspects of criminal law statutes for police officers is understanding the dynamics of domestic violence calls. Previously, law enforcement officers were unable to make arrests unless they witnessed the perpetrator committing the assault. This fact has put a strain on officers in doing their jobs because oftentimes the victims are unwilling to make a citizen’s arrest. Thus, the usual course of action in domestic violence cases resulted in the officer verbally reprimanding the perpetrator and leaving the crime scene frustrated. Nonetheless, the laws have changed and officers are now able to arrest the abuser; however, they still leave feeling frustrated due to a recurring cycle in which the abuser is arrested and released and commits further abuse, subsequently requiring officer assistance once again.
One of the most often asked questions is, why do the victims remain in or return to abusive relationships? The reasons are intricate and multifaceted; a number of theories attempt to explain the complexity of battering relationships. Some of the obvious reasons are fear or terror, learned helplessness, low self-esteem, lack of resources, and minimization of the abuse. Obvious reasons aside, there are more profound reasons why women remain in abusive relationships. One of the leading scholars of domestic violence, Lenore E. Walker, coined the term cycle of violence as a result of her research with battered women. Although this theory does not attempt to explain the cause of domestic violence, it does attempt to show the dynamic of domestic violence.
The cycle of violence has three distinct phases: the tension-building phase; the explosion, or acute battering, phase; and the calm, loving respite phase. Each phase can vary in intensity and length.
A. The Tension-Building Phase
This is the first step in the development of a battering relationship and marks the onset of the cycle of violence. Throughout this phase, pressure builds within the relationship; eventually the abuser engages in an act of battering, usually minor, of his/her spouse. It is at this point that the victim will become more nurturing and attempt to calm or stay out of the abuser’s path to avoid being abused. Also during this phase, the victim attempts to understand the abuser’s faulty logic by rationalizing the behavior and perhaps even accepting the abuser’s argument that the victim is at fault and deserves the abuse. The victim will try to remove him/herself to avoid conflict, but the tension continues to increase until the batterer explodes into rage.
B. The Explosion or Acute Battering Phase
This is the most dangerous phase. The abuser begins to exploit his control over the victim physically. Thus, the abuser engages in assaultive behavior. It is this violent aggression that distinguishes this phase from the previous phase of the cycle of violence. It is only when the violent attacks are over that both parties may feel stunned and express disbelief and denial. For example, the victim may rationalize the violent act as the result of an external stressor.
C. The Calm, Loving Respite Phase
This is the phase when the victim is the safest. The abuser will offer contrite apologies and exhibit loving behavior. He/she will beg for forgiveness, proclaim to understand that he/she has gone too far, and will assure the victim that it will never happen again. The victim will believe the enticing promises and behavior and stay in the relationship in the hope that the abusive partner will truly change.
Walker posits that victims of domestic violence increasingly become powerless as a result of their fear and have no options for escaping their abusers. As a result, women stay in abusive relationships, managing the best they can. Walker’s theory is generally accepted by academia, experts in the field, and the legal system. It sets the foundation of relationships within the realm of power and control, rather than personality types or defects, or the socioeconomic status of the abuser or victim.
V. The Consequences of Domestic Violence
The obvious consequences of domestic violence are physical injuries suffered by the victim. The four general classifications of physical injuries perpetrated on victims include: immediate injuries that heal leaving no trace, injuries leaving visible scars, unknown permanent injuries, and long-term calamitous injuries.
Immediate injuries may be similar to those incurred by most people during the ordinary course of their lives. They include bruises, cuts, contusions, and broken bones. These injuries heal quickly and may be perceived as minor in nature. However, they can be severe for those suffering from other ailments. A diabetic person who suffers from a stab wound inflicted by a partner as an act of domestic violence may take three times longer to heal than the average person. An elderly person who has been shoved by an intimate partner could suffer a broken hip, which could lead to death.
Injuries inflicted by abusers may leave visible scars, including scars on the face or neck, loss of teeth, and loss of mobility in limbs due to incomplete healing. Although these scars are not themselves serious injuries, they are not without additional enduring consequences. For example, in domestic violence cases, one avenue an abuser can take in reducing a victim’s self-esteem is to disfigure the person. In doing so, the abuser can maintain control over the victim.
Long-term serious injuries may also include those that damage the victim’s heath or physical capabilities. For example, some victims have suffered severe liver damage and damage to bodily organs and functions as a result of repeated beatings by their abusers. An abusive partner may also knowingly infect the victim with a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes simplex virus. These viruses can result in additional health problems or even loss of life. The resulting changes in the victim’s life span and quality of life are also damaging to the victim.
Physical injuries are not the only type of injuries that can result from domestic violence. There are both short- and long-term mental consequences that impact the victim. The leading scholar in crisis understanding is Eric Lindemann, who studied the effects of crisis on the mental health of humans. Gerald Caplin extended Lindemann’s theories to include human reactions to traumatic events. The term crisis has many different meanings for different individuals, who react to crisis situations differently. What may be only a minor annoyance to one may be a crisis situation to another. Nonetheless, the common approaches to crisis situations involve three stages: impact, recoil, and reorganization.
The impact phase occurs immediately following the violence. This is also known as the shock phase, during which individuals have difficulty eating or sleeping and may even experience disbelief that the violence actually occurred.
Through the recoil stage, victims internalize the abuse and learn to accept or adapt to the violence. The victim moves through various steps during the recoil phase, commonly experiencing emotions of fear, anger, self-pity, guilt, and sadness. After a period of time exhausts these emotions, the victim finally puts these feelings aside and begins to initiate the healing process. Later in the healing process, victims are able to recall their feelings with renewed emotional resources.
After a period of time, the recoil stage will give way to the reorganization stage. The victim’s feelings of fear, rage, and revenge diminish in intensity, leaving a greater ability to cope with daily life activities. In essence, the victim begins to feel ‘‘normal,’’ or back to the state experienced prior to the abusive relationship. The victim’s perspective on life is changed from living in the past to living in the present.
Victims may never forget the experience, and, as indicated earlier, they will respond in a variety of ways. Some victims may experience acute stress disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or long-term crisis reactions.
In 1994, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV), added the term acute stress disorder (ASD). This is stress felt in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event. Characteristic of ASD is the development of anxiety, dissociative symptoms, and other such manifestations that occur within one month of the traumatic event.
PTSD was first named after Vietnam War veterans began experiencing flashbacks of their combat experiences. Symptoms of PTSD may develop following the experience of psychologically traumatic events outside the range of normal human experience. Traumatic events experienced by victims of domestic violence include, but are not limited to, violent personal assault, kidnapping, being taken hostage, and/or torture.
The National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), one of the earliest leaders in the victims’ rights movement, identified that victims may suffer from a condition called long-term crisis reaction. This is a condition that occurs when victims do not suffer from PTSD but may revisit the feelings of their abuse reaction after certain triggering events call forth their remembrance of the trauma they endured. Triggers may include holidays, birthdays, weddings, divorces, graduations, the anniversary of the major traumatic event, or the anniversary of the death of a loved one.
Victims of domestic violence may suffer from other forms of mental disorders as a result of their victimization, such as depression and substance abuse. Depression is marked by episodes of diminished interest or pleasure and decreased energy in nearly all activities. Depression also creates difficulty in thinking, making decisions, and concentrating. For some victims of domestic violence, depression may impair day-to-day functioning.
Substance abuse is the maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to distasteful consequences. Substance abuse can involve alcohol and/or drugs. The victim may begin to suffer physical ailments, legal problems, and interpersonal problems as a result of substance abuse.
VI. Effective Training Response to Domestic Violence Calls
The primary area of interest in which officers are trained should be aimed at officer and victim safety. Learning and being able to apply specific field strategies and techniques will ensure their safety, as well as the perpetrator’s arrest. It is also important for officers to understand that simply responding to domestic violence calls has an impact on the circumstances. Police may have a positive impact through proper documentation and consistent responses to domestic violence calls. Officers should be informed during training that their procedures have an impact in three areas: They increase the chances of successful prosecution, they decrease possible repeat calls, and they provide closure for officers themselves.
Consistent with the training focus on ensuring officer and victim safety as well as arresting the offender, training topics should include: the approach, identifying the aggressor, police report/identifying evidence, victim protection, and victim resources. Proper training in these topics will ensure a decrease in domestic violence repeat calls.
Training law enforcement to execute a proper approach that will ensure officer and victim safety involves officers obtaining all prior information on the call’s location before making contact. The information includes mental health issues affecting the parties, the level of violence, the number of people involved, and the culture of the parties. Another important factor is entry into the premises. It is sometimes necessary for officers to determine the proper tactical approach to the call before entering the premises. The officers are trained to visually observe the location’s surroundings, stand to the side of the door, listen at the door before knocking, and identify him/herself as a police officer. Upon entering the premises, officers are trained to ask for, visually scan for, and take possession of any weapons as well as immediately attempt to locate/ identify the aggressor. Officers are trained to subsequently locate any other parties involved. To establish control of the situation, the responding officer separates all parties involved; maintains a watchful eye on all persons concerned; determines the aggressor, if not already identified; and removes the alleged assailant from the presence of the victim. It is important for the officer to prevent eye contact between all parties, as the aggressor could be controlling the victim’s statements in this manner.
Training law enforcement officers in identifying the dominant aggressor can be tricky. A dominant aggressor is the party who is the most significant aggressor; he/she is not necessarily the first aggressor in a situation. Factors that help officers determine the dominant aggressor include threats or the fear of physical injury, whether the act was in selfdefense, and the history between the parties. Additional determining factors are the ages, weights, and heights of both parties, as well as any criminal records, including convictions, probations, and paroles. Other considerations include the strength or special skills of the parties, who called for help, the demeanor of the individuals involved, the existence of corroborating evidence, the use drugs and alcohol, and the seriousness of injuries.
Law enforcement officers need to have a knowledge of common injuries that may result from domestic violence incidents. Often injuries are located on the face, neck, back, chest, arms, and legs. There may also be injuries on victims that will show that they were protecting themselves from their assailants. For example, victims who attempted to defend themselves while on the floor may have injuries on the bottoms of the feet from kicking away the assailants. It is important for officers to discern injuries inflicted on the aggressor by the victim in self-defense. Such injuries may include, but are not limited to, scratches on the aggressor’s face, back, neck, inner arms, hands, or chest.
Other subsequent procedures undertaken by an officer responding to a domestic violence situation include determining if medical assistance is required for the victim, establishing probable cause for arrest of the perpetrator, and reassuring the victim that he or she is safe. After the officer has secured the scene, he/she can begin interviewing the victim and any witnesses.
Training law enforcement to be sensitive toward the needs and concerns of victims is very important for reducing domestic violence. Victims who feel that officers do not care about their condition may stop cooperating with them. However, a positive impression of the officer will ensure the victim’s willingness to talk with him or her. Ideally, interview procedures should include the history of violence between the parties involved, documentation of the incident, excited utterances by the victim, and questions about the aggressor’s violations of protection orders, warrants, probations, or conditions of release. Other important documentation includes a completed body chart of the victim’s injuries and photographs of physical evidence. In the process of ascertaining this information it is essential for officers to make certain that all information is detailed because this information will aid the victim’s pursuit for protection orders and other legal remedies. It is imperative for successful prosecution of domestic violence cases that the reports include the following items:
- A full description of the crime scene with photos including the names, ages, and locations of the parties upon officer arrival
- A full description of the incident
- Details of any medical treatment required by the parties involved
- The names of parties present during the incident, including children and adults
- The relationship of the parties involved
- A description of perceived victim’s and aggressor’s emotional states
- A body map showing victim’s and suspect’s injuries
- Current and past protection orders
- The suspect’s probation or parole status
- Weapons seized at the location
In addition, necessary physical evidence to be collected includes: torn clothing, blood samples, hair and fibers, firearms and/or weapons, and complete crime scene sketches of the incident and damaged items.
A fundamental area to address in the course of training law enforcement officers on how to deal with victims involves debunking the myths and misconceptions surrounding marital and nonmarital sexual assault and rape. It is crucial for officers to be taught to identify evidence of nonconsensual sexual violence. Another important area of training covers corroborating the victim’s statement with physical evidence. In addition, it is vital for officers to learn how to follow investigative procedures that do not compromise the victim’s safety if the victim has relocated or is living in an undisclosed shelter.
With a proper understanding of available resources, law enforcement officers are able to help victims regain control over their lives. A crucial time for the victim is immediately following the abuser’s arrest because the victim may fear that the abuser will return and inflict more harm in anger over the arrest. Therefore, providing domestic violence victims with information about available resources for them will help them feel safe and regain control over their lives. Officers need to be aware of the resources available to domestic violence victims in the communities they serve and must be able to provide this information to victims. Among the most important recommendations an officer can give is information about the local domestic violence shelter and free legal resources. Other resources an officer can offer are his/her own name and contact information, the report or event number of the incident, and contact information for the proper investigative unit. Finally, it is vital to train law enforcement about the different types of protective and restraining orders, such as emergency protection orders, temporary restraining orders, criminal court stay away orders, and workplace violence restraining orders. If authorized by departmental policy, officers can offer and provide the victims civil police standby while removing personal property from the residence.
VII. Future Training
There are two reasons for the necessity of continuous domestic violence training for law enforcement professionals. The first is obvious: The more understanding an officer has, the better he/she is at applying the laws to protect the victims. The second reason deals with the integrity of the profession. That is, communities trust that law enforcement officers do not break the laws they enforce. Even though this should be the case, law enforcement executives have recognized that officers are not immune from perpetrating acts of domestic violence against their own intimate partners. One way to prevent officers from committing domestic violence or to recognize the signs that an officer might be perpetrating this type of crime is to develop a zero-tolerance policy approach to domestic violence.
At the time of this writing, there is no mandatory training policy for law enforcement agencies to provide continuous domestic violence training to its officers. Because of the serious nature of domestic violence, a collaborative effort among the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Office on Violence against Women has developed. The efforts by these agencies has developed a proactive zero-tolerance domestic violence policy that law enforcement agencies can implement. The policy expresses a zero-tolerance stance toward officers throughout their careers. It is anchored in community-oriented policing concepts which concentrate on the issues of domestic violence in a comprehensive manner. The comprehensive policy components are: Prevention and Training, Early Warning and Intervention, Incident Response Protocols, Victim Safety and Protection, and Post-incident Administrative and Criminal Decisions.
Law enforcement agencies can learn prevention and training techniques from domestic violence professionals in their communities through developing ongoing collaborations with them. Domestic violence professionals include members of domestic violence coalitions and councils, social workers and other social services providers, shelter staff, and hotline crisis personnel. These professionals will help police agencies and officers by providing additional training and on-scene victim advocacy, offering knowledge of resources and making referrals, and helping the department in the development of policies and practices as they relate to domestic violence responses. Moreover, it is each law enforcement agency’s responsibility to know what training is taught at its basic academy and to supplement that training by filling in any absent information. Law enforcement agencies should educate new recruits on domestic violence call policies and procedures, especially those that run counter to basic academy training.
In addition, law enforcement agencies should offer ongoing training regarding new research, should advocate for program changes, and should keep abreast of new available resources for victims. Ongoing training can be implemented during inservice training, as part of roll call, and through the field training of officers. In-service training should reinforce basic academy knowledge, offer new knowledge, and update resources. Roll call training is the most effective way to keep departmental policies and procedures on domestic violence at the forefront, as well as to offer updated news of cases in the jurisdiction. Roll call is also a time when advocates can present educational information, tailoring their training to ensure that officers learn interpersonal communication skills, support skills, and empathy skills. Advocates should ensure that officers comprehend the complexity of domestic violence and their responsibility to perform effective law enforcement in support of victims during these calls.
Society has come a long way in understanding the dynamics of domestic violence; consequently, law enforcement has also increased its knowledge and professionalism regarding domestic violence. This in turn has resulted in law enforcement agencies paying increased attention to domestic violence issues in their initial training academies. Many jurisdictions include training on domestic violence within their police academy curriculums. However, there is much left to be done. Law enforcement agencies and institutions responsible for advanced training of law enforcement officers need to continue to focus their efforts on ensuring that all officers understand the dynamics of domestic violence. This in turn will lead to more protection for its victims.
- Garner, Joel H., and Jeffrey A. Fagan. The Effects of Arrest on Intimate Partner Violence: New Evidence from the Spouse Assault Replication Program. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, June 2001.
- Hickman, Matthew J. State and Local Law Enforcement Training Academies. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, January 2005.
- International Association of Chiefs of Police. Domestic Violence by Police Officers: A Policy of the IACP Police Response to Violence against Women Project, 2003.
- Seymour, Ann, Jane S. Murray, Melissa Hook, Christine Edmunds, Mario Gaboury, and Grace Coleman. 2000 National Victim Assistance Academy. U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, 2000.
- Sherman, Lawrence W. Policing Domestic Violence. New York: Free Press, 1992.
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