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Urban Police - Domestic Violence

arrest calls percent officers

A 1985 national survey indicated that 11.3 percent of wives experience some form of domestic violence, while 3 percent experience severe violence. This same study showed that 4.4 percent of husbands surveyed also experienced severe violence at the hands of their spouse (Gelles and Straus). Indeed, there is accumulating evidence that males and females experience similar rates of domestic violence (Straus).

However, it is also clear that police calls for service overwhelmingly represent situations with women victims. Brookoff (1997) found that 78 percent of police calls for service regarding domestic disputes involved female victims. A larger proportion of incidents involving female injury and a male's reluctance to admit that he was assaulted may explain this disproportionate level of calls for service (Straus). Research has also found that domestic violence calls for service are concentrated in particular areas. For example, Sherman, Gartin, and Buerger reported that the majority of calls for domestic disturbances occurred in only 9 percent of the total number of street addresses in Minneapolis. Lower-income female victims are more likely to call the police, compared to middle and upper class women who use private sources of help. Therefore, although officers policing rural and suburban areas also handle calls for domestic violence, officers in urban areas handle these types of situations on a routine basis.

Prior to the mid-1980s, officers had much discretion in handling domestic dispute incidents. In the early 1980s, researchers conducted the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. When responding to calls for service for misdemeanor domestic violence, officers were told to randomly assign one of three treatments: arrest, separation, or mediation. The researchers reported that offenders who were arrested were significantly less likely to have repeated incidents of violence compared to suspects who separated or mediated (Sherman and Berk). Mandatory arrest policies were adopted by departments across the country as a result of this study, the influence of feminist groups calling for law enforcement in domestic violence situations, and several successful lawsuits against departments by victims of domestic violence. Mandatory arrest policies are one of the first attempts to control police officer discretion through the use of administrative rulemaking. A survey of large departments in 1993 reported that 95 percent had written policies guiding police discretion in domestic dispute situations. Furthermore, 53 percent of the departments surveyed had a specialized domestic violence unit (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995; Walker, 1999).

The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment has been heavily criticized (Lempert), and follow-up studies have not produced the same results. More recent research suggests that the employment status of the offender is important to consider when determining the successful use of arrest. Unemployed offenders who are arrested are more likely to commit future violence, while employed offenders are less likely (Sherman et al., 1992). It appears that the effects of arrest are situation-specific. Officers, however, are not likely to be able to predict the future violence of those suspects they encounter. They must decide what course of action to take based on the specifics of the situation itself. Police officers are more likely to arrest when there is evidence of an injury, evidence of drug or alcohol use, the suspect is disrespectful, or the victim requests an arrest (Worden and Pollitz).

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over 11 years ago

Could dosmetic violence police discretion ever lead to death?