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Why Do Police Arrest Victims of Domestic Violence?: The Need for Comprehensive Training and Investigative Protocols

NCJ Number
Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma Volume: 15 Issue: 3/4 Dated: 2007 Pages: 53-73
Anne O'Dell
Date Published
21 pages
In explaining why police arrest victims of domestic violence, this article examines actual real life examples where victims were arrested and why these occurred and offering suggestions on how to minimize these illegal arrests.
United States law enforcement agencies are typically paramilitary and patriarchal in organization and predominantly staffed by male officers. Given that victims of domestic violence are overwhelming female, it is not hard to understand that male officers may often have little understanding of domestic violence from a victim’s perspective. Also, some officers may be unwilling to embrace the “new and progressive response” to domestic violence, especially if it challenges personal stereotypical gender role beliefs. Some officers also tend to view all domestic violence in terms of their own experiences in intimate relationships. However, many well-intentioned officers are simply not trained properly concerning domestic violence in general. For these reasons, agencies should have specific, detailed policies and procedures regarding police response to domestic violence incidents. Also, training must be appropriate, broad, thorough, and comprehensive in the academy for new police officers, as well as during in-service training for tenured officers. After all the positive changes in the criminal justice system over the last decade concerning the response to incidents of domestic violence, there remains the problem of battered women who are arrested as perpetrators of domestic violence. The reasons for these arrests are complex and vary. This article includes real life examples of cases where victims were arrested and why these arrests occurred. Tables and references