A LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSPECTIVE
The best college textbook concerning domestic violence is Family Violence: Legal, Medical, and Social Perspectives by Harvey Wallace. In the introduction of the book Wallace writes,
"Simply defining the term family violence causes debate. Concerning the criminal justice system there should be no such debate. All states have in place various forms of domestic
violence statutes and laws. The criminalization of domestic violence has caused the enigma to be defined legislatively. Domestic violence is generally defined as a familial assault by
one person against another person in the attempt to control or alter the behavior of that person through the use of fear or force, regardless of age or gender. Domestic violence is not just violence against women.
Domestic violence is child abuse, sibling abuse, spousal abuse, intimate partner abuse, and elder abuse.
Historically, victims of domestic violence could not rely on police protection. In our society
many forces continue to allow violence to occur in the home. Often the larger community and many public policy makers believed family violence was a private matter. Most of the
early "preserve the family" policies and procedures of police departments were not designed and instituted by police departments or individual police officers. In the 1960s and early
1970s it was the domestic violence "experts" of that time, criminologists, sociologists and psychologists, who provided this type of "hands off" or "separate and mediate" domestic
violence training for police departments. Police officers of those times were responding to "family disputes" in the manner they had been trained. However, it would be the police
departments and not these "experts" who would take the brunt of criticism from activists and victims’ advocacy groups for not "doing their job."
It was a fact that the victims of domestic violence could not rely on police protection. The truth is that police training discouraged arrest, but it is also true that this training was not
law enforcement based. The victims of domestic violence would turn to police with one expectation and the police would respond as trained by the "experts of their day" with a
different expectation. Victims were left feeling bitter about the police inaction and would blame themselves, something many victims of domestic violence often do, for bothering to
call for police assistance. Over the last couple of decades, due to dramatic changes in legislation and increased liability for police departments, domestic violence training for
police officers has changed dramatically.
It is interesting to note that as contemporary domestic violence "experts" search for
solutions to domestic violence and proper police training programs, they rarely give credence to the experience and knowledge of the police officers who work the streets and
enter the homes of so many families in crisis. Often outside agencies do not believe that police departments honestly and earnestly want to help. The fact is that police officers are
still viewed by many domestic violence "experts" as having little real understanding of the issue of domestic violence. In many domestic violence training programs the concerns of
police officers are rarely considered relevant enough to be included. Nothing could be further from the truth
For domestic violence training to be effective there first must be a written department polices
and procedures manual that is signed by the Chief of Police to demonstrate his or her commitment. Second, the training must explain the rationale and necessity of domestic
violence training. Third, because it is the intent of this training to alter how officers view their function in the criminal justice system and how they carry out their work assigned to
them, the training must be law enforcement based.
Effective domestic violence training requires a substantial training investment. Police
officers and civilian personnel need to understand their departments’ intervention strategies, the legal requirements of their actions, and the policies and procedures of their department.
Without proper training, everyone will continue to suffer because of confusion and lack of proper direction from the hierarchy of their department. Police polices and procedures must
be clear and concise and police intervention must be consistent and uniform to be successful. Each and every officer and civilian employee of the department must be held to
the same standard and expectation of behavior regardless of rank or place in the hierarchy.
Police culture can be unusually resistant to change. The stress and dangerous nature of the
job, the long, unusual shifts police officers work, and the hostility officers often feel from the community at large, can make policing an extremely isolating profession. Few of those who
have not walked in the shoes of a police officer truly understand how little they know about "real" police work. Policing is far more complex than the general community or others who
view policing from the world of the academe will ever understand. Often when outside agencies are employed to train police departments the training program does not even reflect
the policies, procedures, rules, regulations, and goals of the department. Proper domestic violence training should avoid the traditional structured classroom setting. It should
emphasize roll call and field training, report reviews, and follow up of both the abuser and the victim after the arrest process. Field training for officers offers the best hope of changing
the behavior and performance of officers. It is when the officer’s hit the streets that genuine individualized learning will begin.
It is a fact that you do not have to be punched in the face to know it hurts, but the recipient of a punch in the face does discover a whole new understanding of pain. There are no
professions that appreciate those from the outside telling them what to do. If police officers were to go to a battered women’s’ shelter and tell them what they were doing was wrong and
suggest that the police department should control their future training, I do not believe that many of their police officers suggestions would be appreciated regardless of their validity. It
is not just police culture that resists outsiders telling them what to do, it is human nature.
Richard L. Davis, the author of "Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies", Praeger Publishers,
Westport CT (1998), retired after 21 years of service with the Brockton, Massachusetts Police Department, he is a Domestic Violence Intervention and Programs consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2000 Richard L. Davis
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