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Making Arrests in Domestic Violence Cases: What Police Should Know

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2009
2 pages
Based on data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System and a multistate survey of incident records kept by police, this study examined police arrest practices in domestic violence cases, with attention to "dual arrests" (both parties in a domestic violence incident are arrested).
The research found that police arrested men and women with equal frequency when other factors, such as seriousness of offense, were taken into account. Police were equally likely to make arrests in same-sex and heterosexual incidents; however, police were more likely to make dual arrests when responding to an incident that involved a same-sex couple. Police made the highest number of dual arrests in jurisdictions with mandatory arrest laws, particularly if State laws or departmental policies did not instruct officers to arrest only the main offender at the scene of a domestic violence incident. Jurisdictions with such primary aggressor laws reported one-fourth the dual arrest rate of jurisdictions without such policies or laws. Officers were four times more likely to make an arrest if an offender stayed at the scene of the offense. If the offender left the scene, the officers were unlikely to follow up and obtain an arrest warrant; even if a warrant was obtained, it might not be served. Three recommendations are offered for lowering dual arrest rates and making arrests more effective. First, police should commit to arresting offenders who have left the crime scene. Second, officers should be trained to recognize patterns of abuse in same-sex relationships, so as to identify the primary aggressor for arrest. Third, police executives and lawmakers should institute primary-aggressor laws and policies. 2 notes

Date Published: June 1, 2009