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Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research Part I: Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2008
64 pages

This first part of a three-part study of the practical implications of current domestic violence research for criminal justice personnel focuses on what the research tells law enforcement officers about the perpetrators and victims of domestic violence, the outcomes of current law enforcement responses to domestic violence, and what the findings mean for daily law enforcement tasks.


Based on prevalence research, law enforcement agencies must commit time and resources to domestic violence that are comparable to that allotted for any other major crime. The deployment of the bulk of these resources should focus on shifts between 6 PM and 6 AM. Responding officers and investigators should be alert to possible sexual abuse as well as physical abuse in domestic violence cases. In attempting to reduce homicides of women generally, agencies should give priority to protection for female victims of domestic assault. A full investigation of a particular domestic assault incident may reveal even more serious incidents of domestic violence than that which prompted the investigation. Consequently, officers should always inquire about prior unreported assaults for evidence of the primary aggressor and additional charges that may be filed. Research suggests that arrest should be the default response for officers in all domestic violence incidents. If the perpetrator has fled the scene by the time officers arrive, finding and arresting the abuser should be a priority. If an agency's pattern of arresting both partners exceeds the national average, agencies should develop and implement primary-aggressor policies and protocols. Other implications for law enforcement practice are drawn for research findings that address specific prevalent characteristics of offenders and victims, the role of substance abuse, the risk for reoffending, gender issues, the presence of firearms and other weapons, and risk markers for severe injury and homicide. 200 references

Date Published: April 1, 2008