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Travails of the Detroit Police-Victims Experiment: Assumptions and Important Lessons

NCJ Number
American Journal of Police Volume: 11 Issue: 3 Dated: (1992) Pages: 1-34
Date Published
34 pages
The Detroit police-victims experiment was designed to expand officers' conceptions of their role to include the provision of psychological assistance to victims in order for those victims to recover more quickly and completely from their victimization and to cooperate more fully with the criminal justice system. The effects of the police training program were evaluated through a two-part questionnaire that focused on officers' attitudes and beliefs regarding the psychological impact of victimization and victims' rights, as well as officers' behavioral intentions at the scene of the crime in terms of their response to the victims.
The results showed that officers in the experimental group were more likely than their counterparts to be more sensitive toward victims' feelings and rights and to accept a role of victim assistance at the crime scene. Despite this evidence of enhanced police sensitivity, extensive telephone interview data with actual crime victims suggested that the intervention had few psychological or behavioral effects on the victims, who did not report fewer psychological symptoms, exhibit a more positive attitude toward the criminal justice system, or express a greater willingness to cooperate in criminal proceedings. This article discusses some of the assumptions about program implementation upon which the evaluation was based and how these assumptions may have led to faulty program design. The authors present several lessons and caveats for future research in this area. 4 tables, 1 figure, and 68 references

Date Published: January 1, 1992