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Back to Archives | Back to September 2012 Contents 

Research in Brief: Officer-Involved Domestic Violence

By Philip M. Stinson, JD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice Program, Bowling Green, Ohio, State University; and John Liederbach, PhD, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice Program, Bowling Green, Ohio, State University



The IACP Research Advisory Committee is proud to offer the monthly “Research in Brief” column. This column features evidence-based research summaries that highlight actionable recommendations for Police Chief magazine readers to consider within their own agencies.
The goal of the column is to feature research that is innovative, credible, and relevant to a diverse law enforcement audience.

The problem of violence within police families—commonly referred to as officer-involved domestic violence (OIDV)—has been recognized as an important issue. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) promulgated a model policy on OIDV in 1999 and a revised policy in 2003. The IACP characterized OIDV as a problem that exists at some serious level and deserves attention.1 There are no comprehensive statistics on OIDV.

The purpose of the research is to provide data on violence within police families. Our research identifies incidents in which police were arrested for criminal offenses associated with an incident of violence within the family, domestic violence, or both.2 Our primary goal is to provide information on actual OIDV cases to further initiatives designed to mitigate the problem.


Methodology

The study identifies cases through content analyses of newspaper articles. Data are derived using the Google News search engine and the Google Alerts email update service. Researchers located articles, examined them for relevancy, and archived them for coding and analyses.

Data derived from the news searches are limited to cases that involved an arrest. These data are the result of a filtering process that includes discretion by media sources in terms of the types of stories covered and the nature of the content devoted to particular stories.

Supplemental coding involved a cross-check of the names of the arrested officers against the federal courts’ Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. The cross-check explored whether arrested officers had ever been named in their official capacity as a party defendant in any civil actions arising under federal civil rights laws at any time during their police careers.


Findings

The study identified 324 cases in which police were arrested for a criminal offense associated with an OIDV. The cases involved the arrest of 281 officers employed by 226 police agencies. Most of the cases involved a male officer (96 percent) employed in a patrol or other street-level function (86.7 percent). There were 43 supervisory officers arrested for an OIDV-related offense.

One-third of the OIDV victims were the current spouse of the arrested officer. Close to one-fourth of the victims were children, including a child or a stepchild of the officer or children who were unrelated to the arrested officer. There were 16 victims who also were police officers. Simple assault was the most serious offense charged in roughly 40 percent of the cases, followed by aggravated assault (20.1 percent), forcible rape (9.9 percent), intimidation (7.1 percent), murder/non-negligent manslaughter (4.6 percent), and forcible fondling (3.7 percent).

Data on final organizational outcomes were available for 233 of the cases. About one-third of those cases involved officers who were separated from their jobs either through resignation or termination. The majority of cases in which the final employment outcome was known resulted in a suspension without job separation (n = 152). Of those cases where there was a conviction on at least one offense charged, officers are known to have lost their jobs through either termination or resignation in less than half of those cases (n = 52).

More than one-fifth of the OIDV cases involved an officer who had also been named individually as a party defendant in at least one federal court civil action for depravation of civil rights under color of law pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 at some point during their law enforcement careers.


Actionable Items

1. Persons convicted of a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence are prohibited from possessing any firearm or ammunition pursuant to the Lautenberg Amendment (1996). There are, however, no effective processes to record, track, or verify domestic violence convictions, especially in regard to incomplete records and the lack of integration among local, state, and federal databases. Policy makers need to work to develop initiatives to document and track convictions pursuant to the goals of the Lautenberg Amendment. Police executives should collaborate with prosecutors and judges to ensure that information demonstrating the use or the attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon is reflected in the charging document, any plea agreements, and the final court records of OIDV cases.

2. The study demonstrates how some officers escape appropriate penalties because of loopholes, preferential charges, and organizational failures to adequately punish convicted officers. Police executives should be cognizant of the potential for preferential charges in cases of OIDV that mitigate provisions in federal law designed to identify and sanction police convicted of a domestic violence offense. As such, chiefs must ensure that disciplinary proceedings involving officers convicted of violence within the family, domestic violence, or both are consistent with federal law and the IACP’s model policy on OIDV.

3. The finding that roughly one in five of the officers identified in our research also were named as defendants in civil rights lawsuits may indicate the need to include information on OIDV arrests among other performance indicators presently used in these systems or at least the need for further scrutiny of the relationship between the perpetration of family violence and other forms of police misconduct. ♦


Notes:
1IACP, Discussion Paper on IACP’s Policy on Domestic Violence by Police Officers: A Product of the IACP Police Response to Violence Against Women Project (July 2003), http://www.theiacp.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=NzsLwlSvR2g%3d&tabid=87 (accessed July 31, 2012).
2Philip M. Stinson and John Liederbach, “Fox in the Henhouse: A Study of Police Officers Arrested for Crimes Associated with Domestic and/or Family Violence,” Criminal Justice Policy Review (forthcoming).


This project was supported by Award No. 2011-IJ-CX-0024, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.
Interested in submitting a research summary for Research
in Brief?
Email researchinbrief@theiacp.org.

Please cite as:

Philip M. Stinson and John Liederbach, "Officer-Involved Domestic Violence," Research in Brief, The Police Chief 79 (September 2012): 14.

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXIX, no. 9, September 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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