Law Enforcement Survey on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

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1 Rural Crime and Justice Center Minot State University Law Enforcement Survey on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault April 2013 (Revised) Highlights By Lisa Dooley and Rebecca Ruzicka Departments with 10 officers or less preferred one-on-one training The biggest obstacles to training were the lack of manpower (54.8%) and lack of time for officers to attend (25.8%) 83.9% of departments have established a partnership with community organizations 96.8% of law enforcement officers have familiarity with services available within their jurisdictions This brief describes the data collected by the Rural Crime and Justice Center as part of the Department of Justice grant award through the Grants to Encourage Arrest Program. A thirty-four question selfreport survey was created to examine the perception and experience of law enforcement officers regarding domestic violence and sexual assault in the northwest region of North Dakota. This survey was disseminated to law enforcement officers in the northwest region of North Dakota in fall of It provides insight into the demographics of the respondents, training needs and collaboration with community agencies. Limitations of the data and this study are also discussed. Demographics of Respondents and Jurisdictions The law enforcement survey was piloted for the northwest region of North Dakota. Of the population of law enforcement agencies within the pilot region (11 city and 6 county), 227 law enforcement officers were recruited using a non-random convenience sample. Three police departments were unable to complete the survey due to contracting services with adjacent county agencies. Thirty-one officers served as the sample for this study which represented a response rate of approximately 13.7%. The final sample consisted of 6 females and 25 males (two surveys contained missing data). Despite the small sample size, the results were representative of both city (41.9%) and county (32.3%) law enforcement agencies. A clear majority (61.3%) of law enforcement officers were between the ages 30 to 49. The mean age for all participants was Approximately, fifty-two percent of full-time local police officers were employed by a department with 41 or more sworn personnel, and 38.7% were employed by a department with at least 40 sworn personnel. Departments that employed fewer than 10 officers accounted for 9.7% of respondents. Approximately, twenty-six percent of the sample had five years or less of law enforcement experience with nineteen percent of personnel having 11 to 15 years of experience and nineteen percent of personnel having 16 to 20 years. The average years of experience was 15. Departmental Experience with Domestic Violence Based on responses to the survey, 80.6% of law enforcement agencies experienced an increase in the number of domestic violence calls in the past twelve months. To understand the scope of the problem, law enforcement officers were asked to recall the number of domestic violence calls they had 1

2 responded to in the last twelve months, six months, and one month. Law enforcement officers reported the number of domestic violence incidents relevant to each time frame. When officers responded with a range, the project staff recorded the lower, conservative number. Further analysis was conducted to evaluate specific trends and patterns in domestic violence rates. Results of specific trends illustrate an elevation in the rates of domestic violence calls to law enforcement agencies in the northwest region. The projections indicate that the trend in domestic violence is steadily increasing. Table 1 indicates that domestic violence rates will double within a year s time. It is not known what exactly is causing this increase in calls, but policy decisions and increased awareness may have profound effects on law enforcement response. Time Period (mos.) Mean no. of domestic violence calls Multiply by month Mean Trend Projection Percent Change % % % Table 1: Projected trends in the northwest region Training and Collaboration The law enforcement officers who participated in this study all indicated that their agency polices include procedures for officers to follow when responding to domestic violence calls. This is supportive considering police officers reported that they frequently respond to domestic violence calls. The vast majority (90.3%) of departments require law enforcement officers to attend domestic violence training. Furthermore, 83.9% of law enforcement officers agreed that on-going training regarding their department s domestic violence policy would assist in their line of work. On-going training related to domestic violence and police response is provided most often by local domestic violence service providers (83.9%) and department personnel (83.9%). Table 2 illustrates what method of delivery was used to conduct training on department s domestic violence policy. The majority of law enforcement officers prefer training to be conducted in a classroom setting (83.9%), while 6.5% prefer one-on-one. Departments with 10 officers or fewer preferred one-on-one training. Furthermore, one of the biggest obstacles to training was the lack 2 of manpower (54.8%) and lack of time for officers to attend (25.8%). Table 2. What method of delivery was used to conduct training on your department s domestic violence policy? Not Classroom 26(83.9%) 4(12.9%) One-on-one 10(32.3%) 20(64.5%) Roll call 2(6.5%) 28(90.3%) Other 3(9.7%) 27(87.1%) Departmental employees do have a working knowledge of the dynamics involved in domestic violence and their responsibilities under department policy. For example, Table 3 describes who receives training on issues related to domestic violence and police responses. Only 54.8% of dispatchers receive training. This is notable considering they are the department s first response to domestic violence victims. Table 3. Who in your department receives training on issues related to domestic violence and police responses? Not New recruits 28(90.3%) 2(6.5%) Patrol staff 27(87.1%) 3(9.7%) First line supervisors 23(74.2%) 7(22.6%) Executive staff 17(54.8%) 13(41.9%) Dispatchers 17(54.8%) 11(36.5%) Sheriff Deputies 12(38.7%) 18(58.1%) Civilian employees and volunteers 4(12.9%) 26(83.9%) Table 4 illustrates what training topics would assist responders when serving victims of domestic violence. As the table below indicates, training areas selected by respondents includes on-scene investigations, awareness of community resources, offensive/defensive injuries, domestic violence laws, and predominant aggressor. Departments with 10 or fewer officers identified lethality assessment as needed training topic. However, when asked to identify the greatest training need as an officer working with victims of domestic violence, predominant aggressor and on-scene investigation were indicated most often.

3 Table 4. Based on your experience as a law enforcement officer, identify what training areas would help you better serve victims of domestic violence? On-scene investigations 19(61.3%) Awareness of community resources 15(48.4%) Offensive/defensive injuries 14(45.2%) Domestic violence laws 14(45.2%) Predominant aggressor 13(41.9%) Protective order process 12(38.7%) Investigations 10(32.3%) Report writing 9(29%) Understanding policies 6(19.4%) Lethality assessment 4(12.9%) Domestic violence dynamics and its 3(9.7%) compact on society On-going training for police officers on sexual assault incidents is needed. Table 5 illustrates what topics would assist officers when serving victims of sexual assault. As the table below indicates, training areas selected by respondents includes suspect and victim interviewing techniques, drug facilitated sexual assault, and on-scene investigations. Police officers identified suspect and victim interviewing techniques and on-scene investigation as the greatest training needs when working with victims of sexual assault. Table 5. Based on your experience as a law enforcement officer, identify what training areas would help you better serve victims of domestic violence? n ( %) Suspect and victim interviewing 21(67.7%) techniques Drug facilitated sexual assault 15(48.4%) On-scene investigations 13(41.9%) Awareness of community 11(36.5%) resources Understanding the use of 11(35.5%) forensics medical exams/rape kit Sexual assault evidence collection 10(32.3%) protocol Sexual assault laws 10(32.3%) Sexual assault dynamics 8(25.8%) Report writing 6(19.4%) Intimate partner violence 6(19.4%) Understanding policies 4(12.9%) 3 Domestic violence victims experience barriers when seeking services. Law enforcement officers were asked based on their experience as an officer, what barriers they believe victims may encounter when seeking services. A clear majority of law enforcement officers identified financial dependence (71%), denial (71%), fear of increased violence (61.3%), and fear of losing custody of children (58.1%) as barriers for victims. Law enforcement officers, based on their experience, were asked to identify barriers to seeking services for sexual assault victims. Barriers selected included: fear of retaliation (58.1%), being traumatized (54.8%), fear of not being believed (51.6%), stigma of being a victim (51.6%), reluctance to completing the rape kit examination (48.4%), consumed alcohol/drugs before the assault (45.2%), and distrust in the criminal justice system (45.2%). Partnerships in Responding to Domestic Violence One effective response to domestic violence is to address the problem collaboratively. Approximately, eighty-four percent of departments have established a partnership with community organizations when responding to and investigating domestic violence or sexual assault cases. Respondents were willing to share information, such as calls for service data, with non-law enforcement agencies (87.1%). Additionally, 96.8% of law enforcement officers have familiarity with services available within their jurisdictions and almost always (93.5%) refer victims of domestic violence to these services. Discussion and Policy Implications The results of the study are not surprising given the trends between the influx of population and increase of domestic violence incidents in the pilot region. Based on survey responses, all departments represented indicated they have an existing domestic violence policy. The fact that agencies possess a domestic violence policy is due to the support of state legislators. In North Dakota, the Century Code states, Every law enforcement agency shall develop and implement specific operational guidelines for arrest policies and procedures in crime involving domestic violence. This statue has been in effect since In addition to this statue, a model law enforcement domestic violence policy was developed and

4 distributed in 2006 and later revised in 2010 to be utilized as a guide for department s development of their own policy. Just recently (August 2012), a model law enforcement sexual assault policy was revealed to law enforcement officers to encourage their departments to create a policy. Because of North Dakota s growing and ever changing population, law enforcement officials have expressed concerns about the increase in violence, alcohol, substance abuse, and related incidents (Ellis, 2011). Compounding these issues, the state has been experiencing a shortage of law enforcement personnel. According to the United States Census Bureau from 2009 to 2010, North s Dakota s population went up 3.3 percent while law enforcement increased by 6.0 percent. The growing demands in the energy impact regions create a concern because law enforcement personnel cannot keep up with the increased crime and population. According to the North Dakota Council on Abused Women s Services, 2012 saw approximately 4,624 new victims (new indicates unduplicated for calendar year) seeking help at crisis intervention centers across the state. This increase of domestic violence, coupled with a shortage of police officers due to the competition of higher wages being offered with the oil companies and the high cost of living conditions for new recruits (Levy, 2011) has contributed to various social problems in the region. Rural areas traditionally lack the infrastructure to meet the needs of domestic violence victims. Recognizing and preventing domestic violence in communities have become a priority; however, much work remains in areas inundated by oil exploration. Similarly, the number of domestic incidents law enforcement officers respond to is of great concern. The trend projections demonstrated in this brief illustrate that an elevation in the rates of domestic violence calls could double during the next year. These trend projections are alarming considering research regarding police operations, policies, and behavior in rural areas and small towns is often inadequate (Crank, 1990; Reiss, 1991). Police agencies within rural settings are often challenged with limited pay and benefits, minimal budget operations, nominal standards in hiring and training, and lack of adequate in-service training (Hickman & Reaves, 2006; International Association of Chiefs of Police, 1990; Weisheit, Falcone, & Wells, 1999). 4 Improving responses to domestic violence incidents in rural and small town police departments is challenging when a lack of personnel and resources prevent the development of extensive protocols, units, and training from progressing. The totality of these circumstances often brings about challenges, especially when encountering unique issues related to domestic violence in rural communities. One effective response to domestic violence is to address the problem collaboratively. Recommendations Departments should consider extending domestic violence training to dispatchers, given they are the department s first response to domestic violence victims. Most departments recognize the importance of training new recruits on domestic violence, but the focus must go beyond these officers. Policy and procedures are necessary since they provide direction on handling all aspects of domestic violence incidents. On-going training regarding operating procedures guide responses and provide opportunities for police officers to refresh their knowledge. Unfortunately, the survey did not inquire about ongoing specialized training on domestic violence. The reality is that the lack of training can create inconsistency among police officers which results in domestic violence situations being classified as non-domestic. Specific responses in the field are necessary. For example, it is essential that police officers know how to determine which party is the predominant aggressor. Similarly, departments should also focus on response patterns and weaknesses. Another tool that police departments should exploit is community resources. The availability of community resources is essential. These partnerships should go beyond referrals for victims. Community organizations (e.g., domestic violence programs, legal services) and resources should be utilized in training police personnel, and revising domestic violence policies. References Crank, J. (1990). The influence of environmental and organizational factors on police style in urban and rural environments. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 27,

5 Ellis, B. (2011, October 26). Crime turns oil boomtown into Wild West. CNN Money. Retrieved on from Hickman, M. & Reaves, B. (2006). Local Police Departments, Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. International Association of Chiefs of Police (1990). Managing the small law enforcement agency. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt. Levy, M. (2011-October 26). Oil boomtowns see rise in drunken driving and bar fights, threatening to overwhelm law enforcement. Huffingtonpost. Retrieved from Reiss, A. (1991). Police organization in the twentieth century. In M. Tonry & N. Morris (Eds.), Modern Policing (pp.51-97). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. United States Census Bureau, Retrieved from Weisheit, R., Falcone,D., & Wells, E. (1999). Crime and policing in rural and small town America. 2 nd ed. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. Contact Information Questions or comments about the information contained in this report, data used to generate this report, or about other resources available related to this topic should be address to: Minot State University Rural Crime and Justice Center 500 University Avenue W Minot, ND (B) (F) This project was supported by Grant No WE-AX-0020 awarded by the Office on Violence Again Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibitions are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. 5

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