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Battering Intervention for Police Families

By Davis, Richard | Law & Order, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Battering Intervention for Police Families

Davis, Richard, Law & Order

The criminal justice system, by its very nature, is reactive. An event occurs, someone calls for help, and law enforcement responds. Contemporary criminal justice domestic violence intervention is similar.

Reactive intervention (after a crisis occurs) by law enforcement, psychologists, and domestic violence advocates must become more proactive. Punitive policies and programs alone need to be evaluated for their effectiveness. Proactive intervention, preventative family counseling, and other support services must be incorporated with reactive punitive sanctions to prevent or minimize further and future domestic violence incidents.

A straightforward, 3-step program for this involves 1) educational and psychological testing coupled with extensive background checks, 2) continually available psychological and educational counseling concerning family conflict and battering behavior and 3) sure and swift, yet fair and just, punitive sanctions for battering incidents.

Step One: Pre-Employment

Law enforcement agencies must provide appropriate pre-employment intelligence and psychological testing. Law enforcement must commit itself to hire only the best and fittest applicants. All applicants should have, at the least, an associate degree. The degree does not have to be in criminal justice. Studies document that the more education officers have, the lower the likelihood that officers will have problems on the job and/or in their homes. It is also important to remember that size and strength are not adequate replacements for competence and aptitude.

In contemporary society, law enforcement agencies have a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility in the hiring and retaining of officers who are psychologically sound. A New York court held in, Bonsigiwre v City of New York, where an officer shot his wife and then killed himself, that for an agency to avoid liability the agency must be able to document it has taken reasonable precaution in hiring and/or retaining officers who are psychologically fit for the job.

In another case, Davis v Hennepin County, a woman charged that a county corrections officer repeatedly engaged in a pattern of harassment towards her. The plaintiff won the case and the court ruled that the county could not use official immunity to protect itself from claims such as negligent retention of personnel.

The Psychopathic Deviate (Pd) scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) should be of particular importance to law enforcement administrators. This section of the MMPI test has been specifically designed to document people with sociopathic personality traits. Some researchers believe that as many as one in 25 people may have sociopathic personalities.

Quality pre-employment educational and psychological testing evaluations can be the easiest and most effective approach an agency can undertake in the hiring of competent personnel and minimizing law suits.

Step Two: Pro-Active Intervention

The San Diego Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team report documents that approximately one out of every four domestic violence murders they investigated was a murder-suicide. Other studies document the number might be as high as one in three. In the US, a law enforcement officer will intentionally take his own life every 22 hours. Officer suicides are three times the national average. Officer suicides are four times the number of felony death rates for law enforcement.

While these numbers are horrific, they pale in comparison to the number of family conflict incidents, of marriages that are destroyed, and the effect these troubled relationships and marriages have on children. The National Violence Against Women survey, as do most domestic violence surveys, documents that more than 90% of domestic violence incidents are relatively minor and consist of pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting.

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