Victims as Offenders: The Paradox of Women's Violence in Relationships

By Susan L. Miller | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
On the Beat
The Police Ride-Along Study

AS THE INITIAL RESPONDERS to a domestic violence call for help and as the [street level] interpreters of the law, police play an integral part in implementing domestic violence policy. Day in and day out, police are exposed to people's problems and have to interpret people's behavior, officially responding to it within the parameters of the law. While law enforcement strives to be nonselective and evenhanded, officers' personal attitudes, beliefs, and priorities shape their actions. Given their exposure to the complexities of citizens' private lives, police officers also make wonderful informants about social problems such as domestic violence.

This chapter describes the police ride-along component of the research project and analyzes the content of the conversations conducted with police officers and the situations observed. Ride-along studies entail a systematic effort to record police-citizen encounters by sending a trained observer to [partner] with a police officer during her or his shift. Observers are not randomly placed, but observe during a chosen time and day in order to increase the opportunity to observe the desired events. Since the goal was to observe domestic disputes, the focus was on the police shifts during which observers would potentially see the most action. Based on prior research findings, domestic skirmishes and violent eruptions were more likely to occur on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings and during the shifts from 4 p.m. to midnight and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The research team included eleven observers: ten advanced undergraduate students and one graduate student, seven females and four males. All students were trained in participant-observation skills and taught to recognize

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