The Situational Determinants of Police Decision-Making
In Chapter 4 it was argued that officers' responses to incidents of domestic violence are shaped by the organization of policing: the way in which they are trained; their organizational goals; technology; resources; the style of policing and procedural law. These might be referred to as 'structures', but they are inevitably influenced by, and, in turn, influence, sub-cultural norms, values, and beliefs. This chapter draws on observation of officers on patrol, and interviews with officers and (less often) victims. It shows how 'working assumptions' and 'working rules' which derive from these 'structural' and sub-cultural influences affected the choices made by Thames Valley officers attending domestic disputes (see Chapter 1 for a discussion of the concepts 'working assumptions' and 'working rules'). The question posed is: to what extent can evidential rules and force policies explain police decisions regarding arrest and to what extent are these decisions explained by working rules?
It will be argued that evidential law rarely dictates police action. Most police decisions regarding arrest are made on the basis of their working rules, which are decided upon according to their working assumptions. But it will be shown that the law is not rendered invisible by this process. Indeed, an understanding of the law is crucial to understanding officers' behaviour.
Furthermore, it will be argued that victims' preferences have a significant influence over police decisions regarding arrest and prosecution. When victims do not want their partners or ex-partners to be prosecuted this rarely happens. This does not, however, mean that violent men are not subjected to coercive police powers, but, rather, that police powers are used--by victims as well as officers-- as a resource to achieve aims other than prosecution. Indeed, it will be shown that often arrest has little or nothing to do with prosecution.