Richard L. Davis on How Police Officers Respond to Domestic Violence Cases (Part II)

“Contemporary, unprecedented Intimate Partner Violence training curriculums establish a bias found nowhere else in the criminal justice system. IPV trainers simply refer to females as victims and males as offenders.”

Richard L. Davis (pictured), MS and MA, of recently sent me an excellent new article he penned–Exploring law enforcement’s response to “intimate partner violence” (, 2/19/09).

I recommend the whole article, but below are some excerpts. (Also see Part I here). Davis writes:

Most criminal justice data documents that in serious incidents, females do suffer from more injurious and fatal violence than males. However, as the POPIPV documents, most IPV incidents are minor or there is no empirical evidence to demonstrate who initiated the assaultive behavior. Contemporary, unprecedented IPV training curriculums establish a bias found nowhere else in the criminal justice system. IPV trainers simply refer to females as victims and males as offenders.

Some states have provided “primary or dominant aggressor’ laws and IPV training programs that are based on what the POPIPV refers to as “gender clues.’ The intent of the “gender clues’ is to suggest to officers which gender is the offender. These primary or dominant aggressor laws or training imply that when there is little physical evidence or it is difficult to determine who is guilty, the officers should make an arrest based on the difference in size and strength of the partners or which partner of the two appears most fearful.

It may be that these “gender clues and IPV gender based training’ and the expectation that all IPV interventions should be considered as “serious’ incidents plays a role in the extraordinarily high rate of arrests being dropped by prosecutors or dismissed by judges because of the lack of evidence.

A U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) funded study documents a high rate of IPV conviction for females arrested and a much lower conviction rate for males. This may demonstrate that officers continue to arrest females based on traditional and proper “probable cause’ but they arrest males based on IPV “gender clues’ and an IPV training curriculum that creates a gender bias about who is guilty and who is innocent. That may be coupled with the hypothesis by IPV trainers that all of these incidents will become a serious problem for females…

[D]espite the anecdotal claims by some researchers and interveners that all or most incidents will escalate, there appears to be no empirical evidence-based studies that support this claim…

The data does document, and it was my personal experience from responding to IPV calls, that females do suffer more injuries and fatalities. However, this POPIPV study documents that only 5.9% of the IPV incidents involved aggravated assaults and none were fatal.

Officers are extensively trained to recognize that there are minor incidents (misdemeanors) and serious incidents (felonies). Most, if not all, IPV training continues to be one-size-fits-all. Most officers understand that verbal arguments are “family conflict” incidents and most officers do not view verbal arguments as either minor or serious acts of “violence’…

It is difficult to understand, how or why with the exception of one study, after thirty years of exploration researchers remain unable to sit down with officers and ask officers what their perceptions of IPV actually are. After three decades of observation perhaps it is time to simply talk to officers. This might provide understanding that could introduce important and detailed comprehension about law enforcement and its intersection with IPV.

Read Davis’ whole article here. To learn more about problems with mandatory arrest laws and the domestic violence system, click here.

Davis was one of the presenters at the historic “From Ideology to Inclusion: Evidence-Based Policy and Intervention in Domestic Violence” conference in Sacramento, CA. in February, 2008. To order DVDs of the conference, click here. To read more about the conference’s content, click here. Davis can be reached at

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