In June 1987, the Metropolitan Police introduced a new policy towards cases of domestic violence which emphasised the use of arrest, enhanced support for the victim, improved training for the police and improved record keeping in line with and possibly in anticipation of the 1999 definition (above). Hoyle (1998) found that far from being reluctant to arrest, police were frustrated by the victims reluctance to support positive court action against their assailants. Hoyle went as far as to say, 'Domestic violence is now in theory recognised as 'real crime'.
As opposed to a previous view identified by Reiner (2000) who quotes Sir Kenneth Newman (former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police), "messy, unproductive, and not 'real' police work in traditional cop culture" (p. 135) Hoyle found that far from the common feminist view that low arrest rates were as a result of canteen culture of the uncaring police service. The police officers frequently dealt with incidents in ways that showed compassion for the victim. She found they were sometimes willing to 'bend' and stretch the letter of the law to offer some respite to an abused woman.
Hoyle found officers frustrated when the victims were reluctant to support their action. Hoyle also found that there was no detectable difference in the way male or female officers dealt with the issues. What explained low arrest rates, Hoyle argues was that victims genuinely did want to pursue a prosecution. Feminists argue that the unwillingness identified by Hoyle is a myth and disagree with her view that research shows that victims genuinely did not want officers to arrest their abusive partner
Hoyle found in her research that female justification for refusing to testify at court was summarised as only wanting him out of house for a short time to calm down. A concern of victims was if he gets arrested what will happen to the family income. What about the mortgage and other bills. It is a fact that many men are still the main wage earner in a family and should the wages be lost what will happen to the family home etc. An example of this is expressed by concerns that question the appropriateness and effectiveness of a positive arrest policy in domestic violence incidents.
In particular, it is questioned as to whether arresting assailants actually reduces the violence that the victim faces. Levi (1997) points to evidence to suggest that far from reducing the violence, arrests can lead to an increase in the rate of recidivism amongst certain social groupings. Waddington (1999a) supports this with reference to Hoyle (1998) who argues that women tend to want nothing more than an immediate break from the violence and give a warning to their partners. Consequently, Hoyle (1998) suggests that making arrests could stop women from calling the police because they feel that the action they take goes too far.
Recognising signs of domestic violence. The police traditionally deal with what they are called to or are informed of. Domestic Violence units have been developed over a number of years and now have a number of support mechanisms in place ready to be actioned when needed. If police are to become more proactive in reducing domestic violence they need to understand the vulnerable groups. Waddington (1999) identifies those vulnerable groups. The British Crime Survey (BCS) shows that domestic violence is concentrated among the young and those who suffer the usual depressing catalogue of deprivation and disorganisation.
Thus those most at risk are the divorced, separated, unemployed, lower social classes, living in rented or council accommodation who are experiencing financial hardship and suffering poor health, and who consume excessive quantities of alcohol and use drugs. Other methods such as attempting to identify victims through their groupings as demonstrated by the BCS (above) with some further help from Saunders (cited in Campbell 1995) who suggests 9 risk factors which are associated with wife assault summarised in the table below.