Police Work in Interviewing Victims of Domestic Violence Cases

Police officers can make mistakes in handling the cases of victims of spousal abuse and other forms of domestic violence. These mistakes could escalate the situation for the victim or prevent the victim from obtaining the proper legal and social support. Some errors could even lead to the death of the victim because of lack of or improper intervention. An important area of police intervention in domestic abuse is the interview of victims of domestic violence.

This is a crucial role since the information derived from the interview determines the merit of the complaint and the appropriate action in handling the case. The accuracy and completeness of the information drawn from the interviews with victims comprises a determinant of the quality of the interview process. However, this is not an easy thing to achieve. Victims of domestic violence are often not conscious of their rights or hesitant to cooperate during investigations.

Nevertheless, with effective interviewing processes, police officers should minimize mistakes. Understanding how police officers can commit mistakes in interviewing victims of spousal abuse and other forms of domestic violence is important to determine the cause and recommend viable areas for improvement. Definition of Domestic Violence Key to the investigation lies in the definition of domestic violence understood as “violence between intimates living together or who have previously cohabited” (Buzawa, 2003, p.

13). In the context of the justice system, domestic violence has a legal and behavioral component. The legal component requires the existence of an “intimate relationship” (p. 32) between the perpetrator and the victim (The Northwest Tribal Court Judges Association, 1999). The ability of police officers to understand this legal requirement affects the quality of the interview because the degree of understanding determines the practice decisions and strategies implemented during actual interviews.

The behavioral component of domestic violence comprises the “pattern of assaultive and controlling behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, that one adult intimate” (The Northwest Tribal Court Judges Association, 1999, p. 32). Awareness of police officers of the behavioral component of domestic violence also affects the quality and outcomes of the interviews with victims because the degree of awareness reflects on the ability of police officers to assess and perceive the situation and case of the victim for purposes of the proper handling of the case.

Mistakes of police officers in interviewing victims of domestic violence revolve around the legal and behavior context of domestic violence. Attitudes of Police Officers towards Domestic Violence One way for police officers to make mistakes in interviewing victims of domestic violence is through their attitudes towards spousal abuse and other forms of domestic violence and the parties involves, both victim and perpetrator. How police officers treat the situation and victims determines the “help-seeking behavior” (Roberts, 2002, p. 233) of victims of domestic violence.

This means that indifference or unsympathetic attitudes of police officers would lead to the unwillingness of victims to cooperate in the interviews and agree to the legal actions, undergo physical examination by health care professionals, and agree to social service interventions such as counseling and placement in secure shelters. Concurrently, sympathetic attitudes of police officers towards victims during the interviews build a sense of safety and security that fosters cooperation from the victims. (Logan, Shannon & Walker, 2006) However, not all police officers carry an understanding attitude towards domestic violence and the victims.

Domestic violence is a crime, which means that upon finding of its commission the state intervenes in behalf of the victim in dealing with the perpetrator. This means that even if the victim refuses to cooperate, the case could still prosper, albeit more difficult to pursue. The proper interviewing of police officers of victims could influence the willingness of the victims to cooperate. (Buzawa, 2003) However, the perceptions of police officers of domestic violence as a private matter or problem properly resolve among the parties leads to indifference or hesitant attitudes in interviewing victims.

This creates a problem since the attitudes of police officers towards the victims during the interview provide the security that victims need to cooperate in the investigation (Roberts, 2002). Some police officers could even sympathize with the explanations of the perpetrator on why the victim had reported domestic violence or received injuries. These perceptions could blind police officers in assessing the information received during the interview that leads to inaction or insufficient action (Logan, Shannon & Walker, 2006). Victims then tend not to make reports resulting to the continuation of the violence and even ending in death.

Attitudes of police officers during the interview with victims have a strong impact on the handling of the case. The attitudes of police officers towards domestic violence and victims have cultural underpinnings. It was only recently that democratic societies criminalized domestic violence. As such, it is not surprising that remnants of perspectives on the acceptability or tolerability of domestic violence remains. Moreover, the attitudes of police officers in interviews of victims of domestic violence also intersect with race and gender (Locke & Richman, 1999).

Most police officers are men so that they would always have an outside looking in perspective of domestic violence. Personal biases towards gender and race could intervene during the investigation. Although, law enforcement has women’s desk specifically handling cases of domestic violence, with women police officers doing the interviews, this does not guarantee empathy towards the victims to draw accurate and sufficient information in support of proper interventions. Women police officers are a minority and the gender and race attitudes in the workplace could influence the attitudes of women police officers over domestic violence.

Police officers need to be aware of their attitudes towards domestic violence and the victims during the interviews and minimize the influence of personal biases towards gender and race to achieve quality interview results that supports the protection of victims, which is the primary role of police officers (Locke & Richman, 1999). Otherwise, police officers would end up committing errors in gathering information and making judgments on the case. Guidelines in Interviewing Domestic Violence Victims