Domestic Violence Training for Law Enforcement Families

By Richard Davis
April 12, 2013

Evidence-Based Practices

Evidence-based practices are designed to introduce or maintain objectivity in our decision making processes (Macionis, 2011). Far too many domestic violence/aggression interventions, policies and programs that are presented to the criminal justice system are biased by ideological subjectivity rather than empirical objectivity (Dasgupta, 2003; Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin & Petrie, 2004; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

Too many 21st century public policy makers and domestic violence/aggression interveners remain focused on 20th century hypotheses and theories rather than 21st century evidence-based data (Black, et al., 2011; Fagan, 1996; Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin & Petrie, 2004; Maline, 2013; Walters, Chen & Breiding, 2013).

The phenomenon that is domestic violence/aggression has become an enigma because it continues to be primarily or solely presented as a women rights quandary rather than a human rights dilemma. Once understood without bias, it can be both. In this 21st century the majority of our public policy makers and domestic violence interveners seem to be pitting the rights of one group of victims against another (Wallace & Roberson, 2011).

What is equally troubling is that too many social scientists do not agree on a definition for domestic violence/aggression. Many research and present domestic violence/aggression as intimate partner violence while others research and present it as family violence. Once understood without bias, it can be both. Domestic violence/aggression does not mean the same thing to too many researchers, public policy makers, practitioners and interveners and hence to most people in general (Wallace & Roberson, 2011).

Domestic violence/aggression is also viewed, understood and defined differently by federal agencies and individual state statute law. Hence it is often perceived as two different phenomenon (, 2013).

How does one accurately study or research a phenomenon if a definition cannot be agreed on because the definition of any act both sets limits and focuses research within certain boundaries? The lack of agreement in defining family [domestic] violence has led to confusion and disarray in attempts to determine factors that cause or contribute to family [domestic] violence. (Wallace & Roberson, 2011, p. 4)

Domestic Violence

The vast majority of states define domestic violence/aggression as family violence or people simply living in the same household. ALL federal agencies, including the United States Attorney General’s Office (USDOJ) and National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) continue to proffer that domestic violence/aggression is intimate partner violence and by inference domestic violence/aggression is different from family violence/aggression (, 2013). Whether it is intentional or not the federal government, domestic violence/aggression interveners and some social scientists are making this very challenging problem more problematic to resolve.

Please use the website to find the family/domestic violence/aggression laws in your state. That website also includes the domestic violence/intimate partner laws and policies of the federal government. The website will allow you to read how and where federal governmental agencies and the states differ on their understanding and definitions of domestic violence/aggression.

It is improbable to impossible for me to comprehend how or why the federal government. the states, domestic violence/aggression interveners and so many social scientists do not realize how much confusion these two different understandings, definitions and presentations of domestic violence/aggression have created (Wallace & Roberson, 2011)!

Because law enforcement must follow state law, for the purpose of this law enforcement training guide I will use an inclusive domestic violence/aggression definition that is similar to the one that can be found on the Family NonViolence, Inc. of Fairhaven, Massachusetts website

Domestic violence/aggression is child, sibling, dating, intimate partner, spousal or elder abuse. Domestic violence/aggression is the multilevel, multifaceted use of manipulative or coercive behavior and physical or sexual assaults with the objective of changing or controlling the behavior of a family member or a heterosexual or same sex intimate partner. This behavior ranges from various forms of coercive behavior, threats, and minor physical, injurious, sexual or lethal assaults.

It is ludicrous, preposterous and an impediment to domestic violence/aggression research to continue proffering that the different forms of familial controlling behavior are only or primarily experienced when females become adult heterosexual females or that this type of familial abuse does not exhibit itself until one enters into a marriage or intimate partner relationship (Barnett, Miller-Perrin & Perrin, 2010; Black, et al., 2011; Chalk & King, 1998; Lohman, et al., 2013; Reiss & Roth, 1993; Wallace & Roberson, 2011; Walters, Chen & Breiding, 2013)

Historically, regardless of gender, most people have not reported indirect violence or minor pushing, shoving, slapping and other less serious forms of physically assaultive behavior to law enforcement. However, with proper domestic violence/aggression education that is changing in this 21st century. Aggressive, coercive and minor assaultive behavior needs to be addressed as these behaviors may lead to more violent behavior (Black et al., 2011; Walters, Chen, & Brieding, 2013; Whitaker, et al, 2007).

The 21st century evidence-based data document what remains a historic fact. Males use more direct violence in general than females and more injurious and lethal domestic violence/aggression than females. Females use more indirect violence and less lethal violence in general and more indirect and more less injurious physical domestic violence assaults. Females do use less lethal domestic violence than males both inside and out side of relationships. Females do not use less lethal violence than males because they can’t. Guns provide an equal opportunity for for lethal violence.

This difference in the use of violence is clearly documented by the differentiation found in domestic violence/aggression victimization numbers between community surveys [they include indirect violence and very minor assaults] when compared to crime data victimization [they account for only the more serious incidents] (Black, et al., 2011; Rennison, 2003; Rennison, 2000).

The evidence based data documents that the majority of male injurious and lethal violence is not against family members or intimate partners while the majority of female injurious and lethal violence is against family members and intimate partners (Dunrose, et al., 2005).

It should also be obvious that many parents, regardless of gender, use physical assaults (spankings) to control or alter the behavior of their children. Countless siblings, regardless of gender, use physical assaults or coercive behavior to “get their way” with each other. Most parents, regardless of gender, will tell other adult family members that as long as they are living in “their house” things will be done their way. Some adult children, regardless of gender, tell their parents that they must understand the roles of the family hierarchy have reversed. Same sex couples, regardless of gender, exhibit the same domestic violence/aggression behaviors in their relationships, sometimes in greater percentages than opposite sex couples.

It is difficult to understand how anyone in this 21st century can continue to believe that this form of family/domestic violence/aggression behavior is only or primarily caused by adult heterosexual males whose desires and intentions are to subjugate or subordinate adult heterosexual females? While this may be true for some specific incidents, all unbiased researchers agree that, to date, there is no single correct theory or causal factor (Wallace & Roberson, 2011). This of course begs the question; Why do the federal government and so many domestic violence/aggression interveners continue to insist – without any evidence-based data to support their belief – that domestic violence is a gender based crime?

Never-the-less, the discussion of cause is not of primary importance for law enforcement officers. Officers must focus on stopping the violence and making arrests where probable cause demonstrates a crime has occurred.

The primary premise of this training is for public policy makers, domestic violence interveners, psychologists, law enforcement and the courts to recognize and understand that most often there is a dramatic difference between “family conflict” and “battering behavior” (Barnett, Miller-Perrin & Perrin, 2010; Buzawa & Buzawa, 2003; Davis, 2008; Dutton; 2006; Felson, 2002;  Johnson, 2013; Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin & Petrie, 2004; Wallace & Roberson, 2011)

The reason I use domestic violence/aggression throughout this training guide is because I believe that when most people think about violence they do not think of indirect violence, coercive behavior or psychological aggression. Violence, to most people is serious physically assaultive behavior; a broken nose, a black eye etc (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 2010).

However, it is generally agreed that minor physical assaults, coercive behavior or psychological abuse can be just as significantly impacting on family members or intimate partners as the more serious and injurious physical assaults (Barnett, Miller-Perrin & Perrin, 2010; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980; Black, et al., 2011; Walters, Chen & Breiding, 2013).

Measuring Intimate Partner (Domestic) Violence

Many social scientists complain that there have been very few national domestic violence/aggression studies/surveys that include the diverse dynamics of intimate partner domestic violence/aggression and that also contain examples of sexual assault, coercive behavior and psychological abuse (Dragiewicz & DeKeseredy, 2011).

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) notes that there has been a need for a national study/survey that is designed to include the nature and dynamics of intimate partner domestic violence/aggression and that the study/survey needs to contain data concerning coercive and psychological behavior and sexual aggression (National Institute of Justice, 2013).

The National Institute of Justice specifically notes the following:

Researchers continue to be hampered by insufficient data concerning the incidence and prevalence of intimate partner and sexual violence, both nationally and locally. In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiated the development of the National Intimate and Sexual Violence Surveillance program to gather and disseminate information for each State about intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking (National Institute of Justice, 2013).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) completed the aforementioned survey and it is The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation (Black, et. al., 2011; Walters, Chen & Brieding, 2013).

This inclusive intimate partner survey is intended to disseminate evidence-based data for each state. It is available online at As social scientists and the NIJ have noted, all domestic violence/aggression interveners involved with 21st century domestic violence/aggression interventions need to read and more importantly understand the findings from the above 2010 CDC study Black, et. al., 2011; Walters, Chen & Brieding, 2013).

This law enforcement training guide is supported by much of the data from the above 21st century findings. A search of the internet will reveal that the vast majority of domestic aggression/violence intervention training for law enforcement officers and the criminal justice system continues to be based on intimate partner relationships and 20th century theories and hypotheses. Dated 20st century styled law enforcement domestic violence/aggression training needs to be transformed to better meet the needs of 21st century family members.

This law enforcement training guide is based upon data from the above CDC report and other 21st century empirical evidence-based studies, community surveys community and is supported by crime data (Bucqueroux, 2003; Buzawa & Buzawa, 2003; Dasgupta, 2003; Davis, 2013; Davis, 2010; Dragiewicz & DeKeseredy, 2010; Dugan, Nugin, & Rosenfeld, 2001; Dutton, 2006; Ford, Bachman, Friend & Meloy, 2002; Felson, 2002; Hendricks, McKean & Hendricks, 2003; Hotaling & Buzawa, 2003; Johnson, 2013; Kennedy, 2004; Klein, 2009; Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin & Petrie, 2004; Millbank, Riches & Prior, 2000; Mills, 2003; Moffitt, et al, 2000; National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2012; National Institute of Justice, 2013; Rennison, 2000; Wallace & Roberson, 2011; Whitaker, et al., 2007).

The Need for Proactive Training

One does not need to be a social scientist or researcher for the NIJ to understand that the majority of the criminal justice system – because of its very nature – is reactive. A negative event occurs, a call for assistance is made, law enforcement responds and often the courts become involved. Far too often domestic violence/aggression intervention and training continues on a similar reactive path.

Punitive policies and after-the-fact domestic violence/aggression intervention and training programs should be evaluated to demonstrate their effectiveness. Reactive intervention (after a crisis occurs) by law enforcement, psychologists and other domestic violence/aggression interveners is not sufficient. Domestic violence/aggression intervention and training must become more proactive.

Reactive and punitive sanctions are necessary and do not need to be set aside. Reactive punitive sanctions [the stick] to prevent or minimize domestic aggression/violence can continue to be effective for some offenders.

However, proactive intervention, preventative family resources and inclusive support services [the carrot] need to play a more important role. Either intervention, acting alone, is not sufficient for many law enforcement officers and support personnel.

A 21st Century Proactive Three-Step Program for Law Enforcement

(1) Employment educational and psychological testing is important and they must be coupled with extensive background checks. This is the attempt to avoid a problem before it becomes an agency problem.

(2) Once hired, officers and support personnel must be provided with constant and consistent psychological and educational resources for both “family conflict” and “battering behavior.” Family conflict is something many families, face, battering behavior occur less frequently. Law enforcement officers and support personnel must be provided compassionate intervention for “family conflict” and “zero tolerance for batterers.” There is no place in law enforcement for anyone who exhibits “battering behavior.”

(3) Officers and support personnel must clearly understand that they will face certain and swift, yet fair and just, punitive sanctions for “battering behavior.” To this effect there should be a written and signed agreement in place to ensure individual understanding about agency domestic violence/aggression policies and procedure to minimize, as much as possible, after-the-fact disagreement.

Step One: Pre-Employment

Law enforcement agencies must provide appropriate pre-employment, intelligence and psychological testing. These forms of testing are not perfect but there can be no argument that they are far more effective than not testing. Law enforcement must ensure the community and itself that it is, at least attempting, to hire only the best and fittest applicants.

In today’s complex world of law enforcement all applicants should have at the very least an Associate Degree from an accredited college. Community studies and criminal justice data clearly document that the more education officers – or in fact anyone has- the lower the likelihood that officers will have problems with domestic violence on the job and/or in their home (Roberg & Bonn, 2004). It is also important to remember that size and strength are not always adequate replacements for competence and aptitude (Heidensohn, 2003).

In contemporary society, law enforcement agencies have both ethical and legal responsibility in the hiring and retaining officers who must be psychologically sound. A New York court held in, Bonsignore vs. City of New York, where an officer shot his wife and then killed himself, that for an agency to avoid liability that agency must be able to document it has taken reasonable precaution in hiring and/or retaining officers who are psychologically fit for the job.

In another case, Davis vs. Hennepin County, a woman charged that a County corrections officer repeatedly engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment toward her. The plaintiff won the case and the court ruled that the county could not use official immunity to protect itself from claims such as negligent retention of personnel.

Most researchers agree that as many as 1 in 25 people may have some form of sociopathic personalities (Stout, 2005). The Inwald Personality Inventory (IPI) should be of particular interest to law enforcement administrators. The IPI is specifically designed to detect law enforcement stress reactions as well as deviant behavior patterns.

The Psychopathic Deviate (Pd) scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is another. A section of the MMPI test is specifically designed to discover people with sociopathic personality traits. There may be other tests however I am only familiar with the effectiveness of these two.

While these forms of testing are not perfect, quality pre-employment educational and psychological testing evaluations are the most effective approaches an agency can use in the hiring of competent personnel while at the same time minimizing law suits.

Step Two: Pro-Active Intervention

The San Diego Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team report, as do similar studies, documents that approximately one out of every four domestic violence homicides they investigated was a homicide-suicide. Other studies document the number might be as high as one in three (Davis, 2010; Websdale, Sheeran & Johnson, 2005).

In the United States a law enforcement officer will intentionally take his or her own life every 22 hours. Officer suicides are three times the national average. Officer suicides are four times the number of felony death rates for law enforcement (Gilmartin, 1986).

While these numbers are horrific they pale in comparison to the number of domestic violence/aggression incidents, of marriages that are destroyed and the effect these troubled relationships and tumultuous marriages have on children (Lohman, 2013).

The National Violence Against Women survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey, as do most community surveys and crime data, document that most domestic violence/aggression incidents are relatively minor and consist of pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting (Black, et al., 2010: Rennison, 2000, Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

However, all domestic violence incidents must be taken seriously as some may be precursors of future and more serious events. When not confronted early and properly addressed, some of these apparently minor “family conflict” incidents may evolve into more violent forms of “battering behavior.” However, it is important to understand that while one may evolve into the other does not mean that the two are the same behaviors.

The authors of, Advancing The Federal Research Agenda On Violence Against Women, conclude that it is vital that researchers and interveners distinguish between what constitutes and act of violence, abuse or battering. The context in which the violence occurs is too often overlooked by interveners and most often ignored in domestic violence/aggression statute law (Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin, & Petrie, (2004).

I very much agree with the authors of the college text, Crisis Intervention, when they note that to understand the nature of intimate partner violence, it is important to make a distinction between common couple violence [family conflict] and chronic battering [battering behavior].(Hendricks, McKean, & Hendricks, 2003).

Michael P. Johnson, very clearly defines himself as a feminist. Johnson is one of the leading domestic violence/aggression authors in American. Johnson recognizes that the majority of domestic violence/aggression incidents better fit his “common couple violence” or my “family conflict” model rather than “battering behavior.” Johnson is not attacking contemporary feminist theory, he is simply reporting the obvious differences between what he labels “intimate terrorism [battering behavior] and common couple violence [family conflict] (Johnson, 2013).

It should be equally obvious that the civil and criminal laws, most often, do not distinguish between “battering behavior” and “family conflict” (Buzawea & Buzawa, 2003; Davis, 2008; Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin, & Petrie, 2004).

Mandatory arrest and no-drop prosecution can create unintended negative outcomes in some families (Davis, 2008; Dugan, Nugin, Rosenfeld, 2001; Dutton, 2006; Felson, Felson, 2002; Hotaling & Buzawa, 2003; 2001; Iyengar, 2007). What is equally obvious is that most public policy makers and interveners do not understand or choose to ignore what is obvious to most domestic violence/aggression researchers. One-size-fits-all solutions do not work (Fagan, 1996).


Most researchers agree that a “batterer” is a family member or intimate partner who repeatedly uses coercion, force or physical violence to manipulate and control the behavior of another family member or intimate partner (Davis, 2008; Dutton, 2006; Felson, 2006; Wallace & Roberson, 2011).

However, it is important to remember that the issues of power and control are the means and not the goal of the perpetrator. A robber will use a gun [power] to control the behavior of a store clerk. The robber is not obsessed or driven by the use of power or control, the guiding factor or the goal of the robber is the money (Davis, 2008).

Battering can occur without physical assaults as the constant threat of violence can be enough to change or alter another’s behavior. Unwanted assertive sexual aggression and violent episodes of destroying property or harming pets can be considered “battering behavior.” Having absolute and complete control of the family finances is deemed by some researchers as “battering behavior” (Dutton, 1995).

Batterers are masters of manipulation and misdirection. It is important to remember that the behavior of a “batterer” is not that of someone who is out of control. On the contrary, it is the specific intent and goal of a batterer to attain and maintain control to achieve his or her particular goal by repeatedly using coercive behavior or threatening the use of force or violence (Davis, 2008; Wallace & Roberson, 2011).

Family Conflict

Family conflict can occur when a family member, regardless of age or gender, employs psychological and minor physical assaults (shoving, slapping or throwing objects) to “get their own way” in a specific or a single general disagreement. This behavior is not repeated over a long term nor does it involve excessively violent behavior (Davis, 2013; Johnson, 2013; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). This behavior is extremely prevalent among young siblings and not viewed as aberrant behavior and certainly not criminal behavior (Wallace & Roberson, 2010)

As crime data demonstrates, family conflict, more often than not, is not long term controlling behavior. Family conflict can evolve from or be exacerbated by a number of reasons such as; sudden or chronic illness, special needs children, anger, anxiety, grief, alcohol or drug abuse, stress, work issues, depression or any number of psychological reasons. Some forms of family conflict will occur in most families over a lifespan (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 2010; Davis, 2008; Wallace & Roberson, 2011).

Ideologically Held Beliefs

It is now recognized, by unbiased social scientist, that the issue of unequal power, control and resources can influence all family violence/aggression, not only violence against adult heterosexual women. The issue of unequal power, control and resources effect child, sibling, spousal, intimate partner and elder abuse (Chalk & King, 1998). Often, the reasons for violence within the family reflect the various theories concerning violence in general (Buzawa & Buzawa, 2003; Kennedy, 2004; Klein, 20009; Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin, Petrie, 2004; Moffitt et al, 2000; Roth & Reiss, 1993).

Rather than contemporary “one-solution-fits-all” policies, procedures and programs there needs to be interventions and sanctions that are appropriate to the levels of seriousness of particularized incidents and the interventions and sanctions need to be appropriate for the individual needs of specific families (Fagan, 1996; Wallace & Roberson, 2011).

The 20th century belief by ideological feminists that the violence suffered by adult heterosexual women is dramatically different and distinct from all other forms of interpersonal violence is not now nor was it then supported by empirical evidence-based studies or data. The “patriarchy makes them do it belief” that was theorized and hypothesized in the 20th century as the only or primary cause of domestic violence/aggression continues to lack empirical evidence-based support. (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 2010; Dutton, 2006; Felson, 2002; Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin, Petrie, 2004).

These 20th century beliefs were driven by well intentioned interveners who worked to provide assistance for women who were raped, beaten and battered and many of these victims provided very compelling stories. There is no question that these women did need help. However, that data by its very nature is prejudiced because all of the victims were female and all of the offenders were male. Hence, this 20th century research could, at best, present a limited perspective.

This does not mean that the results of these limited sample interventions and surveys are wrong. However, it does document that they are, by their very nature prejudiced and influenced by their gender limitations (Macionis, 2011). I am not a social scientist, however, I do remember being taught that correlation or statically association are not the same as cause (Chabris & Simons, 2009).

Ideologically held beliefs can and do skewer one view of empirical reality. If you choose to view the issue of intimate partner violence only or primarily through an ideologically held beliefs and a feminist lens what you will see, more often than not, will be subjective [what you expect to see] rather than objective [what you actually do see] (Chabris & Simons, 2009; Dragiewicz & DeKeseredy, 2011; Macionis, 2011; Tjaden, & Thoennes, 2000).

One example of seeing what is not there is a report sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors, Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes conclude that:

These findings support the theory that violence perpetrated against women by intimates is often part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000, p. iv).

If you use the hyperlink in the reference section you can read that study online. You will discover that nowhere do the Tjaden and Thoennes present empirical evidence-based findings that can support their claim. Never-the-less somehow they report that their study supports their belief.

This demonstrates that it can be extremely difficult to overcome ideological held beliefs that have been formed through personal interventions and very compelling anecdotes. However, first year psychology and sociology classes teach us that limited investigatory samples always provide limited results. To fully understand a phenomenon that affects everyone any empirical survey or study must include a population that represents everyone and viewed through an unbiased lens (Chabris & Simons, 2009; Macionis, 2011).

The CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010

The CDC National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010 (NISVS) findings include both male and female victimization and also victimization by sexual orientation. (Black, et al., 2011; Walter, Chen & Breiding, 2013).

I believe that the NISVS, while not perfect, is superior to many earlier attempts to measure domestic violence/aggression. However, for an empirical survey it unusually and mysteriously excluded some very important objective measurements and included a number of subjective measurements.

For example the NISVS excluded the objective acts of, “throwing an object which could cause harm” and “threatened with a knife or gun.” These are two objective measurements that have almost always been included in previous domestic violence/aggression measurements.

The NISVS also included some very obviously subjective measurements. For example the NISVS includes if the victim felt fearful or were concerned for their safety. These measurements – felt or concerned – are clearly subjective measurements.

As noted above and for reasons I do not understand, the NISVS insists on counting some subjective measurements as if they are objective measurements. Never-the-less I believe the NISVS is superior to many other earlier attempts to accurately measure domestic violence/aggression.

Professional Educators and Interveners

In this 21st century the majority of researchers generally agree that there is no single correct theory or hypothesis concerning the factors that cause domestic violence/aggression (Wallace & Roberson, 2011). No single cause, hence, no single cure (Davis, 2008).

Domestic violence/aggression interveners and police psychologists need to be highly skilled and educated, preferably with a graduate degree in psychology and/or social work. All proficient and skilled interveners must have specialized, lengthy, intensive and professional training. To reach objective conclusions they must remain personally neutral concerning the use of domestic violence/aggression by males and females (Macionis, 2011)

Domestic violence/aggression interveners and police psychologists must understand, become familiar with and accept the validity of the various empirical theories and scientific evidence concerning domestic violence/aggression and not become unable to move forward because of holding fast to a single 20th century ideological belief about cause.

Domestic violence/aggression interveners and police psychologists should provide a community with problem solving partnerships. The police psychologist and the domestic violence/aggression interveners must work with, not against each other. Each must understand and appreciate the difficulties experienced by the other, while maintaining separate practices to provide both privacy and violence/aggression free law enforcement families.

Some 20th century domestic violence/aggression programs and interventions may have to remain in place. However, law enforcement officers and all family members should also have available to them proactive and educational alternatives.

Battering intervention services, anger management, marriage and family conflict counseling should all be available when requested. These suggested proactive and supportive educational interventions are intended to support not supplant the need for reactive, punitive domestic violence/aggression crisis intervention.

Reactive not Proactive

Arrest and restraining orders are reactive interventions after the violence occurs. They are not proactive preventative interventions. This does not mean that no one should be arrested or never served with a restraining order. However, is it not time to recognize, as criminal justice data demonstrates, we have not nor will we be able to arrest and incarcerate out of the enigma that is domestic violence/aggression. How can solutions be reached if we cannot agree on cause, characterization or cure?

Laws that attempt to forbid behavior using only or primarily punitive sanctions have been historically proven to be ineffective. This does not mean that there should be no punitive sanctions, it simply documents that punitive sanctions alone are often ineffective in changing behavior. Forbidding people to drink alcohol or use drugs actually increased drinking and drug abuse. Education concerning the dangers inherent in the abuse of alcohol and drug abuse are credited with decreasing the consumption of alcohol and drugs. Why have we chosen to ignore those lessons?

A report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, Forgoing Criminal Justice Assistance: The Non-Reporting of New Incidents of Abuse in a Court Sample of Domestic Violence Victims document that rigid mandatory criminal justice programs that ignore the complexity of the problem, the diversity of the needs of victims and the perpetrators and programs that lack varied interventions styled for individual and specific incidents, actually caused some victims to ignore the system that is designed to assist them (Hotaling & Buzawa, 2003).

The above report documents that some victims who were abused will not report repeat victimizations. One-solution-fits-all criminal justice sanctions can be ineffective and some intervention can be more harmful than helpful to specific people in specific communities (Fagan, 1996; Ford, Bachman, Friend & Meloy, 2002).

What is needed are multiple diverse proactive preventative interventions that focus on efforts to reduce the number of domestic violence/aggression incidents for officers and family members through a more supportive workplace and the knowledge that there is assistance for individuals, families and marriage coping skills through psychological counseling and professional victim intervener assistance (Hamel & Nicholls, 2007; Healy & Smith, 1998; Wallace & Roberson, 2011).

Individual Choices

As difficult as it may be for some domestic violence/aggression interveners to accept, they need to respond to the perpetrators of family conflict with some sympathy and understanding (Hendricks, McKean, Hendricks, 2003).

If the only response is punitive or one-solution-fits-all programs, interveners and the criminal justice system may be culpable of sending the message that coercion, aggression and force are the only acceptable means of controlling the behavior of other family members (Mills, 2003).

For family conflict incidents interveners need to listen to the wants and needs of family members. However, mandatory arrest, no-drop prosecution and the Federal Lautenberg Amendment, concerning firearms possession can make it difficult if not impossible to put in place multiple or individual styled interventions for law enforcement agencies and families.

Diane Wetendorf is one of the leading domestic violence/aggression advocates for women who are abused by law enforcement officers. Wetendorf believes the Lautenberg Amendment, which can cause officers to lose their right to carry a weapon and total “Zero Tolerance” domestic violence policies may prove to be more harmful than helpful for some law enforcement families (Wetendorf, 2013). The right to arrest in all incidents needs to be available for officers, but not mandated.

An internet review of law enforcement domestic violence/aggression policies and procedures reveals that the vast majority of them are crisis management and not proactive or preventative. When used primarily as crisis management, narrowly focused punitive interventions can be become disingenuous, dangerous and detrimental to the health, welfare and safety of law enforcement families.

Zero tolerance policies, regardless of seriousness or chronicity for all domestic violence/aggression incidents can cause the spouses of law enforcement officers to become reluctant to come forward and become fearful to ask for help when they need it (Hotaling & Buzawa, 2003).

Empathic and Sympathetic Intervention

The majority of domestic violence/aggression interveners defend their decision to allow victim’s the right to choose when to report their abuse or when they believe it is time to leave a relationship. The same should be true of the families of police officers.

Studies document that more than half of all women will return to their abusive partners after they are discharged from a shelter (Wallace & Roberson, 2011). Many families in need, law enforcement included, do not want their spouse to be fired or lose their job. Many want support not sanctions. Mandatory arrest, no drop prosecution and zero tolerance policies for all domestic violence incidents can be “disempowering for some victims and might be characterized as “re-victimizing the families.”

Spouses who do want to end their marriage and seek a restraining order may hesitate because they fear losing the financial and health benefits provided by their law enforcement spouse if they are fired. Many family members may continue to hide their problems rather than seek the assistance they need (Davis, 2008).

Studies now document that contemporary “one-solution-fits-all-victims/offenders” punitive only intervention, zero tolerance policies, ignore the individual and specific desires and needs of family members being abused.  Mandatory arrest polices, no drop prosecution and the Lautenberg Amendment can discourage not encourage, officers, their spouses and their children from seeking the assistance they need (Hotaling & Buzawa, 2003).

Step Three: Punitive Sanctions

Once there are clear, concise and empathic officer involved domestic violence/aggression interventions in place there is absolutely no excuse for “battering behavior.” Officers can not claim ignorance of the dilemma that is “battering behavior.”

There is no room in any law enforcement agency for “batterers” in the guise of law enforcement officers. Law enforcement “batterers” must be removed as swiftly and justly as possible and where criminal prosecution presents difficulties the civil service system or court process can be used.

Law enforcement officers are sworn to serve and protect not to beat and batter. Certainly if officers are willing to batter those they profess to love we can only imagine what they are capable of in the community.

The small number of officers who ignore their duty to the community and devotion to their family must be expunged from law enforcement. It is the duty of officers who are proud to serve and sworn to protect, both their community and their family, to assist their agencies in ridding themselves of the small number of rouge officers.


This implementation does have a primary golden rule. The chief or commissioner must ensure to the officers that he or she is fully committed to changing the culture of the department. He or she must be personally in charge of the change process or change will not take place. Where it is not logistically feasible to provide personal oversight he or she must be personally assured by his or her designee that the implementation has taken place. The implementation process is:

(1) The educational and psychological pre-employment testing must be in writing to provide uniformity for all new hiring’s. For officers and family members already hired a meeting must be held where the officers and family members can meet, face to face, with the chief or commissioner and all chosen interveners.

(2) Ensure that the diverse social service agencies (domestic violence interveners, psychologists, family, and couples counseling) that provide interventions for the department have in place a written interagency protocol. Those written policies and procedures must be designed to improve coordination and cooperation between officers, family members and interveners. The officers and their family members must be assured that they can meet, individually or together with the intervener/s of their choice in complete privacy. This should be done before the problems escalate.

(3) For the community to be assured that law enforcement is committed to change, investigations into criminal allegations of law enforcement involved domestic violence/aggression incidents, regardless of severity, must be handled by law enforcement agencies outside the department.

(4) To ensure that all of the members of the criminal justice system are equally concerned about domestic violence, this proactive domestic violence intervention should be in place for all agencies and their families. This includes the District Attorney’s office, the courts, correction officers, etc. Too often domestic violence education and intervention takes place for only for law enforcement while others in the criminal justice system have a weak intervention program and some continue to have no intervention at all.


It is time to move domestic violence/aggression training for the criminal justice system into the 21st century. A pet peeve of mine is when people complain about what is not working – I am guilty of that – without then providing an alternative – here, I am not guilty.

I believe that it should be more than obvious that reactionary policies are not proactive nor are they preventative. I believe that there are far more complicated people than complicated problems. This domestic violence/intervention training is not complicated.

Certainly no policies or interventions can prevent all homicides, physical assaults or lawsuits. However, this does not mean that we should not attempt to try. Having in place positive, proactive polices, procedures and protocols as well as punitive sanctions may raise morale, preserve families, reduce assaults, minimize homicides and suicides and reduce liability concerning domestic violence/aggression.

I do not present myself as a domestic violence/aggression expert. How can there be any domestic violence/aggression experts if there is not an agreement on definition? I have provided hyperlinks to the vast majority of the studies and surveys below. Where I could not hyperlink to the entire study or survey I have provided the hyperlink to the abstract. This paper may be used in part or in its entirety by anyone who finds it helpful. All I ask is that when you do use it, please attribute it to me. If you want to comment please use the comment section below. If there are factual errors please bring them to my attention.


I am a retired lieutenant from the Brockton, Massachusetts police department. I was a patrol officer on the 4-12 division for 10 years. I was the officer in charge (OIC) of Community Policing, Domestic Violence Intervention and the Police Training Academy for three years. I served for a number of years on the board – as vice president and then president – of a battering intervention program in New Bedford, Massachusetts. I have an undergraduate degree from Bridgewater State University in History, a graduate degree from Anna Maria College in Criminal Justice and a graduate degree from Harvard University in Liberal Arts.

You may contact me, Richard L. Davis at or One thing most of us can agree on is that we do need to resolve this dilemma and provide resources for everyone, regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation, who need them.


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Source: Gather