A Small Constellation: Risk Factors Informing Police Perceptions of Domestic Abuse

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Policing and Society

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Police in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) now routinely use risk assessment tools to identify common risk factors for re-abuse and lethality when responding to domestic abuse. Nevertheless, little is known about the extent to which officers understand and perceive the importance of factors commonly included on risk assessment tools for predicting future abuse. This study attempts to shed some light into this area of research by exploring the responses of 720 British and American police officers to questions regarding how important and how essential various risk factors are for evaluating the level of risk or harm a victim of domestic abuse may face in the future. Findings indicated that British and American officers were largely in agreement about a small constellation of risk factors that they considered integral to the risk assessment process: using or threatening to use a weapon; strangulation; physical assault resulting in injury and escalation of abuse. The results revealed that officers’ country of employment, rather than their demographic characteristics or experience policing domestic abuse, was a particularly influential predictor of their perceptions, and that both the situational context and the victim's perception about risk are important in domestic abuse risk assessment. © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.



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