Individuals – Exum et al. (2014)

Study Reference:

Exum, M. L., Hartman, J. L., Friday, P. C., Lord, V. B. (2014). Policing Domestic Violence in the Post-SARP Era: The Impact of a Domestic Violence Police Unit. Crime & Delinquency, 60(7): 999-1032.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive; Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examines the impact of a domestic violence (DV) unit within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD). Operating within CMPD’s “preferred arrest” policy for domestic violence, the mission of the DV unit is to reduce future offending through intensive investigation (e.g., conducting detailed follow-up interviews, identifying/correcting missing information in patrol reports, preparing case materials for the district attorney, etc.) and through victim assistance (e.g., filing restraining orders). As part of this endeavor, all domestic violence cases in the county are forwarded to the DV unit sergeant, who reviews the reports and decides whether to return the case to standard patrol or to accept it in the DV unit. The primary basis for this decision is the sergeant’s subjective assessment of case history/severity, with more chronic and/or violent cases designated for the DV unit.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The current study evaluates the impact of the Charlotte DV unit response versus a standard patrol response on official records of offender recidivism in a random sample of 891 domestic violence cases (this included 220 DV unit cases and 671 standard patrol cases).

What were the key findings?

Suspects processed through the DV unit had significantly lower rates of re-offending across an 18- to 30-month follow-up period. The odds of recidivating for DV unit offenders were approximately 50% less than that of offenders processed through standard patrol, and this effect was net of offenders’ demographics, prior history of domestic violence, case severity, arrest, and jail time.

What were the implications for law enforcement?                                                      

The comprehensive approach of the DV unit succeeded where arrest alone failed; it significantly reduced future acts of domestic violence in Charlotte. The authors speculated that the greater effectiveness of the DV unit may have been due to clearing more cases through arrest, incapacitating more serious offenders, helping victims obtain restraining orders and/or develop safety plans, enhancing a sense of procedural justice among alleged offenders (e.g., by giving them an adequate opportunity to state their case), or some combination of these factors.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?