The impact of police charges in incidents of wife abuse

Research paper by Peter Jaffe, David A. Wolfe, Anne Telford, Gary Austin

Indexed on: 01 Mar '86Published on: 01 Mar '86Published in: Journal of Family Violence


The present study addressed the impact of an urban police force laying criminal charges in cases of wife abuse. Follow-up data from battered women and from police officers were collected to identify the long-term consequences of this police policy that began in 1981, including any negative or unintended side effects. Results indicated that the policy resulted in a dramatic increase in police-laid charges (2500%), and a shift from the Family to the Criminal Division of Provincial Court. Based on interview data, victims did not decrease their requests for police service (a feared side effect) and reported a significantly higher level of satisfaction with police service in this area. A significant reduction in police calls and victim-reported violence was associated with police intervention, especially when charges were laid. Paradoxically, police officers' attitudes about the policy were more negative than the actual positive changes that they helped to produce. Considerations for future research and professional training are outlined.