Background: Globally, domestic abuse is a serious and widespread problem. Within the UK, it is estimated that the police service receives, on average, over 100 domestic abuse-related calls an hour. A recent study of the police response to domestic abuse in England and Wales found inconsistencies in the way police officers assess the level of risk. In particular, officers sometimes fail to recognise abuse that isn’t characterised by overt physical violence (Robinson et al. 2016). The ability to accurately identify abuse and assess risk is vital for victims and perpetrators to receive the most appropriate intervention. In response to these findings, the College of Policing developed a risk-assessment tool for use by frontline police officers when responding to domestic-abuse incidents. The risk-assessment tool was piloted and evaluated in 2017.
Objectives: The purpose of the pilot was to assess whether the new risk-assessment tool could improve the accuracy of risk identification and subsequent risk assessment and in doing so, direct officers towards prioritising cases where there is an ongoing pattern of abusive behaviour.
Methods:The pilot took a quasi-experimental approach using a non-equivalent group design. The new risk-assessment tool was piloted in specific areas of 3 police forces, while comparison areas continued to use an existing risk-assessment tool. Fieldwork comprised direct observations of frontline officers undertaking risk assessments, in-depth interviews with police officers, staff and partners, and a review of case-file data.
Results and Conclusions: Key findings and implications for future practice will be discussed.