Failure to Arrest: A Pilot Study of Police Response to Domestic Violence in Rural Illinois
Sara R. Benson
University of Illinois College of Law
January 16, 2009
American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 17, Summer 2009
Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 08-07
The need for specific inquiry into rural domestic violence is pressing because rural survivors face barriers to legal and economic access, assistance, and development that are compounded by their isolated physical location. However, there is a paucity of legal discourse addressing the issue of rural domestic violence. In particular, it is important to consider law enforcement response to domestic violence calls because police officers often serve as the gateway to the legal community through first-response action. This Article, which was the first focus-group based study of survivors' perceptions of law enforcement response to domestic violence in the rural Midwest, points out the disparity between law and action in rural Illinois as detailed by the survivor narratives. The survivors participating in focus groups detailed ineffective police responses to domestic violence calls. The gap between law and practice is expounded by interposing the legal obligations provided by Illinois statute with the narratives of police inaction and failure to arrest. Then, a method of strengthening police responses to domestic violence calls in rural areas is proposed in order to address the issues presented in the survivor narratives. The proposal includes the use of detailed first response forms that will encourage officers to engage in risk assessment techniques in order to better gage whether an arrest is warranted in response to a domestic violence call. Additionally, the form will serve as a reminder of statutorily mandated duties imposed on law enforcement officers. Through the use of these methods, rural officers can respond more effectively to domestic violence calls and better serve rural survivors of domestic abuse.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: domestic abuse, domestic violence, family violence, law enforcement, rural
JEL Classification: K42, K19
Date posted: January 16, 2009 ; Last revised: April 3, 2009
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