The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment Domestic Violence has been an integrated part of many family units throughout history. Until the mid 1980's, domestic violence was thought to be the families problem, a dirty little secret that needed to be dealt with inside the family circle. This mind set changed when a notable study was done in the Minneapolis Minnesota area in the 1980's. This study not only impacted the actual area it was conducted in, but the way domestic violence offenders were dealt with by police officers across the country. Significant studies have been done since the 1980's, studies that include: how domestic violence impacts the family unit as a whole, treatment methods for the victims, family members, and offenders, as well as policing techniques. Some theorist fancy the idea of privatizing the police in order to effectively respond to domestic violence situations, while others suggest that community policing methods could assist in such situations.
In the early months of 1981 through mid 1982, an experiment was conducted under a grant from the National Institute of Justice; this experiment became known as: The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. "The experiment was conducted within the Minneapolis Police Department in combination with the Police Foundation," (1) explains Lawrence W. Sherman, Vice President of research for the Police Foundation and associate professor of criminology at the University of Maryland, and Richard A. Berk, professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara and director of the Social Process Research Institute, and authors of The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. The experiment was conducted to solve an ongoing intense debate between three different organizations; each having their own views on how police should handle domestic violence responses.
The Minneapolis Police Departments, "traditional approach of doing as little as possible, on the premise that offenders will not be punished by the courts even if they are arrested, and that the problems are basically not solvable" (Lawrence and Berk 1) was one view. A second view was from clinical psychologists. "They recommended that police actively mediate or arbitrate disputes underlying the violence, restoring peace but not making any arrests" (Lawrence and Berk 1), and the third view came by way of, "Women's groups and the Police Executive Research Forum, of treating the violence as a criminal offense subject to arrest," suggests Nancy Loving, author of; Responding to Spouse Abuse and Wife Beating: A Guide for Police (qty. in Lawrence and Berk 1). Each of these three organizations views had a valid argument; the debate intensified as each organization voiced stronger arguments on their views for domestic violence victims, and how the offenders should be handled by police. After the research was conducted and statistics were gathered, it was found that only, 10 percent of the original suspects that were arrested were suspects of repeating violence (Lawrence and Berk 6).
Whereas, 19 percent of the suspects in the advising group were repeat offenders and 24 percent of the suspects sent away for a specified amount of time repeated the violence (Lawrence and Berk 6). It was evident that in order to reduce repeat domestic violence cases, a pro-arrest approach to domestic violence was necessary. "As a result of the experiment's findings, the Minneapolis Police Department changed its policy on domestic assault in early March of 1984" (Lawrence and Berk 8). At the time of the 1984 implementation of the pro-arrest approach, it was not necessary to arrest 100 percent of all domestic violence offenders, but an officer was required to file a written report as to why an arrest was not made. Roslyn Muraskin and Albert R. Roberts, authors of Visions for Change: Crime and Justice in the Twenty-First Century, writes, "Since 1984 the trend has been for a growing number of police departments in cities with over 100, 000 population to adopt a policy of pro-arrest or probable cause arrests of batterers" (107).
Today only a small number of states are mandated by law to arrest all suspects in domestic violence cases; many police departments across the U. S. have implemented their own pro-arrest policies for domestic violence cases (Muraskin and Roberts 109). With the number of incidents and the versatility of the types of calls a police department must respond to, it is increasingly difficult for the few officers on patrol at any given time to respond to every dispatched call in a timely manner. A possible solution to this situation is; incorporate the use of private police for certain types of calls. In response to domestic violence, the private sector may be able to respond in a shorter amount of time, their assistance may ease the case load for officers on the streets, and with the appropriate amount of training, be able to efficiently handle these very delicate situational calls.
Some may argue the effectiveness of private sector policing in these types of situations as opposed to community policing methods. If community policing methods are expected to be a potential solution over private police, it would be necessary to examine how these particular methods would ease the case calls overall for the street officers as private policing would. Another solid argument opposing community policing methods over private police in domestic violence cases is; the potential of an innocent bystander getting himself into a harmful, heated and aggravated situation prior to the police arriving. If a bystander is willing to offer help by calling the police to notify them of a situation of such nature, it would also be likely that he would step into the situation without regard to the potential deadly situation. Community policing is simply not a viable solution, this is not to say that it should not be examined as an integrated solution with other effective methods. Handling domestic violence is best left to police officers, private and public, that have the training and authority to deal with these very delicate natured situations.
Domestic violence is a tragic occurrence in the U. S. It harms many people, inside and outside the family unit. Thanks to The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment, changing the policing methods, and incorporating a support system into the lives of violence victims and offenders, our families are a little safer, and hopefully, someday, our families will never have to endure the pain of domestic violence.
Work CitedMuraskin, Roslyn, and Albert R. Roberts. Visions for Change: Crime and Justice in the Twenty-First Century, 3 rd ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2002.
Sherman, Lawrence W. , and Richard A. Berk. The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. Police Foundation Reports, April 1984.