Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another DV Myth - for the police

Another DV Myth "debunked" by Glenn SACKS.
"Domestic violence situations are, by far, the number one reason that police officers are wounded on duty."
From Milwaukee WI "Domestic Violence Calls No. 1 Cause Of Police Injuries, Experts Say" but who are these "experts"? Employee's from a Women's Shelter would be the last I would call "expert" and surely a journalist would realize they are merely promoting their own interests by inciting fear over DV (Doesn't anyone ever fact/gut check anymore?)

So ok, True or False? Actually it is hard to say from the FBI Stats. Factually "Disturbances" DO PRODUCE THE LARGEST NUMBER of assaults upon police, but there are a few caveats.

1) The "Disturbance" category is NOT ALL "Domestics" - it includes "Regular" disturbance (bar fight, person with firearm, etc.) as well. Hence we can not attribute ALL THE Assaults' to "Domestic Disturbances". We do not have this breakdown.

2) Likewise, Injury's are not broken-down within the total so we have no idea of the number of injuries from ANY Distrubance - Regular or Domestic - as it is not disclosed. Overall for 2007 there were Total Assaults of 59, 201 which led to 15,749 injury's (26.6% of Assaults). (Out of 57 Fatalities in 2007 only 5 were from Disturbances - see data here).

3) To claim DV calls are the MOST DANGEROUS (or even MOST LETHAL) requires the "rate of incidence" or Assaults/Injuries per Service Call - which is not provided by the FBI data.

So despite Glenn's contention it is hard to tell. Glenn's post claims that the FBI Stats on Police Assaults and Deaths show this not to be true, but I am afraid these tables lack the correct data to corroborate that claim. In fact they parallel the Women's Shelter story BUT ONLY because "Disturbances" (including Domestic Disturbances) account for 31.7% of all Assaults upon Police while on duty. As such it is true that "Disturbances" cause the largest number of police assaults incidents among the 10 circumstances recorded - including Robbery, Traffic Incidents, Ambush and others.

However as it turns out Glenn's comments WERE TRUE in referring to a study carried out by a few enterprising criminologists to establish this useful measure in 1994;
The contribution of domestic violence calls to the danger of police work has been a matter of major concern to police, policy makers, and researchers for decades. Building on prior research, the authors examine three years of data on police calls for service, assault, and injury to determine the danger of domestic violence in relation to other types of calls. Of the 10 categories of police activity examined, domestic disturbance ranked fourth in the ratio of assaults to calls for service and fifth in the ratio of injuries to calls for service. No significant differences were observed in the background characteristics of victims and offenders in domestic disturbance and other incidents. Consequently it was recommended that policies to enhance officers' safety be directed mainly at handling incidents in general rather than being geared specifically to responding to domestic disturbances.

[From "The relative contribution of domestic violence to assault and injury of police officers" by J. David Hirschel; Charles W. Dean; and Richard C. Lumb of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte - Published in the journal Justice Quarterly, Volume 11, Issue 1 March 1994 , pages 99 - 117]

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