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Improving police risk assessment and management of family violence through a collaboration between law enforcement, forensic mental health and academia

Troy E. McEwan (Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology and Forensicare, Melbourne, Australia)
Stuart Bateson (Victoria Police, Melbourne, Australia)
Susanne Strand (School of Law, Psychology and Social Work, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden) (Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology and Forensicare, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Publication date: 12 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Police play an essential role in reducing harms associated with family violence by identifying people at increased risk of physical or mental health-related harm and linking them with support services. Yet police are often poorly trained and resourced to conduct the kind of assessments necessary to identify family violence cases presenting with increased risk. The paper aims to discuss this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper describes a multi-project collaboration between law enforcement, forensic mental health, and academia that has over three years worked to improve risk assessment and management of family violence by police in Victoria, Australia.

Findings

Evaluation of existing risk assessment instruments used by the state-wide police force showed they were ineffective in predicting future police reports of family violence (AUC=0.54-0.56). However, the addition of forensic psychology expertise to specialist family violence teams increased the number of risk management strategies implemented by police, and suggested that the Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk assessment instrument may be appropriate for use by Australian police (AUC=0.63).

Practical implications

The practical implications of this study are as follows: police risk assessment procedures should be subject to independent evaluation to determine whether they are performing as intended; multidisciplinary collaboration within police units can improve police practice; drawing on expertise from agencies external to police offers a way to improve evidence-based policing, and structured professional judgement risk assessment can be used in policing contexts with appropriate training and support.

Originality/value

The paper describes an innovative collaboration between police, mental health, and academia that is leading to improved police practices in responding to family violence. It includes data from the first evaluation of an Australian risk assessment instrument for family violence, and describes methods of improving police systems for responding to family violence.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by research grants from the Macedon Ranges and North West Melbourne Medicare Local. The funder had no involvement in the design of the research, analysis, or submission. The authors acknowledge the contributions of Gordana Letic, Dr Stefan Luebbers, Julia Nazarewicz, Professor James Ogloff, Svenja Senkans, Melanie Simmons, Dr Ben Spivak, and Dr Melisa Wood in conducting this research. This research was conducted with the cooperation of Victoria Police; however, the views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of Victoria or Victoria Police.

Citation

McEwan, T.E., Bateson, S. and Strand, S. (2017), "Improving police risk assessment and management of family violence through a collaboration between law enforcement, forensic mental health and academia", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 119-131. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRPP-01-2017-0004

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited