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Giving voice to the victims of sexual assault: the role of police leadership in organisational change

Michael Rowe (Department of Social Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Michael Macauley (School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 24 September 2018

Issue publication date: 23 May 2019

2054

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate a long-term programme within a police service that sought to transform the policing of adult sexual assault cases through reforming case management and investigation practices, as well as cultural perspectives among staff.

Design/methodology/approach

The study is based on a case-study approach of change and reform within a single police service. Fieldwork consisted of more than 240 semi-structured interviews and focus groups with police officers, civilian staff, victim advocates, crown prosecutors, defence lawyers, doctors and staff from victim specialist support agencies. Extensive documentary analysis supplemented the primary findings.

Findings

Changes to investigations of sexual assault were perceived to be wide-ranging and deeply embedded, and were regarded positively by police officers, staff and external agencies. These are identified in terms of improvements to initial reporting of offences, the development of more rigorous case management and investigations, and enhanced relations with external support agencies.

Research limitations/implications

The study is necessarily limited to one case study and the analysis would be usefully developed through further application to other police services.

Social implications

The findings have considerable implications for police leaders and managers and wider society. Victim support and recovery agencies benefit from the reforms outlined, and there are considerable consequences for wider criminal justice that continues to disadvantage victims.

Originality/value

The paper has considerable originality since it offers a “deep” and “thick” understanding of reform within a particular context. The programme of reform was highly unusual since it was designed and delivered over a ten-year period and addressed many aspects of police organisation.

Keywords

Citation

Rowe, M. and Macauley, M. (2019), "Giving voice to the victims of sexual assault: the role of police leadership in organisational change", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 394-407. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-03-2018-0037

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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