Mandatory arrest policies over the years have varied. From the rule of three that stated it was okay to beat your wife as long as the object you used was no longer then three inches, to a wide use of police discretion of the officer. That brings us to where we are presently a mixture of discretion and mandatory arrest. Mandatory arrest should be in place for all departments for domestic abuse calls. The evidence is overwhelming that when an arrest is made the numbers for recidivism are lower. It shows that the victims of domestic battery do not have to be afraid to call the police anymore and gives them hope for change and empowerment. The safety of the officers is also a key role when it is shown that a disturbance has occurred at the residents before police officers know what they are going in to instead of being blindsided by the events of the house.
The most important issue for the criminal justice system is recidivism rate. The key goal of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate and punish offenders for breaking the law. Domestic battery is one of the most significant crimes that have a reoccurring recidivism. In a study it shows how the rate of recidivism has drastically decreased due to the mandatory arrest in Virginia homicides decreased from 12 or 13 down to 1 in the first six months (Lang, 1986). These numbers speak for them self it is not a coincidence that when mandatory arrest is active that these rates go down. Although these numbers show the extremes of the matter and doesn’t focus only on domestic abuse, it shows a clear decrease when mandatory arrest is implicated. In 2005, 1,181 females were murdered by an intimate partner. (FBI, 2005) From the same report in 1976 the number of females killed was 1,587. That is as far back as the data would go. Showing a decrease of 231 women, this number is pretty substantial considering the number of domestic batteries is considerable higher than what it was in 1976. Mandatory arrest has played a key role in this. Before officers would go to the house and it was up to the officer’s discretion on to make an arrest or not, now that a mandatory arrest is present they are taking that hostile situation and moving it. At times when the police officer shows up the victim will not want to press charges because of fear of what might happen to them or embarrassment and often when the cops show up the situation becomes more hostile for all the parties involved. By taking away the batterer it removes the situation.
By having a mandatory arrest program in place it shows that the victim doesn’t have to be afraid of the batterer. It gives them a source of empowerment knowing that they no longer have to take this type of abuse any more or knowing it will never happen again. When the victim no longer has to worry about the abuse any more they are able to look back and see the signs that lead up to it. I grew up watching domestic abuse for years cops were called and often no arrest was made. One time the officer even insulted my mother and took my dad’s side, 3 years ago that officer was arrested for domestic abuse. But my father was never arrested all the times the police were called out to my house. Except for one night while I was in second grade cops came arrested him gave my mom information about how to get out of abusive relationships within the week we were living at a house specifically designed for domestic abuse victims. I strongly believe if a mandatory arrest policy would have been in placed my mother would have got out of that situation sooner, because it was not until my dad was arrested that she finally knew that she could leave. My dad was in jail for three days and then he was required by the court to attend anger management and substance abuse classes because of his drinking. Since then my parents got a divorce and my dad has remarried with no incidents.
When an arrest is made at a location it goes on file in the system. This is key for officer safety because they now know what situation they are going to. They are able to tell if this is an extremely violent atmosphere they are going in to that involves weapons or if it is verbal arguments. In 2010 the number of police officers killed in domestic cases was second to only traffic accidents (FBI, 2010). When talking with my aunt who is a detective with Kankakee County Sheriff’s, she told me that when she was a patrol officer responding to a domestic was the most dangerous call to get. She said that “when you go in you have no idea what the situation is going to be like or at what level it is at now. Sometimes they are both sitting and waiting and others they are still physically fighting.” By having a mandatory arrest policy in place sometimes they were able to get an idea of what the situation was going to be like by having the information they need, and in criminal justice information is the officers’ best friend.
Mandatory arrest should be mandatory for all police departments. It has been shown that when mandatory arrest is in place there is a clear decline in recidivism, the victim is giving a source of empowerment and officers are safer. The biggest problem when reporting statistics for domestic abuse is the dark figure domestic abuse is one of the biggest crimes that go unreported. If it was reported more I feel these number would be even more staggering.