This study is an in-depth exploration of police response to domestic abuse. It will examine police officers’ understanding of and attitudes towards domestic abuse. It will also examine policies and processes, the interactions between officers’ attitudes and understanding and the processes they work with, and wider organisational contexts such as performance frameworks and resourcing. It will provide crucial contextual data on officers’ understanding and use of significant national policy interventions such as presumptive arrest. A particular focus of the study will be legislation introduced in December 2015 to criminalise coercive control. Aside from a review of case-files in a single force (Barlow at al., 2018), there has been to our knowledge no published examination of the implementation of this ground-breaking legislation. The recent history of policy and practice on domestic abuse can be seen as one of testing and/or introducing interventions, policies and laws sometimes without adequate understanding of the context in which they are being implemented. There have been calls from within the wider field of policing for greater balance such that research agendas focus as much on correctly diagnosing problems as applying interventions (Innes et al., 2017). This research will provide a rich understanding of officer and staff experiences of responding to domestic abuse, and will identify barriers and facilitators to providing an effective response. It will help us to understand how the College can better support forces in this area.
The research will be undertaken as a 'focused ethnography', and will involve direct observations of officers and staff undertaking their roles. With their permission, researchers will accompany officers and staff as they perform their normal duties, observing and asking questions in order to understand better the challenges associated with responding to domestic abuse. Other methods - such as in-depth semi-structured interviews and analysis of case files - may also be used. Data from field observations will be written up as field notes and coded and analysed following the 'framework' method for the analysis of qualitative data (Richie and Lewis, 2012).