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A Comparative Analysis of Mandatory Arrest and Police Response to Domestic Violence in Torrington, CT, and New York, NY

Fogle De Souza, Rachel

Domestic violence holds a very tenuous place in the world of human rights. While it violates some of the most basic human rights principles, the fact that the violence takes place in the “domestic” sphere, and is committed by a family member, often makes it so that domestic violence is considered to be a private matter, or not as serious a crime. This can be seen in the behaviors of responding police officers in the 1970s and 80s, who would often tell abusers to “take a walk around the block to cool off,” rather than arresting them. Domestic violence victims advocates and women’s rights groups pushed for new legislation on domestic violence, which resulted in the Mandatory Arrest policy being implemented in several states. The Mandatory Arrest policy stated that, with probable cause that domestic abuse had taken place, police officers were required to arrest the suspected abuser.

There are many benefits to Mandatory Arrest policy, for both victims and police. However, the new policy brought unintended complications and problems for victims, several of which had extremely detrimental consequences. While new legislation has been introduced to try and fix the problems, Mandatory Arrest still remains a controversial legislation.

Through qualitative research and interviews, this thesis examines, from the perspective of both police officers, and domestic violence victim advocates, the benefits and detriments of the Mandatory Arrest policy, and whether the ways the policy helps outweighs, and is worth, the downfalls of the policy, and the consequences it can have. Data from this research suggests that the Mandatory Arrest policy, while varying in provisions on a state-by-state basis, needs to be re-examined, and new legislation, policies, or provisions introduced in order to give victims more control over the process, and to hold police accountable for how they use the policy.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Leidholdt, Dorchen
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 24, 2020