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Mandating Arrests for Domestic Violence

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 56 Issue: 4 Dated: (April 1987) Pages: 6-11
H Ferguson
Date Published
6 pages
The implementation by the Seattle Police Department of a new law mandating arrests for domestic violence resulting in injury indicates that mandatory arrests are an effective provisional solution to a problem that also requires longer-range intervention.
The new law is an amended version of a 1984 law that required an arrest when an assault had occurred within the previous 4 hours. That law also implied that police officers were civilly liable for not making a mandated arrest and protected officers civilly and criminally for arrests made in good faith. The law represented a major change in the philosophy of handling domestic disturbances. The wide discretion previously allowed rested on erroneous beliefs about the risks officers faced in handling these situations and on the view that female victims would not press charges. In the 1970's, the use of crisis intervention was the main response to domestic assault. The law passed in 1984 eliminated police discretion. In Seattle, arrests for domestic assault in the first 6 months of 1985 were 520 percent more than for the same period in 1984. The police, jails, courts, and social service agencies all felt great strains from the added demands placed on them. The police resented their loss of discretion in cases involving no injury. As a result, in 1985 the law was amended along the lines of Oregon's law. Arrests are now required within 4 hours of felony assaults and serious threats only. Only the primary physical aggressor must be arrested. Mandatory arrest applies only to people age 18 or over. The police thus respond to the immediate need, rather than trying to solve the underlying problem. 22 footnotes.