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Policing beyond VAWIR policy : criminal harassment, pro-arrest and the practice of discretionary power Pacey, Katrina E.

Abstract

Relevant policy dictates that only particular interventions are to be employed when police are handling incidents involving violence against women in relationships. The objective of this study is to examine the way police officers describe their practice when investigating cases involving women victims who are criminally harassed by intimate or formerly intimate partners. This study inquires into the influence of this policy as well as the influence of other situational and organizational factors in the specific area of policing criminal harassment. In-depth interviews took place with 20 Vancouver police officers and qualitative analysis was employed. The data shows that the officers in this sample see themselves as highly discretionary in their practice and that their decision-making is influenced by the way in which they construct a number of situational and organizational factors. It was found that the vast majority of police in this sample constructed the victim, the crime of criminal harassment, and the criminal justice system in such a way so as to justify not following the protocols outlined in the Violence Against Women in Relationships Policy. Furthermore, it is argued that the attitudes which inform their discretionary practice can be seen as reflective of the attitudes embedded in police subculture as well as in dominant society. The implications of this research point to a need for further exposure and, perhaps, parameters around police practice so as to limit the negative effects of the patriarchal police subculture on women victims of violence.

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