Police responses to domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic: positive action and police legitimacy

Johnson, K. and Hohl, K. (2023) Police responses to domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic: positive action and police legitimacy. Policing, 17(1), paac108. (doi: 10.1093/police/paac108)

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This article presents evidence from a mixed-methods study examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on frontline police responses to domestic abuse, with a particular focus on ‘positive action’, across seven police forces in England. Statistical analysis of police-recorded domestic abuse administrative data is combined with 73 semi-structured officer interviews conducted over the first year of the pandemic (June 2020 to June 2021). Findings identify officers felt their general approach to domestic abuse remained unchanged. However, officers used their discretion to adapt positive action practices to the pandemic context, for example, by temporarily making greater use of arrests, Domestic Violence Protection Notices/Orders, and informal measures. Mirroring broader tensions relating to police legitimacy arising during the pandemic, officers saw victim safeguarding as a priority but simultaneously expressed concern about proportionality. The article concludes by addressing the implications of the findings for the understanding and evaluation of domestic abuse policing practices both within and beyond the pandemic context—in terms of informing theoretical understandings of positive action, as well as police institutional knowledge, policy, and practice going forwards.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The authors would like to thank the UKRI-ESRC for funding this research [Grant reference: ES/V007033/1].
Keywords:Policing, domestic abuse, COVID-19, positive action, police legitimacy.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnson, Dr Kelly
Authors: Johnson, K., and Hohl, K.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Policing
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1752-4520
Published Online:23 February 2023
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2023 The Authors
First Published:First published in Policing 17(1): paac108
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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