Police Departments' Use of Lethality Assessments: An Experimental Evaluation (ICPSR 34975)

Principal Investigator(s): Messing, Jill, Arizona State University; Campbell, Jacquelyn, Johns Hopkins University; Wilson, Janet, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center; Brown, Sheryll, Oklahoma State Department of Health; Patchell, Beverly, University of Utah

Summary:

Police Departments' Use of Lethality Assessments: An Experimental Evaluation examined the effectiveness of the Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP), a tool used to gauge the severity of danger to victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and determine whether to immediately connect victims with additional resources and safety options. Specifically, the evaluation focused on the effectiveness of the LAP at decreasing the rates of repeat, lethal and near lethal violence and increasing the rates of emergency safety planning and help seeking among women who experienced IPV and called the police. Additionally, the predictive and concurrent validity of the screening portion of the LAP was evaluated, as were the implementation of the LAP by officers and IPV victims' satisfaction with the police responses they experienced.

The study consisted of two groups: (1) a comparison group, which included women who were victims of IPV and were referred to the study by a police officer; and (2) an intervention group which consisted of victims of IPV who were administered the LAP by police. Both groups were contacted for baseline and follow-up phone interview surveys that recorded the victims' self-reported demographic information (age, race, income, education marital status), information about the status of their relationships with their partners, as well as the type of abuse they had endured and how this affected their behavior.

Access Notes

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    Any public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

Dataset(s)

Study Description

Citation

Messing, Jill, Jacquelyn Campbell, Janet Wilson, Sheryll Brown, and Beverly Patchell. Police Departments' Use of Lethality Assessments: An Experimental Evaluation. ICPSR34975-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2015-12-21. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34975.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34975.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2008-WG-BX-0002)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    domestic violence, homicide, intimate partner violence, police referral, risk assessment, victimization, women

Smallest Geographic Unit:    police jurisdiction

Geographic Coverage:    Oklahoma, United States

Time Period:   

  • 2009--2013

Date of Collection:   

  • 2009--2013

Unit of Observation:    Individual

Universe:    Female victims of intimate partner violence who had police come to their homes due to this violence during the study period (2009-2013) in a participating police jurisdiction in OK, whom the researchers were able to contact and completed an interview.

Data Type(s):    administrative records data, survey data

Data Collection Notes:

Recruitment for the comparison group occurred between July 2009 and October 2010, during which time 1,137 women were referred into the research study. Recruitment for the intervention group occurred from October 2010 through February 2013, during which time 2022 women were referred to the study.

If the victim responded "yes" to any of the first three questions on the Lethality Screen they were classified as in a "high danger" situation. If the victim responds "no" to each of the first three questions, but responds "yes" to four or more of the additional 8 questions, they were also categorized as in a "high danger" situation. Finally, if the officer screening the victim heard or observed something that made the officer think the victim was in a high danger situation, then the victim was also categorized as in a "high danger" situation.

Methodology

Study Purpose:   

Examine the effectiveness of the Lethality Assessment Protocol at decreasing the rates of repeat, lethal and near lethal violence and increasing the rates of emergency safety planning and help seeking among women who experienced intimate partner violence.

Study Design:   

During the initial phase of the study, referred to as the comparison phase, a historical comparison group of domestic violence victims was recruited by officers. Study participants were recruited by police officers at the scene of domestic violence incidents in participating police jurisdictions if at least one of the following criteria were met:

  1. The officer believed that an assault or other violent act had occurred whether or not there was probable cause for arrest.
  2. The officer was responding to a domestic violence call from a victim or at a location where domestic violence had occurred in the past.
  3. The officer "had a gut feeling" that the victim was in danger or was concerned for the safety of the victim once they left the incident scene.

Structured telephone interviews lasting approximately 45 minutes were conducted with victims who agreed to participate in the research study with a similarly structured follow-up interview taking place approximately 6 months later.

During the second phase of the study, referred to as the intervention phase, officers used the same criteria for recruiting the comparison group to determine whether to initiate use of the Lethality Assessment Protocol. When at least one of the criteria were met, the officer administered a brief 11-item risk assessment (the Lethality Screen) to identify victims at high risk of homicide. Women that screened as high risk were put in immediate telephone contact with a collaborating social service provider who provided them with safety options and encouraged them to come in to receive services. For the intervention phase, officers were asked to recruit any victim for whom they had administered the LAP assessment, regardless of the outcome of that screening.

The same base-line and follow-up interview structure carried out on the comparison group participants were used to collect information from the intervention phase participants.

Sample:   

Convenience sampling was done in this study. The participants that were used in the study were referrals from the police. Victims of domestic violence were referred to researchers if at least one of the following criteria were met:

  1. The officer believed that an assault or other violent act had occurred whether or not there was probable cause for arrest.
  2. The officer was responding to a domestic violence call from a victim or at a location where domestic violence had occurred in the past.
  3. The officer "had a gut feeling" that the victim was in danger or was concerned for the safety of the victim once they left the incident scene.

Time Method:    Longitudinal: Cohort/ Event-based

Mode of Data Collection:    telephone interview

Data Source:

Lethality Screening Questions administered by police.

Baseline phone surveys administered to participants in both intervention and comparison groups.

Follow-Up phone surveys administered to participants (approx. 6-7 months after baseline survey)in both intervention and comparison groups.

Description of Variables:   

The variables provided in this study include multiple types of assessment.

  1. Demographic and Relationship Characteristics: At the baseline interview participants were asked to report their education, employment, race/ethnicity, age, marital status, whether they had children with their partner, and current level of involvement with partner. At the follow-up they were asked to update the relationship involvement with their partner.

  2. Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP): These include (11) questions that were used by police in the intervention phase of the study in order to determine the level of danger the victim was in. The first 3 questions are asked in order to determine "high danger".

  3. Danger Assessment: Contains (20) questions that are consistent with risk factors identified through research as predictive of intimate partner re-assault, severe re-assault and homicide. They include questions such as having a child not the abusers, controlling behavior, threats to kill, etc.

    The items of the DA are weighted and summed to produce an overall score of up to 37

    This score is placed into the categories of: variable danger (0-7); increased danger (8-13); severe danger (14-17); and extreme danger (18+).

  4. Participant Assessment of Risk- Questions asking participant to gage the likelihood of future abuse from their partner.

    Participants responded on a scale of 0-10 where 0=no chance of abuse and 10=abuse is sure to happen.

  5. Intimate partner violence and abuse: Questions determining the depth, breadth, and types of abuse the participant encountered. Frequency was also measured and coded as:

    This has never happened

    This has not happened in the past 6 months,this has not happened since we last spoke

    This happened once in the last 6 months, this happened once since we last spoke

    This happened twice in the last 6 months, This happened twice since we last spoke

    This happened 3-5 times in the last 6 months

    This happened 6 or more times since we last spoke

  6. Protective Actions: Questions to determine whether or not the participants had engaged in any behaviors to protect themselves (ie hidden money, asked neighbors to call police, removed partner's weapons, etc). These were coded as 0=No, and 1=Yes.

  7. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: Questions aimed at determining the effects of mental stress on the participant. These were coded as 0=No, and 1=Yes.

There are 616 variables total in this dataset.

Response Rates:   

During the comparison group phase:

  • 1,137 women were referred into the comparison group.
  • 433 women participated in a structured baseline telephone interview.
  • 342 of these women would have screened in as high danger based on their scores on the Lethality Screen.
  • 212 participants completed follow-up interviews.

During the intervention phase:

  • 2,022 women were referred into the comparison group.
  • 648 women participated in a structured baseline telephone interview.
  • 347 of these women were screened in as high danger spoke with a hotline counselor.
  • 202 participants completed follow-up interviews.

There were a total of 1081 cases in this study.

Presence of Common Scales:   

The following scales were used:

  1. CTS-2
  2. McFarlane's Safety Behavior Checklist
  3. Danger Assessment (Campbell)
  4. Lethality Assessment
  5. Primary Care Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Screen (PC-PTSD)
  6. WEB (a portion of)- Women's Experience of Battering
  7. *HARRASS

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:   2015-12-21

Version History:

  • 2016-01-13 Updated the User Guide.

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