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Police and Child Abuse: Policies and Practices in the United States, 1987-1988 (ICPSR 6338) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

This study was conducted by the Police Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute to document municipal and county law enforcement agencies' policies for dealing with child abuse, neglect, and sexual assault and exploitation, and to identify emerging police practices. The researchers investigated promising approaches for dealing with child abuse and also probed for areas of weakness that are in need of improvement. Data were collected from 122 law enforcement agencies on topics including interagency reporting and case screening procedures, the existence and organizational location of specialized units for conducting child abuse investigations, actual procedures for investigating various types of child abuse cases, factors that affect the decision to arrest in physical and sexual abuse cases, the scope and nature of interagency cooperative agreements practices and relations, the amount of training received by agency personnel, and ways to improve agency responses to child abuse and neglect cases.

Access Notes

  • These data are freely available.

Dataset(s)

Data File - Download All Files (0.9 MB)

Study Description

Citation

Martin, Susan E., and Douglas J. Besharov. POLICE AND CHILD ABUSE: POLICIES AND PRACTICES IN THE UNITED STATES, 1987-1988. ICPSR version. Washington, DC: Police Foundation and American Enterprise Institute [producers], 1991. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1996. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06338.v1

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (OJP-86-C-002)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   arrest procedures, case processing, child abuse, child neglect, law enforcement agencies, police response, policies and procedures

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 1987--1988

Date of Collection:  

  • 1988

Unit of Observation:   Law enforcement agencies.

Universe:   Municipal and county law enforcement agencies in the United States with populations over 100,000.

Data Types:   survey data

Methodology

Study Purpose:   Until the mid-1960s, the police handled most cases of child abuse and neglect, but only a small fraction of all cases--usually those involving severe maltreatment or death--came to their attention. What happened in the family was regarded as largely a private matter, and there were no laws requiring the reporting of abuse. However, with the discovery of the "battered child syndrome" by the medical community and subsequently by the mass media, child abuse came to be defined as a social problem needing social intervention and treatment. Recognizing that law enforcement agencies can play a central role in protecting abused and neglected children, an increasing number of states have amended their child abuse laws and procedures to provide for a greater police presence in child abuse cases. This study was conducted to document municipal and county law enforcement agencies' increased responsibilities for dealing with child abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse and exploitation, and to identify emerging police practices. The researchers investigated promising approaches for dealing with child abuse and also probed for areas of weakness that are in need of improvement.

Study Design:   Letters soliciting participation in the study were sent to the chiefs of 89 municipal and 57 county law enforcement agencies in the spring of 1988. In each participating agency, the respondent was a person designated by the chief, which in most departments was the sergeant or lieutenant in charge of the child abuse squad or unit. In small departments, the specialized investigator who handled most of the child abuse cases tended to be assigned. Data collection was conducted by means of telephone interviews. The survey instrument was designed to (1) describe existing policies and procedures for identifying, investigating, and otherwise handling cases of abuse and neglect, (2) explore the formal and informal interagency cooperative arrangements for dealing with abuse, and (3) identify promising departmental and individual strategies for dealing with physical and sexual offenses against children. The majority of questions were of a "yes/no" format. Interviews took approximately one hour. In addition to the interview information, the researchers requested written copies of agency policies and statistical data on 1987 cases and their disposition.

Sample:   A 50-percent random sample was selected.

Data Source:

telephone interviews

Description of Variables:   The researchers collected information about interagency reporting and case screening procedures, the existence and organizational location of specialized units for conducting child abuse investigations, actual procedures for investigating various types of child abuse cases, factors that affect the decision to arrest in physical and sexual abuse cases, the scope and nature of interagency cooperative agreements practices and relations, the amount of training received by agency personnel, and ways to improve agency responses to child abuse and neglect cases.

Response Rates:   Telephone surveys were completed with 122 (84 percent) of the 146 agencies selected. Statistical data were received from 59 of the agencies, and copies of policies or guidelines from 67 of the agencies.

Presence of Common Scales:   None.

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:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

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