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

Published: Nov 4, 2005

Principal Investigator(s):
Susan E. Martin, Police Foundation; Douglas J. Besharov, American Enterprise Institute

https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06338.v1

Version V1

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.

Martin, Susan E., and Besharov, Douglas J. Police and Child Abuse:  Policies and Practices in the United States, 1987-1988. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2005-11-04. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06338.v1

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

1987 -- 1988

1988

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.

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.

A 50-percent random sample was selected.

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

Law enforcement agencies.

telephone interviews

survey data

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.

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.

None.

1996-10-08

2005-11-04

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.

1996-10-08 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.

Notes

  • These data are part of NACJD's Fast Track Release and are distributed as they were received from the data depositor. The files have been zipped by NACJD for release, but not checked or processed except for the removal of direct identifiers. Users should refer to the accompanying readme file for a brief description of the files available with this collection and consult the investigator(s) if further information is needed.

  • The 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.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
NACJD logo

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.