Family Violence Risk Assessment: An Early Study of Police Officers' Experiences at the Frontline
The key notion of a police organisational culture unique to frontline police officers explains why police services are resilient to reform, as past attempts by police management to change the traditions of the street-cop culture have proved difficult to achieve. The key tenets of the organisational culture of frontline policing see street-level police negotiate and resist aspects of the NZ Police family violence risk assessment model to which they do not subscribe. Frontline officers' resistance is an expression of their attitudes and beliefs about 'real' police work. These beliefs are informed by the occupational subculture of which they are a part. Officers in this study also resist the increasing bureaucratisation of their role and oppose attempts by management to change the informal rules by which they operate. The established autonomy and isolation of frontline policing allows officers discretion in their implementation of the risk assessment model. This thesis examines the experiences of frontline police officers responsible for implementing family violence risk assessment, in selected areas of the Waikato District. The study employed face to face semi-structured interviews with frontline police officers and sought accounts of their experiences of responding to family violence and their use of the risk assessment tools. The research found that officers recognise and support the improvement of the police response to victims of family violence. Despite this, the introduction of family violence risk assessment in the Waikato District has achieved limited change. This study found considerable evidence of a discrepancy between management policy and operational practice, as the risk assessment model is neither implemented as intended by police management or for which it was designed. This is the result of issues with training and tensions between management directives and established practice at the frontline. These challenges faced by NZ Police are typical of the problems encountered by police organisations implementing similar reforms in other Western jurisdictions.