Running the risk: police officer discretion and family violence in New Zealand

Stephanie Grant, Michael Rowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


As in other jurisdictions, the police in New Zealand have a poor record of responding to domestic violence, a category of crime widely perceived within New Zealand to be a particularly extensive problem relative to other societies. Against that background policy developments have focused on developing risk assessment techniques as a basis for identifying cases of family and domestic violence that are likely to escalate. Using interviews with frontline police officers, this article explores police officers' attitudes towards these investigating methods and their experiences of interviewing victims of family violence in order to gain information about risk. It is argued that while officer attitudes towards risk assessment in general terms might vary, in practice the majority of officers do not complete risk assessment processes in accordance with police policy, even if they support the practice in principle. The reasons for this, it is argued, have more to do with officer negotiation of the demands of routine patrol work and time-management processes that contribute to the marginalisation of bureaucratic procedures. Supervisors and managers compound the perception that these tasks are of second-order importance. In these ways there are cultural and managerial barriers to the more effective policing of family violence; however, the reduction of officer discretion through policy and procedure seems unlikely to provide a viable solution. A professional practice model might be more effective if officers can be trained and educated about the role of risk assessment in this context and the importance of their role as data collectors; although this does not fit easily with traditional concepts of ‘real policework’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-66
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'Running the risk: police officer discretion and family violence in New Zealand'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this