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Violence Vict. 1999 Summer;14(2):203-14.

What happens when health practitioners report domestic violence injuries to the police? A study of the law enforcement response to injury reports.

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  • 1California Department of Health Services, Epidemiology and Prevention for Injury Control Branch, Sacramento 94234-7320, USA.


This study was undertaken to learn whether law enforcement agencies in California ("agencies") have standard policies and procedures in place for responding to reports of domestic violence injuries from health practitioners ("HP reports"), and to describe the variation in policies and procedures across agencies. Using a structured interviewing tool with closed- and open-ended questions, a survey was taken of domestic violence experts from 39 agencies throughout California. Forty-one agencies were asked to participate in the study. Interviews were completed with 39. Almost all agencies reported that they have standard procedures in place for responding to HP reports when the reports are made by telephone. Agencies handle written HP reports differently than telephone HP reports. HP reports constitute a very small proportion of agencies' overall domestic violence caseloads. Emergency departments are the usual source of HP reports. Although the law requires both an immediate telephone report and a written report, fewer than one quarter of sampled agencies always received both types of HP reports. Most agencies use standard response protocols when reports of domestic violence incidents are made by telephone, whether the reporting party is a health practitioner or someone else. Written HP reports do not fit into the agencies' usual response protocol for domestic violence situations. Because agencies' protocols are best suited to situations requiring prompt dispatch of an investigating officer, only reports made by telephone have the opportunity to promote an effective law enforcement response.

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