Police discourse on policing domestic violence : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University

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Massey University
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This research looks at how six police officers talk about policing domestic violence. The analysis is based on interview data collected in 1993-4, in Palmerston North, New Zealand. A 'discursive approach' was adopted in analyzing the texts. The central assumption was that the meanings given to events and people are likely to influence policing practice. Two main areas were looked at: the first was the social construction of policing domestic violence; the second was how the officers talk seemed to position people as either deserving or undeserving of police 'discretion'. Gender, race, and class assumptions influenced these decisions. Women who were about to leave or had attempted to leave a violent relationship were seen as more deserving of police time. Women generally were negatively constructed in the talk of them, and no excuses or justifications were given as explanatory accounts for their actions. By contrast, excuses and justifications were often offered for some men to account for their violence. This tended to be more evident if the offender was a white middle-class male. Thus, some forms of violence and abuse seemed to be condoned, and no action was taken. Maori and Pacific Island men, in contrast, were viewed as the 'type of guys' most likely to beat their wives. Generally, though, domestic violence still seemed to be viewed as a 'private' matter or a 'relationship' issue. This interpretation appeared to function in a way to place domestic violence in the category of 'not real police work', thereby decreasing the likelihood that action would be taken in the form of an arrest. This is contrary to a policy that endorses arrest and the criminalization of male violence in the home.
Police, New Zealand, Family violence, Wife abuse