Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. New Staff and In-Service Training


Training is important for new staff who will come into contact with battered women and domestic violence issues. This training can improve their sensitivity and awareness, even if they do not routinely encounter cases of domestic violence through their jobs. In fact, some communities are considering ways to address domestic violence in the workplace on a larger scale, since the problem is so widespread.

In our sites, new police recruits typically receive some training in domestic violence while at the police academy. For example, since the mid-1980s, California has required all police officers in the state to have some training in domestic violence. New recruits in San Francisco receive 16 hours of domestic violence training at the academy. People in several sites stressed the need for additional in-service training on domestic violence beyond what is provided to new recruits. Since new officers receive a tremendous amount of information at the Academy and have little context for understanding domestic violence (i.e., they have not yet been out on a domestic violence call), the impact of the initial training may fall short. Ongoing training is also important in the domestic violence field because laws and policies are frequently changing and turnover among staff is often high.

The extent of ongoing training for law enforcement varied widely across the sites. In San Francisco, officers receive a total of 40 hours of in-service training every two years, three hours of which is devoted to domestic violence. This training covers domestic violence laws and the penal code, restraining orders, and the cycle of violence. Kansas City, on the other hand, has not done in-service domestic violence training for several years. One person felt that this was because of other competing issues, and also because domestic violence training is less important since the special unit investigates these cases.

Staff may also acquire training through continuing education. Some professions require people in the field to complete a certain number of hours of education annually to keep their certification current. Domestic violence-related course work may be used to fulfill these requirements. For example, in Minnesota, probation officers are required to complete a certain number of credits each year and sometimes use domestic violence course work to meet these requirements. Some professional associations offer course work related to domestic violence through their own continuing education programs. These provide opportunities for people from different communities to hear how others are addressing domestic violence issues. Training done by other agencies, advocates, and experts in the field that also meets continuing education requirements can provide incentives for staff to attend these trainings.