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Homicides of law enforcement officers responding to domestic disturbance calls
  1. Cassandra Kercher1,
  2. David I Swedler1,
  3. Keshia M Pollack1,2,
  4. Daniel W Webster3
  1. 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Johns Hopkins Center for Occupational Safety and Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3Department of Health Policy and Management, Center for Gun Policy and Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Cassandra Kercher, Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 614 North Broadway, Room 508, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; ckercher{at}jhsph.edu

Abstract

Objective To describe the law enforcement officer (LEO), encounter, perpetrator and victim characteristics of domestic disturbance-related LEO homicides in the USA from 1996 to 2010.

Methods Narrative text analysis was conducted on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual report ‘Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted’. Potential cases were confirmed if the narrative included the term ‘domestic disturbance’ or a domestic disturbance situation was described.

Results 116 LEOs were killed while responding to domestic disturbance calls. Ninety-five per cent of these homicides were committed with a firearm. Sixty-seven per cent of LEOs were wearing body armour when killed; however, 52% received the fatal wound to the head/neck. Sixty-one per cent of suspects had a criminal history mentioned within the narratives and perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) were more likely to be killed by LEOs than suspects involved in other forms of domestic violence. Victims of the domestic disturbance were killed in 21% of the IPV-related LEO homicide cases as opposed to only 5% of other domestic disturbance calls. A firearm was the most common weapon used in the murder of a domestic disturbance victim (86%).

Conclusions This study describes domestic disturbance-related LEO homicides. Future research in this area should further examine the dangers unique to domestic disturbance calls. A longitudinal analysis could provide greater understanding of the injury and mortality risks faced by LEOs, in order to inform homicide prevention among law enforcement.

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