Abstract: Correlates of Police Reporting and Responses to IPV: Does Victim Perceived Police Legitimacy and Trustworthiness Matter? (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Correlates of Police Reporting and Responses to IPV: Does Victim Perceived Police Legitimacy and Trustworthiness Matter?

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 4:30 PM
Union Square 15 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Lisa Fedina, PhD, Transitional Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Bethany Backes, PhD, MSW, MPH, Director of Research and Evaluation, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Hyun-Jin Jun, PhD, Post-doctoral researcher, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Jordan DeVylder, PhD, Associate Professor, Fordham University, New York, NY
Richard Barth, PhD, Dean of the School of Social Work, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Background: Public perceptions of police legitimacy and trustworthiness have been identified as key considerations in steps towards reforming policing and criminal justice policy. As such, police legitimacy and trustworthiness may influence decisions to report intimate partner violence (IPV) and seek police assistance, however, this has not yet been empirically investigated. This study examined associations between sociodemographics, perceived police legitimacy and trustworthiness, and police reporting of IPV to better understand how perceptions of police legitimacy and trust are associated with victim decisions to report IPV. We also examined the relationship between sociodemographics, police legitimacy, and perceived police responses to IPV to determine whether higher levels of police legitimacy and trust relate to more positive responses from police.                                                                                                                    

Methods: Data were used from the 2017 Survey of Police-Public Encounters (SPPE II). Qualtrics Panels were used to recruit demographically representative samples from two northeastern U.S. cities. Logistic and Ordinary Least Squares regression analyses were conducted to examine associations between independent variables (sociodemographics and police legitimacy/trustworthiness) and dependent variables (police reporting and police responses) in a sub-sample of participants reporting lifetime IPV exposures using measures from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (N=508). Sociodemographics included age, gender, sexual orientation, race, income, and education. IPV type (threat of physical violence, physical violence, psychological aggression, rape, sexual coercion, or coercive control) was also included. Police legitimacy and trustworthiness were assessed with seven items with higher scores indicating higher levels of police legitimacy and trust. Police reporting was assessed with a single indicator of whether the respondent had reported their most serious IPV incident to police (yes/no). Police response to IPV was comprised of 9 items with higher scores indicating more positive police responses.

Results: Significant sociodemographic correlates of more positive police responses included being female, older age, and higher income and education. There were also significant differences in police responses with regard to IPV type, particularly, rape was associated with more negative police responses compared to other IPV types (t = 2.39, p <. 05). Police legitimacy was not associated with police reporting; however, higher levels of police legitimacy were associated with more positive policing responses among those who reported (pearson’s r =.23, p<.05). Multivariate analyses suggest police legitimacy and trustworthiness was not significantly associated with police reporting, adjusting for sociodemographics and IPV type. Higher levels of police legitimacy and trustworthiness were significantly associated with more positive police responses to IPV, adjusting for sociodemographics and IPV type (B = .17, 95% CI = .03–.31).

Conclusion: Although police legitimacy and trust may not influence reporting of IPV, it does appear to influence victims’ perceived police responses following their report, which has implications for future reporting of IPV crimes and help-seeking in the criminal justice system. Findings suggest the need for interventions and policy aimed at strengthening police-citizen trust to ensure police are adequately responding to IPV victims following their report, particularly for reports of rape. Police social workers can enhance police responses to IPV and increase legitimacy and trust between police and IPV victims.