Police Use Mandatory Arrest Laws Against Women

Police are unjustly arresting women under current enforcement of mandatory arrest laws. According to experts, recent increases in the number of women arrested for domestic assault have occurred because of police empathy for batterers and “over-routinization” in the enforcement of these laws that initially were enacted to increase the arrest and prosecution of domestic violence perpetrators.

Under mandatory arrest laws, police are arresting both the women and men when they respond to a domestic violence call, even though the man’s injuries often are minor compared with the women’s and were often inflicted by the woman in self-defense. The high rate of male police officers who themselves are the perpetrators of domestic violence and side with male batterers in domestic violence disputes is a major factor in dual arrests, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing.

Some domestic violence experts believe that increases in the arrest of women during domestic violence disputes have occurred because police often fail to fully investigate an incident. Professor Margaret Martin of Eastern Connecticut State University said that the fact that one-third of the domestic assault arrests are dual arrests in Connecticut is the product of “over-routinized enforcement of the law.”

In response to these enforcement problems, some states are now passing laws to specify the arrest of the “primary aggressor” and are implementing training programs to instruct police in proper investigation and arrest procedures. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing has called for gender balance in policing as a key strategy to improve police response to domestic violence.


New York Times - November 23, 1999 and FMF's National Center for Women & Policing

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