Integrating science and policing: Evaluating and exploring intimate partner violence risk assessment in frontline police work in Canada

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University of New Brunswick
Previous research has found that when police use risk appraisal information to match higher-risk cases of intimate partner violence (IPV) with higher-intensity risk management, it can lead to a decreased likelihood of an individual perpetrating such incidents in the future (Storey et al., 2014). For this reason, many police services across Canada have adopted evidence-based risk instruments that have been shown to predict a perpetrator’s risk for future IPV. The Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) is one such tool that is commonly used by Canadian police services because it was specifically designed to be easily scored using information readily available to police officers in the course of their routine investigations (Hilton et al., 2004). However, the ODARA has not yet been evaluated in a frontline context. In addition, its emphasis on static risk (as opposed to dynamic risk) can limit its utility. Using a sample of 309 archival IPV police incident reports drawn from a New Brunswick police service, the current study sought to (a) evaluate police field use of the ODARA over a 12-month follow-up period, and (b) develop and evaluate the validity of a dynamic supplement to the ODARA that could be used by officers to better detect fluctuations in risk and inform risk management tactics. The evaluation results demonstrated problems with officer scoring of the ODARA, which substantially limited the utility of the tool for informing risk management and mitigation. The analyses of dynamic risk factors only supported one new risk item (capturing perpetrator antisocial attitudes), thus preventing the development of a dynamic supplement. The implications for enhancing police use of the ODARA in the field and methodological lessons to consider in future research are discussed.