Innovation in Policing Domestic Abuse

Understanding success to build capacity.

Full report


In recognition of the principle that evaluation needs to concentrate on mechanisms of change, as well as outcomes, the central idea of this project was for academics and police collaboratively to identify areas in which innovation around the policing of domestic abuse (DA) has been successful, and to develop deeper and richer understanding of the enabling circumstances and how these might build capacity in other police services. A central objective was to help transfer innovative practice around DA as well as, more broadly, to provide police and academic researchers with greater understanding of the mechanisms and contexts shaping successful changes in operational practice. Two core themes emerged: first, the nature and application of ‘knowledge’ in policing practice needs to be better understood; and second, the factors key to enabling success in terms of the three projects focused upon. This can help us understand the circumstances and context required to develop police capacity in the key area of domestic abuse.

Key findings

  • Each project was underpinned by some knowledge and evidence but that the nature of this was considerably adrift from standards of research methodology and the scientific principles usually advanced by proponents of evidence-based policing (even where methodologies beyond RCT are recognised as valid and robust in relation to some police activities).
  • HEIs and police (and other) colleagues need to develop common understandings of concepts of research, evaluation, timescales, data and methodology so that a more effective dialogue can develop between partners.
  • The project was inevitably retrospective, continuing observation and discussion with partners in ongoing projects would be hugely beneficial, not least since we have probably been unable to capture some of the changes in these three projects as they have developed.
  • A wider set of perspectives would have been useful, particularly from victims or perpetrators who experienced the various projects outlined. Understanding if they shared perceptions of police and other staff would have added considerably to the work: did they regard these projects as successful innovations?


Research authored by: Mike Rowe, Pam Davies and Paul Biddle (Northumbria University) and Donna-Marie Brown (Durham University)