Does a Coordinated Program Between the Police and Prosecution Services Matter? The Impacts on Satisfaction and Safety of Domestic Violence Victims

Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2021, Vol. 32(4) 331 –351
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0887403420920331
Does a Coordinated Program
Between the Police and
Prosecution Services Matter?
The Impacts on Satisfaction
and Safety of Domestic
Violence Victims
Jorge Quintas1 and Pedro Sousa1
Domestic violence–specialized programs have been created by the police or the criminal
justice system with the intention of improving victims’ protection. This article examines the
impact of the first Portuguese coordinated program, involving a specialized prosecution
team and a special police unit, the experience of victims in encountering with authorities,
and the fulfillment of their expectations on victims’ satisfaction and safety. Data were
collected through a telephone survey, using a two-group quasi-experimental design, at
two waves (3 and 12 months after the crime report). Victims from the experimental
group are more satisfied and reveal a better sense of safety. However, it is only in the
second variable that the program has a direct effect on multivariate analysis. Satisfaction
mainly comes from the authorities’ demeanor and the expectation fulfillment while it is
the authorities’ behavior and the expectation fulfillment that grounds safety.
domestic violence, expectancy disconfirmation model, victims’ satisfaction, victims’
safety, domestic violence–coordinated program
Domestic violence (DV) has become a serious problem that has been getting an increas-
ing political and social attention. Opposing to the traditional idea of considering DV as
1University of Porto, Portugal
Corresponding Author:
Jorge Quintas, CJS—Interdisciplinary Research Center on Crime, Justice and Security, School of
Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Porto, Rua dos Bragas, 223, 4050-123 Porto, Portugal.
920331CJPXXX10.1177/0887403420920331Criminal Justice Policy ReviewQuintas and Sousa
332 Criminal Justice Policy Review 32(4)
a private matter, a growing social censorship has favored the adoption of victim’s pro-
tection policies and legislative changes toward a progressive criminalization, especially
in Western countries (Belknap & Grant, 2018; Buzawa & Buzawa, 2003; Dobash &
Dobash, 1979; Fagan, 1996). Violent acts that occur in the domestic domain are cur-
rently defined as crimes, despite variations among legal systems. As a result, police and
agencies of the criminal justice system play a legitimate and crucial role in the protec-
tion of the victim as well as in the detection, punishment, and supervision of offenders
(e.g., Aldarondo, 2010). However, law enforcement has repeatedly been criticized,
especially by organized social groups (e.g., women’s organizations, victim support
associations), for being unresponsive or lenient, for uncaring the victim, or even for
exonerating offender’s violent acts (Belknap, 1990; Johnson, 2007; Walklate, 2007). In
reaction to these criticisms and as a part of a broader movement of specialization in the
police and in the judicial system (Cissner et al., 2015), during the last decades, multiple
DV-specialized programs have been created, mainly in North America, Western Europe,
and other developed countries.
Specialized law enforcement DV programs are currently available in the police,
prosecution services, and courts. For instance, in the United States, at the end of the
20th century, about half of the local police stations had DV special units (Townsend
et al., 2005), and there were more than 200 courts with specialized structures and prac-
tices directed to DV, some of them recognized as DV courts (Cissner et al., 2015;
Friday et al., 2006; Karan et al., 1999). In England and Wales, following a Home
Office circular, several police forces introduced DV Units (Farrell & Buckley, 1999)
and more than 100 Special DV courts have also been set up to implement rapid and
effective responses (Bowen et al., 2014; Robinson & Cook, 2006). Other police and
prosecutorial initiatives, such as the Independent DV Advisers (Taylor, 2013), were
implemented across both countries as well. Furthermore, the United Nations itself
recommends that laws should provide for “the establishment of specialized courts
where a special judicial procedure ensures that cases of violence against women are
examined quickly and effectively” (United Nations, 2010).
In general, although specialized programs can be initiated by the police or justice
system agencies, its implementation requires the collaboration of other institutions,
which necessarily implies an increased coordination effort. Even though specialized
police units for DV may have different structures (Exum et al., 2010; Friday et al.,
2006), they generally comprise teams of agents specially trained for direct victim sup-
port (e.g., repeated contacts) and for an intensive criminal investigation adjusted to
this type of crimes. They have multiple tasks, including personalized care of the vic-
tim, risk assessment, monitoring of protection plans, supervision of protection orders,
and criminal investigation. These specialized units usually sought to improve their
close collaboration with justice system agencies, victim support services, social ser-
vices and health services, and to take advantage of several communitarian networks.
Criminal justice system agencies specialized in DV often include magistrates (judges
and prosecutors), specially trained for these offenses, that follow distinct procedural
practices. Specialized prosecution services and courts need to be strongly linked with
the police and communitarian services in a multiagency approach, which includes

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