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Police Responses to Domestic Abuse during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Positive Action and Police Legitimacy

Johnson, K. & Hohl, K. ORCID: 0000-0003-3992-019X (2023). Police Responses to Domestic Abuse during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Positive Action and Police Legitimacy. Policing (Oxford): a journal of policy and practice, 17(1), doi: 10.1093/police/paac108


This article presents evidence from a mixed-methods study examining police responses to domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on ‘positive action’. Statistical analysis of police-recorded domestic abuse administrative data is combined with 73 semi-structured officer interviews conducted over the first year of the pandemic (June 2020 to June 2021). Findings identify officers felt their general approach to domestic abuse remained unchanged. However, officers used their discretion to adapt positive action practices to the pandemic context, for example by temporarily making greater use of arrests, Domestic Violence Protection Notices/Orders (DVPN/Os), and informal measures. Mirroring broader tensions relating to police legitimacy arising during the pandemic, officers saw victim safeguarding as a priority but simultaneously expressed concern about proportionality. The article concludes by addressing the implications of the findings for the understanding and evaluation of domestic abuse policing practices, both within and beyond the pandemic context.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Policing, Domestic Abuse, COVID-19, Positive Action, Police Legitimacy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
K Law > K Law (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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