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Police Focus Groups: Perspectives on Crime Victims, Violent Crime Reduction, and TTA Needs

Updated: May 20

In April, the National Center and the CNA Institute for Public Research (CNA) conducted two police focus groups. The first included command-level officers, and the second featured line officers and detectives. Both focus groups included police from a number of agencies around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region and elicited police perspectives on service provision and relationships with crime victim communities, violent crime reduction, and related agency TTA needs.


Below are a number of key takeaways. Read the full focus groups report here.


  • Police need regular base-level training across the board for command, detectives, and patrol on trauma neurobiology ("victim mentality") and interview and investigation techniques 

  • Additionally, more in-depth training (beyond base-level) on trauma neurobiology is needed for detectives and patrol officers

  • Patrol officers are usually focused on getting information for incident reports and don't understand why victims often aren't willing or are unable to give them key information they need -- giving out resource pamphlets is not enough -- patrol officers need to know how to be compassionate and have conversations with victims, as they are often the only contact victims have for a considerable amount of time until victim services can be connected, and victims may respond in a variety of ways as a result of victimization and potential associated trauma

  • Police departments generally need more victim services staff, especially those who can speak more languages and relieve large caseloads -- training on available funding sources (VOCA, etc.) and other related resources to increased police-based victim service is needed

  • Police training for patrol officers and detectives should mostly be on-site (at roll call if possible) but could also be virtual/webinar-based (particularly for command) -- training should happen in-service on a recurring basis

  • Available training resources and on-site training logistics should be communicated to individual department training coordinators

  • Other than trauma neurobiology/empathy/investigation techniques training, police need training on specific topics, including victim/witness intimidation/retaliation; elder abuse; sexual assault; domestic violence; property crimes; ways in which interviewing violent crime victims differs from interviewing property crime victims; forensic interviewing (especially for child victims and/or child witnesses); and relationship building and strategic partnerships for patrol officers and detectives that would enable better collaboration with community-based victim advocates and other local victim services (primarily to obtain information needed for successful prosecution)

  • If further police focus groups are conducted, they should consider a wider demographic, particularly with departments that have less resources and are not necessarily in urban settings -- these departments likely need trainings the most, as they likely don't have dedicated (in-house) victim services staff, services, or programming and don't have regular in-service trainings, which results in a disconnect between information given to community service providers versus information given to police during initial response and interview follow-up


Read the full focus groups report here. The National Center and CNA conducted a third focus group with prosecutors in late April focused on similar topics -- stay tuned for that report and takeaways!

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