Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias: A Law Enforcement Leader’s Role and Response

The IACP is pleased to announce that the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released guidance designed to support law enforcement agencies in the prevention of gender bias in their response to sexual assault and domestic violence. The document, Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement’s Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, focuses on the need for clear policies, comprehensive training, and responsive accountability systems in order to effectively investigate sexual and domestic violence. The guidance also presents eight principles that law enforcement agencies must integrate to ensure that gender bias, intentionally or unintentionally, does not undermine efforts to keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable. These principles are:

  • Recognize and address biases, assumptions and stereotypes about victims.
  • Treat all victims with respect, and employ interviewing tactics that encourage a victim to participate and provide facts about the incident.
  • Investigate all sexual assault or domestic violence complaints thoroughly and effectively.
  • Appropriately classify reports of sexual assault or domestic violence.
  • Refer victims to appropriate services.
  • Properly identify the assailant in domestic violence incidents.
  • Hold officers who commit sexual assault or domestic violence accountable.
  • Maintain, review and act upon data regarding sexual assault and domestic violence.

Throughout the past 20 years, the IACP, in partnership with the DOJ, Office on Violence Against Women, has ensured that these principles are at the forefront of the training curricula as well as tools and resources developed for law enforcement to respond to and investigate the crimes of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Information presented at the IACP’s National Law Enforcement Leadership Institute on Violence Against Women and the National First-Line Supervisor Training on Violence Against Women events encourage and support law enforcement leaders to develop comprehensive violence against women policies, implement guidelines to address officers as offenders, and create and maintain effective partnerships with community partners in order to keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable. The IACP’s Sexual Offenses and Misconduct by Law Enforcement: Executive Guide, Sexual Assault Response and Investigation Policy and Training Content Development Guidelines, and the Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation Training program embody these principles.

For more resources and additional details regarding available tools and training events to address violence against women, visit the IACP’s Violence Against Women Projects page. You can also access a one-page summary of the Department of Justice document.

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