Faculty Articles

Homicide-suicide in police families: An analysis of cases from 2007-2014

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Journal of Forensic Practice





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Purpose – There is a burgeoning body of evidence showing that police officers are at a higher risk of committing homicide-suicide than civilian counterparts. The purpose of this paper is to provide an update and expansion of previous work by Violanti (2007) on homicide-suicide in law enforcement families. Design/methodology/approach – Police-perpetrated homicide-suicide cases were obtained through an online forum dedicated to topics related to domestic violence in police families. A total of 43 police-perpetrated homicide-suicides was identified and reviewed for presence/absence of variables similar to those examined by Violanti (2007), with the addition of new factors. χ2 analyses were performed to test for inter-study differences in proportions on variables of interest. Findings – Results indicated a significantly smaller proportion of homicide-suicide incidents perpetrated by State officers. The remainder of the variable frequencies remained relatively consistent between studies. Of particular importance, domestic violence and divorce/estrangement were salient precursors in these cases. Research limitations/implications – Data were obtained from an online forum and media publications, which may not be regulated for accuracy and may contain biased data. Practical implications – The current results, combined with the prior research, underscore the need for prevention programs and departmental policies that: increase the accessibility of mental health services, increase the availability of services for victims of police-involved intimate partner violence, and stress the enforcement of current domestic violence laws. Social implications – Results indicate that domestic violence is still a significant problem in law enforcement personnel, with the potential for lethal consequences. Originality/value – To the authors knowledge, this is only the second study involving a formal analysis of police-involved homicide-suicide cases.



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