The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment

The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment

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The Minneapolis Police Department along with the Police Foundation was given the grant to experiment focusing on domestic violence from the beginning of 1981 until halfway through 1982. The testing was designed to document law enforcements response to domestic violence. It was the first scientifically controlled test that kept a record of the effects of one’s arrest after being charged with domestic abuse. During the experiment, it was discovered that arrests were the most effective response out of three standard police methods that police have used to try and reduce domestic violence ( Before police officers using the arresting method to punish individuals as a result of domestic abuse, officers tried offering to counsel to both parties or the option to leave home for a couple of hours as an attempt to give both parties the opportunity to cool down or get additional help through counseling. Unfortunately, these two methods didn’t work out, and the arrest method proved to be more successful. The goal of the experiment was to determine what would deter a person from future violence on a loved one. Being charged and arrested proved to be the only solution in this instance.

Before the experiment, there was a huge debate in regards to how police officers should respond to misdemeanors that involve domestic violence. To effectively conduct the experiment officers allowed scientists in to study the effects of all other possible methods used to reduce domestic disputes. A method called the lottery selection is what was used to ensure fairness by making sure that there would be no difference amongst the group of domestic dispute suspects who received the three different responses. Using three suspects in the lottery selection officers were advised to arrest one individual, offer another individual the opportunity to leave the scene for eight hours with the option of mediation (officers discretion), and the third suspect was given the opportunity to get treatment. Persons who opted for treatment were monitored for a six-month time frame. During this period officers measured the likelihood of future domestic violence cases that may need police intervention. This experiment was only applicable to people charged with simple assaults such as misdemeanors where both of the parties involved were on the scene. In the experiment, police were empowered but not required to make arrests under a recent passing of a liberalized Minnesota state law (

The main focus of the experiment was to determine which actions made by police officers were more effective. It was proven that people who were arrested were found to be violent again but at a much, lower rate than the other solutions that were previously used when responding to domestic disputes. Within the results, there was a total of 205 completed interviews that provided details on the identity of the person who was involved in domestic violence cases. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t represent the full sample of 314 people.

In the results, it was discovered that a disproportionate amount of domestic dispute cases involved couples who weren’t married, uneducated, disproportionately minority or interracial and were more likely to have prior incidents that required police intervention. Also, it was also determined that 60 percent of the people involved in the experiment were unemployed in a community where there was only about 5 percent of the workforce who were unemployed.

While analyzing the data on the individuals in the experiment, law enforcement also learned that the prior arrest rate for these individuals was very high, coming in at 59% which is an indication that these people are not new to run-ins with the law, as 80% of them had a prior domestic assault rate.

During the experiment, two measurements of violent repeat offenders were taken. One measurement involved a record of repeat offenders of domestic violence who were given a consequence involving a six-month follow-up period, an arrest report written by an officer in the department or through intervention. The second measurement was provided by a slew of interviews conducted with the victims. They were asked questions to help determine if there had been repeating offenses with the same offender involving an actual assault, threat or property damage.

The overall results in the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment were 10% of the persons arrested committed additional acts of violence against the same partner, compared to 19% of those who sought advisement and 24% of those who chose to leave the scene for a couple of hours ( This data clearly shows that arresting individuals who choose to commit violent acts on their spouses or partners are more likely to think twice when they are facing incarceration. Whereas before when police would intervene, they gave offenders the option to walk away or get help.

I feel that people who have a history of domestic abuse should face harsh consequences. There are too many people losing their lives to senseless acts of violence for reasons that cannot be fathomed. I’m a firm believer in people keeping their hands to themselves and being respectful to others and if arresting an individual for violating another person’s personal space is the solution I stand behind it 100%. I’d rather see offenders in jail than innocent people losing their lives all because their partner couldn’t control their acts of rage and temper. The new policy to include arresting offenders has proven to deter individuals from committing acts of domestic violence. However, I still wonder about the women who are still being abused but choose not to come forward out of fear of what will happen when their partner is released. Although statistics show that the number of violence has been reduced since the policy of arresting offenders was put into place, it does not count the victims who are still being abused but now scared to ask for help due to the thought of retaliation. The truth of the matter is these crimes are often misdemeanors, and the offender is often given a simple slap on the wrist and goes back to the victim and punishes them even more, therefore, the next time something happens the victim will be more reluctant to ask for help. This is my only reservation to this policy. I still believe that offenders should be arrested, but I also feel like the laws should be a little stricter due to all of the innocent lives who have been lost due to domestic violence.

Since August 1, 1982, a deterrent effect was added to the results of the experiment due to the change in policy to include arrests. According to Sherman and Smith (1992), variable effects of arrest relied on a theoretical model that emphasized social bonding and labeling theory. It was hypothesized that abusers who had a less to lose (i.e., unmarried, unemployed) were less likely to respond to the deterrent effect of an arrest unlike people with higher stakes. It is believed that if a person were employed the suspect would think more about what they would lose in regards to income if they were arrested and sanctioned by the criminal justice system (

I do feel that people who have more to lose are less likely to commit a crime where they take the chance of losing everything that they have worked hard for. Successful people, in my opinion, are more likely to walk away not wanting to hurt their reputation or careers. Whereas people who have less to lose are more prone to continuing the same activities resulting in more arrests further damaging their successes in the future.

Ultimately, the effects of the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment appears to have been a success. Unfortunately, there are still many people who are being abused in silence or even under the intervention of police, the program has still proven to have deterred abusers from committing assault crimes against their partners due to consequences of being arrested. The fact of the matter is assaulting anybody a crime, whether it be your husband, wife, sister, brother, cousin, friend, etc. Just because a person is close to you does not give you the right to assault them in the heat of the moment. People who commit these crimes should pay just like regular citizens who commit these crimes on strangers. The only thing that I will continue to suggest is that the laws of stricken and law enforcement continue to do experiments on domestic abuse as it has not stopped over the years if anything has gotten worse. I feel that this should be re-evaluated more often and victims of violence should be taken more seriously when asking for help.


DeLeon-Granados, W., & Long, J. (n.d.). Beyond Minneapolis: A Preliminary Theoretical Model for Alleviating Conceptual Ruts in Domestic Violence Intervention Research. Retrieved from

Sherman, L. W. (n.d.). The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. Retrieved from

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