Powell, P., Smith, M., Riley, J., Harmon, A., Ryan, C., and Butler, J. 2010, Evaluation of a Domestic Violence Program for Law Enforcement, Extension | University of Nevada, Reno, FS-10-75


Prevention of domestic violence was established as a priority by the Churchill County Extension Educator as a result of interviews with local law enforcement officers, victims of domestic violence and domestic violence advocates. The target audience was established after discussion with the local District Attorney’s office that prosecutes domestic violence (DV) cases. These discussions led to Cooperative Extension’s program emphasis on training for law enforcement officers who respond to DV calls.

After completion of the program for law enforcement officers, UNCE conducted a follow-up evaluation to ascertain training impacts. This fact sheet will report on training methods used, the follow-up survey, and reported impacts from the training. It will also serve to inform cadets and academy trainers about the strengths and weaknesses of the pilot DV program as identified in the survey.

Introduction of Training Evaluation

At the beginning of the first day, cadets at the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) academy were informed that UNCE faculty and the lead training officers were interested in conducting research about the impacts of the POST domestic violence training. Cadets were provided an information sheet that explained the purpose of the research, the methods to be used, how the data would be collected, and that participation was both voluntary and confidential. Cadets were further informed that their participation was in no way required as a part of their POST training. If the cadet chose to participate in the evaluation portion, at the end of the second day of training, they were provided an evaluation survey and a blank envelope in which to return the completed survey. If cadets chose not to complete the evaluation survey, they were instructed to return a blank survey in the envelope provided. Cadets were asked NOT to put any identifying information on the instrument, such as their name. Comments were welcome on the survey.

Evaluation Method

The instrument was designed to measure knowledge gain, attitude change, and behavior change of participants immediately following the training and used a retrospective pre-post survey design. The retrospective pre-post survey allows participants to rate their knowledge at the end of the program on the post and to think back to how much they knew before the program on the pre. Both the pre-survey and the post-survey are completed at the end of the program and helps to alleviate the potential of respondents over- and/or under- assessing their perceived learning, a potential constraint of the traditional pre-test post-test method.This method was chosen to help address the problem of “response shift bias” (Colosi and Duncan, 2006).

Surveys, collected on site, were voluntary and confidential. Respondents were asked to rate 19 topics using a 5-point Likert-type scale. A total of 20 cadets completed the evaluation surveys, representing 95 percent of training participants. Descriptive statistics software (SPSS 17.0 Software, 2009) was used to analyze survey results.

A Wilcoxon non-parametric statistical query was used for the quantitative data analysis for both the training survey and the follow-up survey. All evaluation instruments and research procedures were approved through the University of Nevada, Institutional Review Board to ensure that correct investigative protocols were maintained throughout the entire process to protect respondents’ confidentiality.

Cadet Demographics

Of the responding cadets, 11 of Nevada’s 17 counties were represented at the training. Seventy-two percent were male; 18 percent female. Fifty-six percent reported that they had no previous domestic dispute training, while 44 percent answered that they had previously attended one or two trainings in the past. When cadets were asked if they had ever responded to a domestic dispute, 18 officers replied (10 indicated they had never responded to a domestic dispute; four cadets had responded to one dispute, three had responded to between two and 10 incidents and one officer reported responding to between 20 and 30 domestic disputes). While the perception is that POST is associated with training new officers, experienced law enforcement officers may also be required to attend POST. This may account for the cadets who indicated they had responded to numerous domestic dispute incidents.

Evaluation Findings

Survey results immediately following trainings revealed statistically significant increases in participant knowledge, attitude and behavior change, based on comparison of mean pre-test and post-test scores, for all survey questions. Table 1 below shows the ranked mean scores for each of the teaching topics included in the survey (1=low rating and 5=high rating on a Likert scale. The rankings shown in Table 1 indicate which topics had the greatest average score improvement comparing pre- to post- scores for the 19 topics surveyed. In the ranking of topics, “I feel prepared to respond to a domestic dispute” showed the biggest increase in knowledge gain. The second highest gain regarded the legal requirements of officers to provide information to victims about available resources. Prior to cadet training, the mean score for this question was 2.60. Following the training, the mean score was 4.85, indicating an increase in knowledge that cadets understood that under NRS 171.1225 they are required to provide information to suspected victims of domestic violence about resources available to help.

In addition, two of the top four indicators involved officer safety. As domestic dispute incident calls can pose a high risk to officers, cadets, and seasoned officers need to be aware of safety measures they can take to protect the victim as well as themselves. Ranked No. 3 was “I feel prepared to approach a domestic dispute scene in a safe manner”, with a mean score of 2.25 pre and a post means score of 4.40. “Statistically, the first minute is the most dangerous for an officer arriving at a domestic dispute scene” ranked 4 with a pre mean score of 2.60 and a post-mean score of 4.70.

Table 1

Topics Used to Evaluate Cadet Training


Matched Pairs


Mean Scores


Mean Scores

Difference between pre and post Ranking
I feel prepared to respond to a domestic dispute 20 1.65 4.20 2.55 1
An officer is legally responsible to provide information about available resources to victims of domestic violence 20 2.60 4.85 2.25 2
I feel prepared to approach a domestic dispute scene in a safe manner 20 2.25 4.40 2.15 3
Statistically, the first minute is the most dangerous for an officer arriving at a domestic dispute scene 20 2.60 4.70 2.10 4
If both parties have bruises and wounds it is possible to determine who is the primary aggressor 20 2.55 4.40 1.85 5
An investigation about who has power and control is important in determining who is the abuser 20 2.50 4.35 1.85 6
During a domestic disturbance, it is easy to miss things you are not looking for 20 3.05 4.80 1.75 7
A pattern of differential treatment by an officer during domestic disturbance puts the officer and the department at risk for a lawsuit 20 3.00 4.65 1.65 8
Power and control by the abuser can include emotional, sexual, financial and physical abuse 20 3.25 4.80 1.55 9
Power and control are factors in domestic violence 20 3.10 4.65 1.55 10
Of the 60,000 assaults on officers per year, the greatest number occur during domestic disputes 20 3.05 4.60 1.55 11
I feel that an officer has a role in preventing domestic violence 20 3.47 4.63 1.16 12
An officer who is called to a domestic disturbance can make a difference in stopping future violence in the home 20 3.60 4.55 0.95 13
Impatience on the part of the officer is one of the most important factors that leads to officer injury or death during a domestic dispute 20 3.30 4.20 0.90 14
It is not unusual for a victim to remain in the home thereby requiring officers to respond to that home numerous times 20 3.85 4.75 0.90 15
Accurate and detailed officer reporting of each domestic dispute response is critical to the case 20 3.90 4.80 0.90 16
My time and patience can make a difference in the life of a domestic violence victim 20 3.80 4.70 0.90 17
Domestic violence is an issue in my community 20 4.00 4.65 0.65 18
If an officer knows the parties involved in a domestic dispute, this is to the officer’s advantage 20 3.05 3.30 0.25 19

Rating code: 5 = strongly agree; 1 = strongly disagree

ªDifferences between pre-test and post-test scores statistically significant at p<.01

Remaining indicators revealed statistically significant changes when comparing pre and post mean scores for all items and queried topics such as determining the primary aggressor, dynamics of domestic violence such as power and control, officer demeanor when responding, and investigation and reporting measures.

While data analysis of survey responses specifically indicate positive impacts, cadet comments further support the effectiveness of this type of approach to training:

  • “Very fantastic class! Don’t ever cancel it!”
  • “Learned more than I thought I would. Great class.”
  • “The instructors/actors were amazing. They never made us feel like we were stupid and gave us real life scenarios. It was realistic and very helpful.”
  • "Excellent class. Well done. The best so far in POST in my opinion.”


Cadet training focused on three main objectives: knowledge of issues regarding the dynamics of domestic violence, appropriate response measures to be used by law enforcement when responding to a domestic dispute incident, and the role law enforcement has in breaking the cycle of abuse. Results from the immediate retrospective survey indicate that these objectives were clearly met. Cadet comments also indicate that the training methods used were valuable. The use of lecture, open discussion, and scenario-based activities proved effective as validated by the retrospective evaluation administered immediately following the training. Since the training was designed to be interactive, certain topics were more fully investigated based upon cadet questioning. Therefore, these topics might have been discussed more in-depth, perhaps explaining why some indicators received higher impacts than others as a result of the training. Nevada law enforcement officers undergo continuing education on topics pertinent to their careers.

While domestic violence training is critical for cadets, follow-up reinforcement and further instruction is also crucial. Employing a format similar to the one provided by UNCE and training staff may be advantageous for jurisdictions to use when conducting additional trainings. As with this cadet training, immediate post-training evaluations will provide information on success and needed improvement. Follow-up evaluations are warranted to further determine changes in attitudes and behavior based upon training attended. Law enforcement officers are likely to be the first responders to a domestic dispute. Understanding the issues surrounding domestic violence, as well as the resources available to help the victim, will impact how law enforcement can enhance a victim’s capacity to break the cycle of violence (Renzetti, et al. 2001).


  • Colosi, L., & Dunifon, R. (2006). “What’s the difference? “Post then pre” & “pre then post.” Cornell Cooperative Extension. New York. Retrieved from website on Jan. 12, 2008.
  • Nevada Revised Statutes, NRS 171.1225 (Added to NRS by 1989, 64; A 1993, 2771; 1995, 899; 1997, 1800; 2001, 1221; 2007, 1015) LEG
  • Statistical Package for Social Sciences for Windows (Version 17.0) [Computer Software]. Chicago: Author, 2009.
  • Renzetti, C.M., Edleson, J.L. & Bergen, R.K. (Eds.) (2001). “Sourcebook on Violence Against Women.” Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Authors of this scholarly work are no longer available.

Please contact Extension's Webmaster for assistance.