How accurate are police officers at predicting domestic violence with a structured professional judgement tool? An experimental, scenario-based study

Prof. Mark Kebbell1

1Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia


Sixty-six police officers took part in an experiment to study three questions concerning police risk assessment for domestic violence. The first question was whether police can determine risk of domestic violence by discriminating between high, medium and low risk offenders? The second was whether a structured professional judgment tool improves the quality of risk assessment over no tool? The third was whether police perceptions of risk are influenced by an anchoring effect? Police officers were given four, different, domestic violence scenarios to rate for risk. Police officers started the experiment with either a low-risk or high-risk ‘anchor’ scenario of police attending a domestic violence incident. Next, participants were given three more scenarios: high, medium or low risk. Half the participants were given a structured professional judgment tool while the other half were not. Participants given the low risk anchor rated subsequent offenders as being of more risk than those given the high-risk anchor. Participants accurately identified the high, medium and low risk scenarios and the tool made no difference to their ratings. Finally, participants were most confident identifying high risk offenders and less confident identifying medium and low risk offenders. The implications of these results will be discussed.


Mark Kebbell is Professor of Forensic Psychology at the School of Applied Psychology. His expertise and research is in the area of Investigative Psychology particularly with regards the investigation and prosecution of serious crime. His previous work has included writing the guidelines for police officers in England and Wales (with Wagstaff) for assessing witness evidence, and developing risk assessment methods for suspected sex offenders for the Australian Federal Police and the Queensland Police Service.

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