Mandatory Arrest — Deters Intervention And Increases Homicides by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.

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Colorado Springs Police Department data 1990-2009

Principal effect of 1994 DV laws is a dramatic reduction in 911 domestic disturbance calls to police

Arrests for simple assault

Notes on the Colorado Springs police data

Unanswered questions


Mandatory arrest — A law that kills

Mandatory arrests increase domestic violence homicides by 60% in married couples


These draconian measures place lives in danger

Police reports demonstrate DV laws had only minor temporary effect




Another approach to using demographic data is to look at trends within a single judicial district. Data from the state court administrator clearly demonstrates the 4 th Judicial District leads the state in sheer numbers of domestic violence and abuse cases and has been a leader in all years for which court data are available (Table 59 and Table 65).

The 4 th Judicial District encompasses El Paso and Teller counties, and the major metropolitan area therein is Colorado Springs, as well as five major military bases. As I live there, it was easily possible for me to obtain data from the Colorado Springs Police Department annual reports for the twenty-year period 1990-2009, bridging the year 1994 when the current domestic violence laws with mandatory warrantless arrest, etc. were enacted in Colorado.

Because the high levels of domestic violence prosecutions in Colorado Springs are often thought to be related to the huge military presence here, I also looked at court data for other misdemeanor offenses that one commonly associates with military personnel, e.g., underage alcohol offenses, drugs, fraud, and offenses against persons and property. I can find no such correlation (Table 66). So I looked at other available data.


Colorado Springs Police Department data 1990-2009

Principal effect of 1994 DV laws is a dramatic reduction in 911 domestic disturbance calls to police


From the annual Colorado Springs police reports the most useful and consistent data related to domestic violence has proven to be calls for service in domestic disturbances and arrests for simple assaults from 1990 through 2010. Most, mean of 75% (range 69-82%), of all DV arrests (Table 72) in the data compiled by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are for misdemeanor third-degree, or “simple assault.” Though other crimes are also included in the “simple assault” category of the Uniform Crime Reports provided by the police, a reasonable estimate is that more than 50% of simple assault arrests by the Colorado Springs police now have their origin in a domestic disturbance due to the current mandatory arrest law.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides population data for the Colorado Springs metropolitan area for 1990 through 2010.

This data, year vs.

• Population,

• 911 calls in domestic disturbances,

• All 911 calls except domestic disturbances,

• Arrests for simple assaults, and, for comparison,

• Number of misdemeanor domestic violence cases in the 4 th Judicial District (essentially metropolitan Colorado Springs)

are tabulated in Table 73 and illustrated through 2004 by the bar chart in Table 74.

    Table 73: Twenty-one-year compilation of 911 calls, arrests for simple assault, and domestic violence court cases in Colorado Springs versus increase in population.






911 Calls

All Other



Simple Assault

(18 and over)

DV Misdemeanor

Court Cases

4th Judicial District


Percent who

call 911 at

least once


Percent of

all 911 calls










































































































































































Population: Estimates from U.S. Census Bureau, Colorado Springs metropolitan area. Note that the population of a metropolitan center is always greater than that of the city. Also, residents can, and often do call 911 more than once in a given year and this increases the expressed percentage of population who call 911 by an unknown amount.

911 Calls: Taken from the annual reports of the Colorado Springs Police Department. Domestic disturbance calls are the sum of “domestic” and “family” 911 calls. Note that the CSPD police report for 2003 does not list any (0) Disturbance - Family 911 calls.

Arrests: For simple assault include other offenses than those involving domestic violence.

Court cases: Values for domestic violence court cases are from Colorado Judicial Branch Annual Statistical Reports



Note that the bar chart in Table 74 was updated in 5-year increments from 1990 to 2004 to show trends rather than year-to-year variations.

    Table 74: Plot of fifteen-year compilation of 911 calls and arrests for simple assault in Colorado Springs versus increase in population (data in Table 73).



While the bar chart in Table 74 well illustrates the sudden drop in 911 domestic disturbance calls brought on by passage of draconian domestic violence laws in 1994 I have continued to track these data, presently through 2010 as given in Table 73. The variance between population, all 911 calls, and simple assaults has become so great by 2010 that a bar chart of all four variables is too crowded and is of little use. To continue to display the continuing decline in the percentage of residents who make 911 domestic disturbance calls (Table 73) I show only all other 911 calls in a given year versus 911 domestic disturbance calls in Table 75.

    Table 75: Plot of 911 domestic disturbance calls and all other 911 calls to the Colorado Springs police department for the years 1990 through 2010.



As shown in Table 73 between 1990 and 2010 the Colorado Springs metropolitan area population increased 63% (397,014 to 647,758) and the number of all 911 calls except for a domestic disturbance increased by 105% (136,811 to 280,553). But the best fit to the number of domestic disturbance calls is a linear fit (solid red line) with virtually zero slope (Table 75). A plot of the five-year moving average (dashed red line in Table 75) scarcely differs from the linear trendline. Despite a 63% increase in population, and a 105% increase in all calls except for a domestic disturbance, there has been no significant increase at all in the number of 911 domestic disturbance calls in twenty-one years. Simply a linear increase in the number of 911 domestic disturbance calls would suggest 26,000-28,000 per year by 2010. The actual number is half that estimate. That is a clear indicator that citizens are more afraid of the police under the umbrella of draconian mandatory-arrest domestic violence laws than they are of their intimate partners.

The finding that mandatory arrest results in a sharp decline in citizen 911 domestic disturbance calls to police is not new. In Policing Domestic Violence, Sherman (1992, p. 254) notes that in Duluth, Minnesota, there was a 47% drop in such calls between 1982-1986 and a 28% drop in Connecticut in 1986.

Time and time again women and men have told me they would never call 911 again for any reason after their lives were destroyed by the draconian domestic violence laws.

Attorneys consistently report that half the domestic violence cases they now see are the result of arrests made on the basis of hearsay. A neighbor or passerby hears a loud argument or noises and calls the police. By 2010 at least half the 911 calls in domestic disturbances are not made by “victims.”

Arrests for simple assault


In Table 73 the number of arrests for simple assault is clearly nonlinear, more than doubling in 1995 relative to the 1990 cases after passage of the DV mandatory arrest law in 1994. A linear increase of 40% (orange line on bar chart in Table 74) projects 1,240 arrests for simple assault in 2004 if the 1994 DV law had not been passed, compared with the reported number of 1,489 arrests. That is a 120% increase over the projected number, but 1,489 arrests is a substantial decrease from the 2,014 arrests in 1995, the year after the DV law was passed. So while the population increased 18% from 1995 to 2004, the arrests for simple assault decreased 26%.

The number of arrests for simple assault continued to decline from the high of 2.014 in 1995 to a low of 1,343-1,373 in 2007-2008. However, there is an unexpected and unexplained jump in simple assault arrests in 2009 to 2,230 and 2,150 in 2010 (Table 73). The 2009-2010 arrests for simple assault are scarcely more than what would be projected based simply on an increase proportional to population growth.

At present there is no significant difference in the number of arrests for simple assault than there would have been if the 1994 domestic violence laws had never been passed. Thus, the major impact of the draconian 1994 domestic violence laws has been to make residents afraid to contact police during a domestic disturbance.

Notes on the Colorado Springs police data


As with all archival data there are problems and the data were not kept in an entirely consistent manner. For example, though numbers of calls for service in domestic disputes were available for all twenty-one years, they were split apart into such categories as “Domestic Disturbance Project” and “Disturbance/Domestic” for 1991-1993 because Colorado Springs was one of seven cities where the concept of mandatory arrest was tested (with inconclusive results). In 1994-1999 the 911 calls were separated into “Disturbance/Domestic” and “Disturbance/Family.” But in 1990 there was only the single category of “Domestic Disturbance.” As I have had no reason to separate family and domestic disturbances, and they were originally lumped together by the police department, I summed the domestic disturbance categories to arrive at the total number of calls for service for each year in family situations shown in Table 73.

The next problem is with numbers for DV arrests. The Uniform Crime Reports do not have a separate category for domestic violence as it is an add-on charge for any criminal act. However, most DV arrests are for misdemeanor third-degree (simple) assault. The mean of such arrests in Table 72 is 75% and those are tabulated as “simple assault” in the police reports, and shown in orange in the bar graph in Table 74.

Two problems arise from this approach.

The first is that arrests are made for simple assaults for many other reasons than DV, e.g., a bar fight, so there are an unknown number of such arrests included each year for other than DV in Table 73.

The second problem is that DV arrests may be made for other than third-degree assault, e.g., felony second-degree assault tabulated as “aggravated assault” in the Uniform Crime Reports. Again, many other crimes are included in the “aggravated assault” category. Further, the number of arrests for aggravated assault are roughly an order of magnitude fewer than for simple assault and the small numbers lose statistical significance.

For plotting purposes in Table 74 I have ignored those and other categories of crimes where an arrest may have included charges of domestic violence.

Unanswered questions


In examining the demographics of restraining orders the court statistics indicate that, using 1999 as an example, there were 3,948 charges of domestic violence filed in the 4 th Judicial District. These values vary for other years but the same problems remain.

The City of Colorado Springs is far and away the largest population center in El Paso and Teller counties that comprise the 4 th Judicial District in Colorado. Table 73 only shows 1,630 arrests for simple assault in 1999 and the CSPD annual report indicates an additional 414 arrests for aggravated assault.

It is known that not all of these 2,000 arrests included DV charges, but perhaps half did. Of course, some DV arrests were made on charges other than simple or aggravated assault, e.g., kidnapping or family offenses that might account for as many as 200 more DV arrests. Thus, I can account for roughly 1,000-1,200 DV arrests in Colorado Springs in 1999 from the CSPD annual report.

The El Paso county sheriff's office (EPSO) report lists 695 DV incidents in 1999.

Assume that the other small towns of El Paso County contribute another 500-600 DV arrests per year for a total of 2,500 DV arrests in 1999 in El Paso County.

The 21,228 residents of Teller County only comprise 4% of the population of the 4th Judicial District. Thus, there were likely only 80-100 DV arrests in Teller County in 1999.

From the CSPD and EPSO reports and the estimates given above it appears there were about 2,600 arrests involving domestic violence in 1999 in the 4 th Judicial District.

Where are the other 1,300 charges (3,948 cases filed minus 2,600 arrests) of domestic violence coming from in the 4th Judicial District?

Statewide the disparity between DV incidents reported by police agencies and court cases consistently differs by nearly a factor of two. There are almost twice as many court cases as reported police incidents (Table 72) when any reasonable estimate (4,000+ per year) for Denver and municipal DV court cases are included. There are nearly two times as many domestic violence court cases as there are arrests for this offense.

The answer lies in the way Colorado law is written and domestic violence defined. In Colorado a charge of domestic violence is not a separate, distinct crime in and of itself. Instead it is an add-on charge to any other crime or disobedience of a civil restraining order, most of which have no possible relation to actual violence. The addition of a domestic violence charge may be made either by the police or the district attorney, or may be heard as a contempt of court proceeding independent of either.

Once a charge of domestic violence is leveled it cannot be plea bargained to a lesser crime that does not include the domestic violence enhancer. A research project of the Colorado DV offender management board conducted in 2003 found convicted DV offenders had been charged with over sixty different primary offenses. These included such crimes as shoplifting, DUI, indecent exposure, forgery, false identity, etc. Thus, a very large percentage of the crimes labeled “domestic violence” do not involve any violence at all.



Table 73, Table 74, and Table 75 show two clear trends associated with passage of the Colorado domestic violence laws in 1994.

• First, and most pronounced, residents have been strongly deterred from making 911 domestic disturbance calls to police after passage of the statewide domestic violence laws in 1994.

• Second, introduction of mandatory arrest for domestic violence in the law did not result in concurrent increase of numbers of arrests for assaults by frontline officers.

But there is a more sinister side to mandatory arrest that came to light in 2007.


Mandatory arrest — a law that kills


The police data above (Table 73) make it clear that the tyrannical 1994 domestic violence law, C.R.S. § 18-6-803.5(1), that made a warrantless arrest mandatory strongly deters residents from calling police in domestic disturbances. While supporting evidence is anecdotal, it is very likely that the people who need police help the most are the least likely to call 911 for a variety of reasons, mostly socioeconomic.

Like many policies for dealing with domestic violence, e.g., see the Duluth Model, mandatory warrantless arrest had its origin in Minnesota with the Minnesota Domestic Violence Experiment (MDVE) conducted over just 17 months during 1981-1982. As is common with DV studies the numbers were very small with just 51 officers participating and only 330 cases involved. Recidivism was measured based on just a 6-month follow up. Apparently there were no female offenders involved.

Through the Spouse Assault Replication Program (SARP), beginning in 1986 the MDVE was later replicated in several other cities. The cities included Omaha, Nebraska, Charlotte, North Carolina, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Colorado Springs, Colorado. In Metro-Dade, 907 cases were used, compared to 1,200 cases in Milwaukee, and over 1,600 cases in Colorado Springs from 1991 to 1993.

Richard A. Berk, a strong advocate of mandatory arrests, summarized the results of the experiment in Colorado Springs (p. 330) as follows:

“...There were four treatment conditions: an emergency order of protection and arresting the offender, an emergency order of protection and immediate crisis counseling for the offender, an emergency order of protection only, and ' simply' trying to restore order (which was the 'business-as-usual' treatment). All the treatment conditions that included an emergency order of protection performed a little better than trying to restore order alone, but arrest did not stand out as most effective.”

Berk (p. 332) then concludes “...that although arrest is not superior to a variety of other criminal justice interventions, one can on the average do no better.” In short, mandatory arrest without a warrant, and often based on hearsay, has been implemented because no one could think of, or possibly could not get funding to explore a better method.

I find that an appalling reason to have implemented such a draconian policy!

The data in Table 73, Table 74, and Table 75 leave little doubt that in Colorado Springs the primary impact of warrantless mandatory arrest is to deter large numbers of residents from calling 911 in domestic disturbances.

The SARP experiments also showed that in three of the seven cities studied that mandatory arrests increased the levels of violence. Subsequent investigations have correlated the increase in violence with offenders who were unemployed and unmarried at the time of the arrest. Arrest proved to be most effective with offenders who had jobs and families. These are also the least likely to reoffend in any case and who are most likely to prevail in a jury trial. Thus, mandatory arrest well serves the interests of the legal profession who benefit hugely from family arguments. Any man, (or woman) is likely (~80% chance in our experience) to lose their job, children, home, and everything else they cherish if convicted of domestic violence and is thus forced to employ an attorney after such arrest. And as a result of the add-on nature of the DV laws over 25% of such arrests do not involve violence at all.

Mandatory arrests increase domestic violence homicides by 60% in married couples


Iyengar (2007) has carried the investigation even further and finds that warrantless mandatory arrests actually increases homicides among intimate partners by 60%. She hypothesizes that the reason for this increase in homicides is that mandatory arrest dissuades victims from reporting problems to the police, which in some cases ultimately results in murder. That hypothesis finds strong support in the data from Table 73, Table 74, and Table 75. Her study is limited to homicides committed against a husband, wife, common-law husband, common-law wife, ex-husband, or ex-wife.

As shown subsequently in Table 77, as of 2010 only 35% of all domestic violence police incidents involved married couples. An additional 4% of the incidents were listed by the CBI as involving an ex-spouse. It is very probable that the dynamics of domestic homicides involving boyfriend/girlfriend play out in a very different fashion than for married couples. Since boyfriend/girlfriend couples now comprise the large majority of reported domestic violence incidents in Colorado that dynamic certainly merits a separate study.

Of the twelve domestic homicides in Colorado during 2010 six fit the category involved in Iyengar's (2007) study. The other six involved boyfriends/girlfriends and one same sex homicide. If Iyengar's study is correct, and I have every reason to accept her conclusions, then only four of these marital homicides would have occurred if the warrantless mandatory arrest law did not deter victims from calling police for help in a timely fashion. Available data (Table 73, Table 74, and Table 75) certainly support a causative relationship between the warrantless mandatory arrest law passed in 1994 and the fear of calling police.



These draconian measures place lives in danger


The number of DV cases and restraining orders in the 4 th Judicial District continues to be the highest in the state (Table 62) and domestic violence isn't disappearing here despite well over a decade in which the laws have been thoroughly tested. So some other factor(s) must be sought to account for the decrease in the calls for police assistance.

Calling 911 in a domestic argument under current laws is the equivalent of a nuclear attack and the usual result is Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD ) of the relationship. Most couples (an estimated ~80%) having an argument don't want the relationship to end, they simply want some help with the immediate problem, e.g., he got drunk and she needs him out of the house until he sobers up, she is having a nervous breakdown and needs some medical help, he has PTSD or TBI, etc. But what citizens get under current law is, all too frequently, the man is arrested, barred from the house by a restraining order, and the relationship destroyed.

In short, the law now punishes most severely those least likely to be repeat offenders, and those with little to lose by an arrest are not deterred. There is no evidence that with married, employed offenders that an arrest is any more effective than an emergency protection order of limited duration, or some other intervention, but considerable evidence exists that the family and marriage is destroyed in the present process. And there is no mention in the literature about the abuse of civil liberties inherent in warrantless, mandatory arrests of citizens together with unwarranted searches of their homes.

Even more damning is Iyengar's (2007) finding that warrantless mandatory arrest laws increase the number of domestic homicides by some 60% in married and divorced couples. In many other cases these ill-advised and ill-framed laws increase the level of domestic violence they were designed to deter.

The effects are particularly disastrous for any children the couple may have, particularly if it is mutual combat (50% of the time it is) and the police arrest both man and woman. Such damage goes far beyond any negative effects of even violent disagreements couples may have.

One apparent result is that people who most need help are deterred from calling law enforcement because of the draconian consequence.

Police reports demonstrate DV laws had only minor temporary effect


The Colorado Springs police reports clearly demonstrate that mandatory arrest and other policies of the 1994 domestic violence laws had only a minor, temporary effect on DV arrests and that small effect has decayed to insignificance with time.

The DV laws have, however, had a major negative impact on the willingness of residents to call police for help during domestic disturbances. The draconian persecution of those who do call 911 during a domestic disturbance deters tens of thousands of residents from contacting the police for help in domestic disputes. And clearly the court data overstates the domestic violence problem in Colorado as evident in Table 72.

While looking at the police data, a local crime analyst told me that women, especially single mothers, don't call because they don't want the man in jail or under a restraining order as he is paying the rent and buying the food.

I have also heard repeatedly from women that once domestic violence is reported the Department of Human Services (DHS) begins investigating, and their children may be, and all too often have been taken from the home by child protective services. However, there is usually a delay of about two years after domestic violence is reported and when the children are taken, so the link doesn't usually show up in the available data. However, women in the hood and barrios are often all too aware of this practice.

Thus, instead of a peace officer who is charged with, and acts to restore and keep the peace, a domestic disturbance call now brings a Gestapo-like system of law enforcement that ends the argument by destroying the relationship and the family, taking the roof from over their heads, the food from their mouths to feed the legal system and its parasites, and, all too often, children from their parents.

News of such actions spread like wildfire after 1994. Thus, I suggest the data in Table 73, as summarized in the bar charts in Table 74 and Table 75, clearly show that residents have become more afraid of law enforcement and social services than they are of their partner. The unintended consequence of the domestic violence laws is the deterrence of reporting a domestic disturbance and a 60% increase in domestic homicides among married couples.

A lifeline isn't much good if all the lifebuoys have already been thrown over the side by thousands of people shouting: “Man overboard!” and the people in the water are now more afraid of being hit by the lifebuoy than they are of drowning. It is a certainly that among the roughly 14,000 domestic disturbance 911 calls that were not made in 2010 there were many residents who desperately needed a peace officer but justifiably feared the legal system more.

The fear of the police induced by these draconian practices is the exact opposite of the intended purpose of mandatory arrest that was supposed to encourage victims of abuse to report it.

Suggested revisions to criminal domestic violence laws to, hopefully, alleviated these problems can be found here.



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| Chapter 8 — Demographics Of Domestic Violence In Colorado |

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Revised October 2010

Last modified 10/15/18