Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Criminal Justice


Criminal Justice

Major Advisor

Lisa Growette Bostaph, Ph.D.


Laura King, Ph.D.


Shaun Gann, Ph.D.


In the 2019 National Crime Victimization Survey, only 52.2% of domestic violence (DV) incidents were reported to the police (Morgan & Truman, 2020). With significantly low reporting rates, policing agencies may be asking themselves what they can do to encourage victims of DV to come forward and report their victimizations. Research on DV victims’ perceptions of police response suggests that, when police provide empathy-like responses to victims of DV, there are numerous benefits for the victim and the policing agency (Birdsey & Snowball, 2013; Johnson, 2007; Stephens & Sinden, 2000). Thus, empathy could be a central component to improving reporting rates of DV and victim relations with police. Unfortunately, however, there is little research assessing what increases an officer’s likelihood in displaying empathy.

Using Michael Lipsky’s (2010) theory on street-level bureaucracy, it was hypothesized that officers with fewer years of service would engage in more displays of empathy. Through a secondary data analysis of 200 DV police reports (Growette Bostaph et al., 2019), a total of 428 officers were identified and used as the unit of analysis in the present study. Upon calculating descriptive statistics and bivariate analyses, logistic regression models were used to determine predictors of police officer displays of empathy towards victims of DV. Contrary to the original hypothesis and Lipsky’s theory (2010), the results indicate that officers’ years of service increase their likelihood to display empathy towards victims of DV. This thesis concludes with a discussion of the major findings and their significance for policy and future research.