Why is leadership important in policing domestic abuse?A case study of the leadership issues in tackling domestic abuse in a major city in the U.K.

  • Linda Reid

Student thesis: Phd


Domestic violence and abuse is a significant problem in the UK. Eight million people in the UK have been victims and 25% of young people have witnessed at least one episode by the age of 18. The costs to society were calculated at £22.9 billion in 2001/2 (Walby, 2009). Despite the severity of the problem of domestic abuse, there is an absence of research from a leadership and management perspective. This doctoral case study research examines the police and partnership leadership response to domestic abuse in a large city in the UK. The argument is that domestic abuse is a wicked problem (Rittel and Webber, 1973), whereas the police adopt a critical or tame response (Grint, 2005). The research framework is Realistic Evaluation, and includes an examination of frontline, senior and partnership leadership approaches to tackling domestic abuse, and the implementation of the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment, and Honour-Based Violence risk assessment tool (DASH) (Richards, Letchford and Stratton, 2008). The findings are that little importance is placed on leadership in policing domestic abuse. Police and partners continue to adopt tame leadership responses, and the strategic work to identify the adaptive challenge and create public value has not been recognised. It is argued that the police are an authoritarian organisation with a coercive, response to problems (Grint, 2005), associated with a command or critical leadership approach. The introduction of the DASH has curtailed frontline officers' discretion, and there is a disconnect at the frontline delivery of domestic abuse policy (Lipsky, 2010). It is suggested that a 'one size fits all' model of leadership, where a command or tame leadership style is usually adopted, is insufficient to meet the complexity of this problem, and there is a discussion about the difficulties of finding a model to evaluate the effectiveness of new public leadership. A new model to analyse leadership and domestic abuse is proposed, and a potential model to analyse frontline leadership of domestic abuse is introduced. The study aims to make a unique contribution to knowledge about the leadership of domestic abuse.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Kawalek (Supervisor) & Stephen Brookes (Supervisor)


  • Leadership, domestic abuse, police.

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