Young frontline police officers are inundated with domestic violence incidents but have never been better equipped to deal with the complex issue, the NSW Police Force's head of domestic violence says.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch, the corporate spokesman on domestic violence, said it was ''always a battle'' for young and less-experienced officers, who spend 40 per cent of their time dealing with domestic violence, to properly understand violent situations they attend.
However, officers now receive more training in domestic violence at the police academy than any other aspect of the job.
''You only really get a feel for this by experience,'' he said. ''For the young ones, it's always a battle because they don't have that life skill and invariably they're the ones … dealing with calls from victims.
''For cops who are 19, 20 or 21 years old, a lot of them would never ever have experienced domestic violence before until they join the police and we're really focused on improving their level of training.''
His comments came after Fairfax Media revealed on Monday that most women named in apprehended violence orders in domestic situations had been wrongly branded as perpetrators and the primary barrier to reporting was a belief among victims that police do not understand or are not proactive in handling domestic violence.
Mr Murdoch disputed the findings of an upcoming Women's Legal Services NSW report that found two-thirds of women defending AVOs in 2010 had reported that they were the actual victims.
Since then, police have replaced their ''pro-arrest'' policy, where an aggressor must be arrested or an AVO must be applied for, to a ''pro-investigation'' policy where officers must simply gather evidence and take action if warranted. Each local area command also has a domestic violence liaison officer.
''Our chances of getting it wrong, I am confident, aren't as great as they were before because we're telling our cops that you investigate and you take action only based on the evidence,'' he said. ''The dynamic of domestic violence is one that we're really trying to get our cops to get their heads around more. There is literally too much at stake, not just for the cops but for the victims. If we get it wrong, people end up dead.''
NSW Police deal with about 370 instances of domestic and family violence a day and the number of assaults is bucking downward trends in almost every other major crime type.
However, Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research director Don Weatherburn said the problem was getting worse. ''It's a dismal and sad story,'' he said. ''I don't think we've had a comprehensive strategy for dealing with this problem.''