Sunday, July 10, 2011
Can research help cops prevent crime?
Research seems to be the last place cops look for solutions. They appear to implement most new approaches without supportive research to back them up.
Having co-researched and co-authored (with Gerry Cleveland) the Police Training Officer program - first adopted in Reno and then nation-wide - I am sensitive to this argument. The PTO program (and its grown-up progeny, the Police Problem-Based Learning program) was fully funded by the COPS Office. They both were thoroughly researched and pilot tested prior to implementation. Along with Problem-Oriented Policing a few decades earlier, I believe this to be a rarity in the police world.
It is the same with crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). CPTED was studied and evaluated many years ago by researchers. Studies exist today on its effectiveness and some progressive police agencies have adopted CPTED based on this.
But usually not.
Now there is a new movement called evidence-based policing that seeks to fix the disconnect between science and policing.
This week I chatted with Harvard's Malcolm Sparrow. He has just published a brilliant and provocative response to the Evidence-Based scholars in a paper called Governing Science.
This is a must-read for informed leaders. It is a must-read for social scientists too.
Here's one tasty tidbit:
"…the relationship proposed by proponents of evidence-based policing offers virtually no benefits for police. The best they can hope for is that the scientists they have invited in…will finally confirm what police thought they knew already: that an intervention or program the department had previously deployed did actually work. The downside risk for police is much greater."
The article explains why he says this and how he thinks it should work. Read it HERE.