Ideas in American Policing
The Ideas in American Policing series presents commentary and insight from leading criminologists on issues of interest to practitioners, scholars, and policy makers. The papers published in this series are from the Police Foundation lecture series of the same name.
Improving Police: What's Craft Got to Do with It?
Over the last century, the police have been the object of almost continuous attempts at reform. Currently, one of the most powerful forces for transforming the police is the evidence-based policing movement.Unlike past reforms, this puts scientific research squarely in the driver’s seat of police decision making.However, improvements in policing rest heavily on the shoulders of those who do policing at the coalface, and patrol officers have long thought of the way they perform their work not as a science but as a craft.Not much attention has focused on how scientific and craft knowledge might contribute to one another in mutually supportive ways, and yet any attempt to improve police performance must take into account the views of those who constitute any department’s largest resource.This essay considers what a true marriage of craft and science might look like for guiding the decisions of rank-and-file officers in two domains relevant to police practice: (1) advancing knowledge about what works and (2) making decisions about the right thing to do.In doing so, it hopes to illuminate some possibilities for reform that policymakers, practitioners, and researchers might consider in their efforts to improve the police of the future.
Worldwide terrorist attacks are about as common today as they have been in any period over the past forty years. However, most terrorism has domestic sources, and attacks from abroad that target the American homeland have been exceedingly rare. While terrorist attacks are concentrated in big cities, data show that every single US state has had at least one attack since 1970. In general, terrorism has less in common with common law crimes like homicide and robbery than with offenses that have gained prominence more recently like hate and drug-related crimes. While terrorism raises important challenges for policing, there is evidence that the strong connections to community that produce the best results for policing in general may also be the same characteristics that are most useful in preventing terrorist attacks and responding to those that are carried out. The balance between counterterrorism effectiveness and maintaining the trust of communities should not be taken lightly but in some ways resembles the challenges police have long faced in responding to crimes that require proactive rather than reactive methods. It is clear that effective measures against terrorism are likely to rely heavily on the support of sworn police officers across the United States.
Learning About Learning From Error
Wrongful convictions and other criminal justice system errors can be seen as organizational accidents in which small mistakes (no one of which would suffice to cause the event) combine with each other and with latent defects in the criminal justice system to create disasters. In his essay, James Doyle proposes how employing this conception of error in a consistent routine of examination of wrongful convictions, near misses, and other errors can increase the impact of the lessons of error, mitigate the fragmentation of the criminal justice system, and lay the foundation, as it has in medicine and aviation, for the creation of a culture of safety. Doyle offers that the police community is well-placed to play a leading role in marking out and defending the common ground on which an all-stakeholders process of learning from completed errors and near misses of all kinds can take place.
Policing Through Human Rights
Democratic policing is founded on the idea that the police must enforce the law, within the law—a law that values individual and human rights. In this essay, Professor Jack Greene considers how policing in America and elsewhere can embrace human rights as a central tenant of effective law enforcement, thereby improving how the police function as well as their acceptance in the larger community. The essay gives voice to how the police secure, uphold, and affirm human rights in their day-to-day activities, protecting the vulnerable, assuring that those brought before the law are accorded legal rights and dignity, and reaffirming human rights in the aftermath of traumatic events. Policing Through Human Rights affirms American policing through its foundational values, helping to ensure greater police awareness of their role in the protection of human rights and greater community support for police interventions.
Customer Satisfaction: Crime Victims' Willingness to Call the Police
Results from the original victimization survey conducted by the 1967 President’s Crime Commission and the most recent National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) indicate relatively little improvement in citizens’ willingness to call the police when they have been victimized, despite substantial improvements in police recruitment standards and the implementation of community policing. Using data from a sample of women offenders in Minneapolis, who have a low probability of being included in a NCVS, the authors explore who reports crimes to the police and the reasons given for failing to report being victimized. The analyses are confined to crimes of violence perpetrated by intimates, acquaintances, and strangers. Findings indicate both that NCVS data underestimate the extent of non-reporting and that in a substantial number of cases the police failed to respond to citizens’ reports. The authors consider both the practical and theoretical significance of these findings.
Translating Police Research into Practice
In one of the first Ideas in American Policing lectures, Lawrence Sherman argued that "...police practices should be based on scientific evidence about what works best" (1998, 2). That is, if the police want to reduce and prevent crime, they have to rely on tactics that are supported by information, analysis, and evidence showing effectiveness. Eleven years later, the idea of evidence-based policing, while seemingly logical and beneficial, has yet to diffuse widely into law enforcement. In her Ideas monograph, Cynthia Lum explores the reasons for the lag in the adoption of evidence-based policing, and introduces a tool, the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix (Lum, Koper and Telep 2009), which may better facilitate translating research into practice. In order for police agencies to move towards evidence-based policing, the underlying research and practice infrastructure that has already been built for such efforts must be capitalized upon and a concerted effort is required between police practitioners, evaluation researchers, and funding agencies.
Police Pursuits After Scott v Harris: Far from Ideal?
Police pursuits remain one of the most dangerous activities in which the police participate. Every high-speed pursuit involves a serious threat to innocent bystanders, officers and suspects. For years, agencies as well as the courts have used the facts and holdings in Tennessee v Garner to determine when deadly force can be used in a pursuit. Since the Garner decision in 1985, it has been understood that the police may not use deadly force to seize a fleeing suspect unless the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious bodily harm to officers or others. This paper looks at the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent analysis of Garner in the Scott v Harris decision and discusses the implications that analysis may have for policing in America.
The core practices of policing assume that people, whether victims or offenders, are the key units of police work, but police in recent years have also begun to think about the situations and places that are the context of crime. In this essay, Professor David Weisburd argues that police should put places rather than people at the center of police practices. Place-based policing, Weisburd explains, is more efficient as a focus of police actions; provides a more stable target for police activities; has a stronger evidence base; and raises fewer ethical and legal problems. He suggests practical ways in which places can become a key component of the databases that police use, of the geographic organization of police activities, of the strategic approaches that police employ to combat crime and disorder, and in the definitions of the role of the police in urban settings.
Law Enforcement for Lawabiders
Why do people comply with the law? Professor Tracey Meares explores the power of private social control in controlling and reducing crime. By employing strategies that enhance legitimacy and accountability, police can be catalysts for promoting lawabiding behavior, particularly in crime-plagued communities.
Social Theory and the Street Cop: The Case of Deadly Force
David Klinger is Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a former Los Angeles and Redmond (WA) police officer. In this monograph, he explores the dynamics of police-citizen encounters, and examines how social scientific theory can influence police officers’ use of deadly force as well as the public’s understanding of the social reality of deadly force in our society.
Police Departments as Learning Laboratories
Police agencies are often unable to state with any degree of precision how their performance has changed over time or how it compares with their peers. Professor Edward Maguire proposes how police agencies can make greater use of information and measurement to enhance their capacity for organizational learning and assessment.
Donald Foster is a professor of English at Vassar College. In his "other life" as an attributional expert, Professor Foster works with law enforcement agencies and the media to determine authorship of disputed documents, including forgeries, threats, ransom notes, and anonymous tips. He is best known for identifying Joe Klein as the author of the best-selling anonymous novel, Primary Colors, and for identifying Shakespeare as the writer of a previously unattributed funeral poem.
In Policing Anonymity, Professor Foster discusses the kinds of problems posed by anonymous writings in criminal investigations, and how best to address those problems from the crime scene to the courtroom.
On Democratic Policing
From Aristotle to William Bratton, the fundamental principles of democratic policing are explored in this monograph by Jerome Skolnick. Emeritus Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Policy, UC-Berkeley, and Co-Director, Center for Research in Crime and Justice, NYU Law School, Skolnick examines police strategies and practices that challenge the delicate balance of maintaining public safety without sacrificing basic freedoms.
Policing For People
Professor Stephen Mastrofski identifies six characteristics that Americans associate with good service from their police: attentiveness, reliability, responsiveness, competence, manners, attentiveness, reliability, responsiveness, competence, manners, and fairness. He assesses how police are doing at "policing for people" and offers a reform agenda that promotes its practice.
Professor Lawrence Sherman examines how the new paradigm of "evidence-based medicine" holds important implications for policing. It suggests that just doing research is not enough and that proactive efforts are required to push accumulated research evidence into practice through national and community guidelines. National pressure to adopt this paradigm could come from agency-ranking studies, but police agency capacity to adopt it will require new data systems creating "medical charts" for crime victims, annual audits of crime reporting systems, and in-house "evidence cops".
Policing in America: Assessment and Prospects
David Bayley, former dean of the School of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Albany, addresses three questions: (1) what is distinctive about American policing? (2) what are the major changes that have occurred in American policing over the last 30 years? and (3) what are the factors currently shaping American policing?