History | National Police Foundation

History of the Police Foundation

1The mission of the Police Foundation is to advance policing through innovation and science. It was established in 1970 by a grant from the Ford Foundation, and its work over almost five decades has proven to be a catalyst for significant changes in policing over the years. The Foundation relies on scientific evidence to address some of the most rudimentary and complex issues in the criminal justice system and on innovation to develop effective solutions rooted in its research or that of others. The Police Foundation’s work over the years has enlightened scholars and practitioners alike, serving both as a model for systematic examination of real-world challenges and a stimulus for dialogue among the police, policy makers, scholars, the public, and the media. In large part, that ongoing dialogue has been responsible for the generation of new ideas for research and practice. The Police Foundation is non-profit, non-partisan, and independent, and it is not a membership organization.

2The Police Foundation has ignited a spirit of collaboration among police, academic scholars, and community members. It has relied on its lasting and constructive relationships with police leaders, scholars, and government officials, as well as community groups and national organizations, in order to raise awareness of the complex challenges faced by law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Among these are the ability to balance the need for democratic policing consistent with constitutional mandates and civil liberties, with the need for enforcing laws, investigating crimes, and rendering justice.  These challenges are among those of greatest importance to the Police Foundation.

3Indeed, the Police Foundation is often engaged in controversial situations because it is committed to objective analysis, not partisan imperatives or special interests. We draw upon the latest advances in science and technology to challenge assumptions and seek solutions. We have always and will continue to address civil unrest and disturbances, as we were established in an era marked by significant civil unrest. We have also examined police ethics, abuse of authority, and use of force, as well as immigration enforcement and gun policy. But we also address the needs of police, from advancing the professionalization of police, including such issues as higher education and women in policing, to officer safety and well-being. In addition, we help develop the capacity of the police through training, education, and dissemination of the most promising or proven strategies for enhancing their effectiveness and efficiency, while maintaining public trust, safety, and security.

The Police Foundation has worked with police departments of all sizes, in every region of the United States and throughout the world. Our work is grounded in the practical world of policing; in advancing the science of policing and new ideas, strategies, and technologies to improve the quality of police services; and in maximizing public trust, accountability, and police legitimacy.


The Years Prior to the Police Foundation’s Establishment

When the Police Foundation was created in 1970, the United States had recently experienced the devastation of riots in most of its large cities and many smaller ones. These riots were often allegedly sparked by discrimination, segregation, poverty, and police brutality in places like Los Angeles (Watts, 1965), New York (Harlem and Rochester in 1964, Stonewall in 1969), Philadelphia (1964), Detroit (1967), Omaha (1966), Chicago (1968), Newark (1967) and Minneapolis (1967), to name a few. In 1967 alone, there were over 150 race riots (known as the “long hot summer”).  While few blamed the police for the societal conditions that led to the riots, every major riot was triggered by police actions in minority communities.[1] The assassinations of both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. further escalated racial tensions and civil unrest. Other factors, such as the passage in 1964 of Proposition 14 by California voters, effectively allowing homeowners to discriminate against prospective minority tenants or purchasers, may also have inflamed and increased tensions between government and citizens in places like Los Angeles. The decade was ushered in with sit-ins and the freedom rides in the South, and later in the decade, there were violent clashes during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Throughout the decade and across the country, there were increasing protests over the Vietnam War and its escalation. These began in cities and towns, as well as on college campuses across America.

While the civil disturbances of the 1960s were likely fueled by a variety of social conditions affecting marginalized communities, in many instances they were also motivated by police actions that many felt were unjust.  At the same time, the 1960s had also seen escalating crime rates that even the most efficient police departments seemed powerless to reverse. Random patrol, reduced response time, and tactical police strategies—the trinity of the professional law enforcement model—seemed useless against a rising tide of crime, much of it driven by illegal drug marketing. In 1965, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11236, which established “The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.”  The Executive Order charged the Commission with the following tasks:

(1) Inquire into the causes of crime and delinquency, measures for their prevention, the adequacy of law enforcement and administration of justice, and the factors encouraging respect or disrespect for law, at the national, State, and local levels, and make such studies, conduct such hearings, and request such information as it deems appropriate for this purpose.

(2) Develop standards and make recommendations for actions which can be taken by the Federal, State, and local governments, and by private persons and organizations, to prevent, reduce, and control crime and increase respect for law, including, but not limited to, improvements in training and qualifications of personnel engaged in law enforcement and related activities, improvements in techniques, organization, and administration of law enforcement activities, improvements in the administration of justice, improvements in correction and rehabilitation of convicted offenders and juvenile delinquents, promotion of better understanding between law, enforcement officials and other members of the community, and promotion of greater respect for law throughout the community.

Nearly two years later, the 19 members of the Commission, 63 staff, 175 consultants and hundreds of advisors released their report, The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society, which contained more than 200 recommendations that the Commission “believes can lead to a safer and more just society,” including a more robust level of support from the federal government, particularly the Department of Justice, in supporting the major burden that state and local governments are expected to carry in administering the criminal justice system of America.

Despite these important efforts, protests continued into the 1970s, perhaps peaking on May 4, 1970, when National Guard troops that had been called in by the governor of Ohio to quell anti-war protests on campus, shot at and killed four students at Kent State and injured even more.  All of these issues raised questions about the role of police in managing civil disorder and maintaining order while balancing the rights of citizens, both at the individual and collective levels. The issues of civil unrest and disorder have re-emerged over time, leading to engagement by the Police Foundation in resolving and preventing such conflicts; a commitment that continues today.

[1] Kelling – https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/198029.pdf


“A More Effective Arm” – the Creation of the Police Foundation

On July 22, 1970, Ford Foundation President McGeorge Bundy announced the creation of a “Police Development Fund,” financed by a $30 million grant from the Ford Foundation and expected to operate over an initial five-year period.  The Milwaukee Journal reported on July 23, 1970, that the Fund “will be the largest private agency in the nation concerned exclusively with police work.”[1]

According to A More Effective Arm, published by the Ford Foundation in August 1970, “…the Police Development Fund will assist experiments and pilot programs by police departments seeking to make basic changes in their operations and to upgrade their performance.  The Fund will be independent of the Foundation and governed by a board composed of leaders from the police, academic, and legal communities.  We hope and believe that the Fund will become a force for constructive change in the police function and an important instrument for reconciling the claims of order and justice in an increasingly complex society.”

The report tied the creation of the Fund to “seriously high incidence of crime,” an “inadequate” system of criminal justice, and reports from the 1965 President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, the Commission on Civil Disorders (Kerner Commission), and the Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (Eisenhower Commission). In creating these linkages, however, the Ford Foundation’s report duly noted that all of these commissions and reports found that in order to confront and reduce crime effectively, the societal problems of poverty, housing, health, and education would need to be addressed, in addition to the challenges within the criminal justice system that were not police related.

Importantly, the report also took care to say that while communities often rely on the police to solve every type of problem, the police can obviously not be reasonably expected to do so.  As appropriately described in the report then, as well as now, “The police department is the place where the criminal justice system and the community converge.  The police initiate the law enforcement process in nearly all instances.  They must make the critical decision of whether to start the process—usually by making an arrest.  Their actions often determine the effectiveness of the process and, to a considerable extent, its fairness.  The police deal with the public in a variety of circumstances, most of which spell danger, difficulty, or distress for police and the citizen alike.  We leave to the police many of society’s problems, whether or not they are equipped to handle them.  We have neither articulated a precise role for them in combatting crime, nor structured their broader role in the community.  Nevertheless, whenever the lid blows, we call the police.”

The Ford Foundation’s purpose in creating the Fund was to supplement what was expected to be a major increase in federal funding for criminal justice reform by “assisting a limited number of police departments in experiments and demonstrations aimed at improving operations, and to support special education and training projects.  Specifically, the Fund will aid police departments in planning and implementing basic operational changes that focus not only on the 20 to 30 percent of police time spent on criminal matters but also, and perhaps more heavily, on the 70 to 80 percent of time spent on non-law-enforcement services.  The objectives will be a more rational definition and assignment of those services to be performed by police departments, as distinct from other public and private (voluntary) institutions.  The aim will be development of a new set of operating procedures and personnel suited to carry out such functions.  The result would be twofold: to improve sharply the police department’s capacity to discharge its crime-fighting responsibilities, and to slow and eventually stop deterioration of police­–­community relations.”

[1] https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19700723&id=fDMoAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QCgEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4548,1111764&hl=en


Legacies of Leadership Guiding the Foundation

Shortly after its creation in 1970, the Fund was renamed the Police Foundation, while retaining its independence from the Foundation, with oversight from a 13-member board of directors.  At the time of its creation in 1970, the chairman of the Police Foundation’s board of directors was businessman, advocate, and former mayor of Atlanta, Ivan Allen, Jr, (D) who served as chairman until 1975, when he was succeeded by former Massachusetts Governor Francis W. Sargent (R), who served as chairman until 1984.  Following Governor Sargent’s tenure as chairman, James Q. Wilson assumed the chairmanship.  Wilson was a noted academic expert, author, and political scientist who authored many works, including Thinking About Crime and American Government (a university textbook).  He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, with President George W. Bush referring to him as “the most influential political scientist in America since the White House was home to Professor Woodrow Wilson.”

Wilson remained chairman of the board of directors until 1993, when judge and former FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster succeeded him as chairman.  Chairman Webster would remain chairman until 1998, having served for more than five years in that role.

The president of the Police Foundation at the time of its creation was Charles Rogovin, an experienced prosecutor and public defender who also served as the assistant director of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and the administrator of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) (now the Office of Justice Programs) at the U.S. Department of Justice.

45Following Mr. Rogovin’s tenure as president of the Police Foundation, former New York City Police Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy was appointed as the Police Foundation’s president, a role he would remain in for more than 12 years, until 1985.  Murphy had also served as commissioner of the Detroit Police Department and director of public safety in Washington, DC, a role that included oversight of the Metropolitan Police Department.  Murphy was appointed as the assistant director of the Office of Law Enforcement Assistance, which existed at that time in the U.S. Department of Justice. Murphy led some of the Police Foundation’s most notable experiments in policing, including the Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment, and is credited with leading the Police Foundation’s efforts to help create the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

6Following Murphy’s tenure as president of the Foundation, the director of the Newark, New Jersey, Police Department, Hubert Williams, was appointed in 1985 as president of the Foundation. President Williams was also appointed as deputy special advisor to the Los Angeles Police Commission, working closely with Special Advisor William Webster and served as the founding President of NOBLE. Under Williams’ leadership, the Newark Police Department served as the laboratory for two Police Foundation studies critical to the evolution of community policing—the Newark foot patrol experiment and the NIJ-funded fear reduction experiment. President Williams is the Police Foundation’s longest serving president, having remained in that role for more than 27 years until 2012.

During President Williams’ tenure, the two-time former republican governor of Michigan, William Milliken, became chairman of the Foundation’s board of directors in 1998, a role he would remain in until 2011.  In 2011, Weldon J. Rougeau, government relations executive and former financial services executive, federal official in the U.S. Department of Labor, legislative aide, and president and CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, became chairman of the board and remains in this position today.

7In 2012, retired chief of police of the Redlands (CA) Police Department, Jim Bueermann, was appointed president of the Police Foundation. As president, Bueermann directs all foundation operations and is a voting member of the board of directors. Bueermann worked for the Redlands Police Department for 33 years, serving in every unit within the department. He was appointed chief of police and director of housing, recreation, and senior services in 1998. He retired in June 2011. As chief, he developed a holistic approach to community policing and problem solving that consolidated housing and recreation services into the police department and was based on risk and protective factor research into adolescent problem prevention. This strategy was recognized as one of the country’s 25 most innovative programs in the 2000 Innovations in American Government program sponsored by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Bueermann was the first police chief to be inducted as an honorary fellow in the Academy of Experimental Criminology and into the halls of fame at George Mason University’s Center for Evidence Based Crime Policy and the School of Behavioral Science at California State University, San Bernardino. He is on policing advisory boards at Cambridge University, George Mason University, John Jay College, and the Council for State Governments and works extensively in the field of evidence-based policing, innovative technologies, and prisoner reentry.

The Police Foundation is honored to have had such a talented and dedicated group of thought leaders in its positions of governance and leadership over the years.  In addition to the board chairmen and presidents described above, the Police Foundation has benefitted from the wisdom, guidance, and leadership of many other board members who have equally impressive backgrounds and curricula vitae.


Improving Policing Nationally by Examining What Works Locally

Many emerging and world-renowned policing scholars have spent part of their careers working with us, among them. At the same time, our efforts are rooted in the actual work of police in agencies nationwide, and we continue to rely on today’s police executives and personnel for perspective, as well as for understanding the unique challenges and problems they face.

The founders of the Police Foundation believed that improvement could come only with a concerted effort to evaluate dispassionately police practices and policies, to discover what works in policing, and to find out what doesn’t.  The de-centralized nature of U.S. law enforcement, with some 18,000 individual agencies at the city, county, state, and federal levels, and the increasing demands imposed during the 1960s, created what were seen as insurmountable fiscal, logistical, and political barriers to the improvement of police–community relations and the reduction of crime. It was believed that only a new, national, independent organization that was free from constituency pressures could address the challenges of the times.

The Police Foundation’s mission is to empirically and dispassionately examine the issues facing police and to develop, test, and disseminate ideas about how best to deliver police services. Over the Police Foundation’s 45-year history, its leadership has insisted that the organization’s work has a practical impact on policing and that the knowledge gained through empirical investigation be such that it could be applied outside the “laboratory,” with the end result being a greater understanding of police effectiveness and advancements in the way that police do their work within their communities. To that end, the Police Foundation has conducted numerous field studies and experiments to test the “real world” of policing.

The last 45 years have been filled with many large and small projects and initiatives, including many funded or otherwise supported by the Police Foundation through the generous support of the Ford Foundation, making the Police Foundation a true “living legacy” within the police profession.

A more detailed review of the Police Foundation’s work and results can be found through the links on this page, and ongoing efforts are described under the “Projects” tab at the top of this page.




The Early Years

A New Paradigm for Police Science

(The 1970s and 1980s)

The Community Policing and Technical Assistance Era

Advances in Science and Practice

(The 1990s and 2000s)

The Technology, Data, and Accountability Era in Policing

Rapid Advances

(The 1990s and Beyond)

Recent History

(2000 and Beyond)