Recent History | National Police Foundation

Recent History

(The 2000s and Beyond)

Many of the Police Foundation’s early areas of emphasis have been continued and advanced over the years, and most themes generated during our first 40 years are still relevant today.  Among them are the increased emphasis on police legitimacy, accountability, professionalization, and safety of the police; practices to prevent, control, and improve crime investigations; the growing need for data and technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness; as well as a focus on victims of crime, terrorism, and homeland security, as well as personnel strategies and officer safety.  The present and future goals of the Police Foundation emphasize organizational learning through examination of near misses, organizational errors, and sentinel events. We have also returned to our roots in managing civil disorders, personnel management and safety, and investigative excellence. We have begun to focus on how public policy and advanced technology has an impact on and will continue to have an impact on communities and the police, as well as the growing need for evidence on what works in policing.

And we continue our tradition of translation of scientific findings to actual practice. We recently developed the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss System, where officers can share lessons learned with their peers on a nationwide network.  This will help keep officers safe through the promotion of learning from experience. We also have begun to examine the use of virtual reality tools for increasing police skills and competencies.

Our recent reintroduction in 2014 of the Crime Mapping and Analysis News will continue to feature agency-based innovative uses of mapping and analysis, as well as scholarly research and insights into its use for solving problems and reducing crime. This demonstrates the Police Foundation’s commitment to emphasize the importance of geography in addressing crime and its underlying causes. For example, we conducted a recent randomized experiment in Dallas, Texas, on the use of automated vehicle locator (AVL) technology to examine its use for deployment of personnel.  We learned from that study that technology can provide important information about how much time police spend at places, such as beats and hot spots, and that about 25 percent of patrol time was unallocated, allowing time for increased crime prevention activities. At the same time, we learned that such technology can allow us to quantify police practice, but only police officers and commanders can change practice.

Mistaken eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction of innocent people in the United States. A recent project, implemented by the American Judicature Society (AJS), in collaboration with the Police Foundation, the Innocence Project, and the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, examined the administration of lineups using a number of promising or proven practices for improving reliability. Some of these included double-blind administration of lineups and standardizing instructions, including indicating that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup (to reduce pressure to choose someone). Despite numerous lab studies, there had not been a field test on the manner in which photos are presented. This study examined photo arrays that were presented as a group (the simultaneous method) and one at a time (the sequential method).  AJS authors reported that there were fewer picks of fillers (known innocents included in photo arrays as foils) when using the sequential method. However, subsequent analysis by the Police Foundation and university researchers brings those findings into question. The reported finding was not based on how the field study was actually conducted and because the analytical method (diagnosticity ratio) is now known to be insufficient for determining a superior method, something also asserted by the National Academies of Science’s National Research Council report (NRC, 2015). The Police Foundation’s study examined ratings of evidentiary strength to assess superiority and found that, at least in Travis County, Texas, simultaneous lineups appear to be more diagnostic of actual guilt and innocence.


Moving Forward With Police Legitimacy, Accountability, and Community Policing

In the project report, The Abuse of Police Authority, the Police Foundation published the results of the first truly representative national survey of how America’s rank-and-file police officers and their supervisors view critical issues of abuse of police authority.

Police legitimacy is fundamental to police effectiveness. Research has shown that when the public views the police as legitimate, they are more likely to obey the law, comply rather than challenge an officer’s request, and assist police by providing information and participating in community crime prevention efforts. To that end, the Police Foundation works with municipal officials, police agencies, non-governmental organizations, and communities to create the constructive change necessary for improved police–community partnerships and delivery of services. For example, projects in Omaha, Nebraska, and Inglewood, California, were designed to facilitate collaboration among police and community leaders. Another project examined both the organizational culture of a police department, as well as community perceptions of that department, in an effort to build community trust and promote police accountability.

Another geographically based study conducted by the Police Foundation in Seattle showed that when supervisors have routine meetings with officers to discuss incidents using procedural justice, there is some impact on discretionary arrests and use of force (they go down).

Among the most widely requested recent research has been the Police Foundation’s groundbreaking study on police shift schedules —the first comprehensive randomized experiment of compressed workweeks (CWWs) in law enforcement—in which researchers tested the impacts of three shift lengths (8-, 10-, and 12-hour) on performance, health, safety, quality of life, sleep, fatigue, alertness, off-duty employment, and overtime among police. In addition to scientifically rigorous research design and methodology, the number of reliable outcome measures employed to analyze the impacts of shift length, including departmental data, laboratory simulations and exercises, and previously validated self-report instruments, make this study one of the most comprehensive ever undertaken. The key findings of that study, published in 2011, were that 10-hour shifts offered advantages over 8-hour shifts; officers on 10-hour shifts got an average of 30 minutes of extra sleep per 24-hour period (over 175 hours per year), had better quality of work life, and worked significantly less overtime.  While officers on 12-hour shifts had some improvements in terms of increased sleep and decreased overtime, they also reported being less alert on the job and more sleepy, raising concerns over safety. Though there were no significant performance differences, researchers suggested that 10-hour shifts could be beneficial for many agencies. Surveys conducted in 2005 and 2009 showed that many larger agencies already relied on 10-hour shifts, while the smallest agencies favored 12-hour shifts.

To address the rising tide in assaults on police officers and gun violence more broadly, the Police Foundation joined with nine other national law enforcement organizations to create the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, a collaboration committed to addressing the problems of gun crime and violence. These ten organizations—Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Sheriffs’ Association, Police Executive Research Forum, and Police Foundation—believe that law enforcement can play a unique and essential role in educating policy makers and citizens on the realities of gun violence in the communities they serve and in developing common-sense, data-driven solutions to reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths from homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings.

To confront the dilemma facing so many local police agencies about how to balance civil rights protections, community-policing priorities, and immigration enforcement, the Police Foundation launched a national project that brought together law enforcement executives, policy makers, elected officials, scholars, and community representatives in a series of focus groups across the country and at a national conference in Washington, DC. Attendees collaboratively examined the implications on local law enforcement of immigration laws and found that most law enforcement executives found a conflict in balancing the need for victims to report crime and others to cooperate in solving crime, while also enforcing federal immigration law, except in cases of felonies. The Police Foundation presented its 256-page report, The Role Local Police: Striking a Balance Between Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties, to Congress in May 2009. It has participated in a series of meetings at the White House and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on enforcement of federal immigration law by police. The report has served as a catalyst to examine policy and practice and underscore the complex balance that law enforcement agencies need to strike as they maintain their community-policing philosophies.

In early 2015, the Police Foundation became the first national policing organization to engage in the open data movement, leveraging open data’s transparency and accountability features to help in restoring trust and confidence in law enforcement agencies in America.  The Police Foundation proactively developed and launched the Public Safety Open Data Portal, which currently features calls for service, incident, arrest, stops, and use of force data from more than 20 law enforcement agencies from around the country which have agreed to make full and complete data sets available in a machine-readable format for anyone to access and use.  The Portal provides consolidated access to the data and provides context and explanation to help users understand law enforcement data and its limitations.  The Police Foundation is also playing a key role in supporting the White House’s Police Data Initiative (PDI), an initiative designed to encourage the use of open data in policing.


Homeland Security

Even though almost 15 years have passed since the 9-11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the threat of terrorism continues to pervade American life and drive public policy.

The Police Foundation has played an important role in addressing the role of local police in preventing and addressing terrorist attacks. One highly publicized recent study by the Police Foundation examined the state of preparedness of America’s shopping malls to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks (Davis, 2006). A joint project with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and other national police organizations developed a set of promising practices briefs to help guide police chiefs through the challenges they face post-9/11.