Policing is a fast-paced environment as departments are consistently responding to community demands for service and chiefs are consistently responding to crime trends. As strategies are implemented though, too often, its impacts are assessed based on weekly or monthly comparisons for crime, yet little thought is given to possible blow-back effects, or to the unintended outcomes of strategies—the type of effects that damage relationships with those we serve. Although a strategy may appear to work at first glance, we must ask ourselves, “Does the strategy cause unintended harms?” and “How can we best measure those harms?”
Misapplication can be malpractice
In February 2015, I was at a police executive meeting where former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was speaking to a room full of law enforcement officers and college students gathered at Rutgers–Newark. Bratton was the featured speaker for the Police Institute’s Distinguished Lecture Series. During his address, he detailed how he used disorder policing strategies, better known as the broken windows theory, to reduce crime in New York City and Los Angeles. He also warned against the theory’s misapplication, a topic rarely discussed in policing circles.