Ideas in American Policing Monograph Highlights the Rewards for “Embedded Criminologists”

braga picWhen Edward F. Davis became the  Police Commissioner the Boston Police Department in 2007, he offered Dr. Anthony Braga, a professor of criminology at Rutgers University and Harvard University, the opportunity to advance police research from the inside.   Braga took the offer, and for the next six years helped the department use evidence-based policing to take on gangs and reduce crime by focusing resources.

Dr. Braga captures his experiences, focusing on the successes and challenges  as an “embedded criminologist” while at the Boston Police Department in the Police Foundation’s latest Ideas in American Policing monograph:  “Embedded Criminologists in Police Departments.” In recent years, police agencies have come to recognize the importance of working with researchers in addressing problems and determining whether strategies and programs generate desirable outcomes, said Braga.

Becoming an embedded criminologist was akin to moving from ‘talking the talk’ as a research partner to ‘walking the walk’ of actually making positive contributions to the day-to-day working of BPD,” Braga said.

Among the projects Braga highlights in “Embedded Criminologist:”

  • Standing up a “hot-spots” enforcement program that ultimately reduced robberies by 19 percent and assaults by 15 percent.
  • Recreating Boston’s successful Operation Ceasefire to better understand gang violence and target resources to reduce it.
  • Guiding the creation of a working group to better understand “CompStat” crime statistics and encourage problem-solving responses.

Academics can benefit from sustained relationships with law enforcement agencies as they gain enhanced access to data and help shape and test cutting-edge interventions”, Braga said. “When they gain the trust of departments and work with them day-to-day, researchers can also get the opportunity to make a difference in the real world”.

In addition to providing scientific evidence germane the problems, policies and programs within the Boston Police Department and helping understand recurring crime problems, Braga produced a series of research papers during his years with the department, on topics ranging from deterring gang violence to hot-spot policing and place-based policing.  Dr. Braga serves as a member of the Police Foundation Research Advisory Committee, and is the Don M. Gottredson Professor of Evidence-Based Criminology at Rutgers University and a Senior Research Fellow in the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at Harvard University.