President’s Page

A Letter from the President

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues –

I am truly honored and humbled by the opportunity given to me by the Police Foundation’s Board of Directors to serve as the Police Foundation’s 5th President. Over nearly 50 years, since its creation in 1970, the Police Foundation has served as a leading, independent, non-partisan and non-profit police research organization.

The Police Foundation, and its leaders have made significant contributions to policing. I follow in very large footprints. Our first President Charles H. Rogovin led the U.S. Department of Justice’s Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). Our second President, Patrick V. Murphy, served as the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department. Hubert Williams was one of our Nation’s pioneering African-American police leaders. Redland’s California Police Chief Jim Bueermann (Ret.) brought a spirit of innovation and stimulating curiosity about police futures and technology to the Foundation. These are no small shoes to fill and the mission of the Police Foundation today is as essential as it ever was.

Not many of us have the opportunity to work in a role so closely aligned with their passion in life. For me, growing up the son of a police officer and then spending nearly 30 years working in and supporting the law enforcement and criminal justice community at both the federal and local levels, this is the opportunity of a lifetime and one that I will honor and cherish. Below, I want to describe two important areas of focus for my tenure as President. We will continuously shape and refocus these areas as needed to accomplish our mission of advancing policing through innovation and science.

The Idea of Evidence-Based Policing

In 1989, the Police Foundation’s former Director of Research, and then Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland at College Park, Dr. Larry Sherman, authored one of the very first of the Police Foundation’s Ideas In American Policing monographs, title “Evidence-Based Policing.” In what was likely the very first published use of the term, a new era in policing was born and an elusive challenge began. Evidence-based policing was grounded in the idea that we must learn from what we do and harnessing the power of science to bring more effective policing and more just outcomes to those we serve. Unfortunately, we’ve largely allowed the idea to live in parallel but often separate paths from every day operations in organizations and institutions that are intended to ensure justice.

Earlier this year, I submitted an letter to the editor at the New York Times about the tragedies of injustice that we may continue to experience, not because of malintent on the part of policing or criminal justice more broadly, but because we continuously fail to leverage the science that can help us practice better policing, better justice. Too often, we rely on what we learned many years ago or what the “standard” or “common” practice is, and rarely question the efficacy of these practices or seek to find scientific or data-oriented alternatives. As President of the Police Foundation, we will recommit to the idea of translating research into practice, the consistent use of evidence-based policing practices, and efforts to enhance our profession’s commitment to science.

Sherman’s “Evidence-Based Policing” was published nearly 20 years after the creation of the Police Foundation. In those first 20 years, many significant research experiments were completed that continue to have a profound impact on policing today. The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment is one example, a multi-year experiment designed to test our thinking about patrol officer assignments within communities and the impact it may have on crime. The study shattered the idea that the presence or potential presence of officers patrolling the streets in marked police cars deters people from committing crime and can positively impact the public’s sense of safety. The Foundation produced many other landmark studies and reports during these early years, including national studies on the role of women in policing, foot patrol experiments, police use of force, responses to domestic violence and directed patrols.

Police and Community Trust and Engagement

The research conducted in the early years of the Foundation, and even more recently, has not only focused on improving police operations and the reduction of crime. Since its creation, the Foundation has been particularly concerned with the tensions that existed between the police and the community, and the civil unrest that occurred in many cities during the late 1960’s. In its announcement of the Police Foundation’s creation, the Ford Foundation noted that the work of the Foundation was expected “to slow and eventually stop deterioration of police—community relations.” Our second President, Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy shared the concern around this issue, raising (in his 1977 book “Commissioner”) the problem of “stranger policing” – the notion that officers patrol with “windows rolled up” making little contact with community members or anyone else while patrolling.

The latest national poll, conducted by Gallup in June of 2018, found that “the police” ranked third in the nation, only behind the military and small business in the public’s confidence. Of the respondents, 54% indicated that they had “a great deal/quite a lot” of confidence in the police and only 15% indicated that they had “very little/none.” The poll placed the police confidence ranking above the church, the medical system and the criminal justice system. Despite this broad support, the Pew Research Center’s national survey  conducted in August 2017, found that these overall positive views are not consistent across all people, citing substantially less support among black and Hispanic community members as well as less support among younger (under 30) audiences of all demographic backgrounds, but particularly among younger, minority community members. While we can be encouraged by the overall results, we should be very concerned, and very focused on, improving the results among all groups, particularly among those who have expressed a lack of confidence in the police.

A February 2017 report by the Urban Institute examined how people in high-crime, low-income communities viewed the police and found that less than half hold positive views of the police on matters related to legitimacy and procedural justice and roughly half agree that police will base actions or decisions on racial/ethnic biases. Despite these beliefs, the same report found that more than 70% of these same people believe that all laws should be strictly obeyed and that doing so benefits everyone. The survey found that substantially more than half of those surveyed indicated a willingness to partner with the police in reporting and providing information about crime. Being concerned with these results – and doing something about them – is imperative for policing, not just for moral and ethical reasons, but for reasons of police effectiveness as well.

I believe that the Foundation must play a significant role in continuing and expanding an inclusive, thoughtful, honest, and transparent discussion of policing in all communities. We must recognize the disparity between the results of the national ranking and those surveys conducted in communities of color and places of despair, and work tirelessly to ensure equity and justice in policing and criminal justice practices. We will acknowledge the differing viewpoints and encourage deliberation, understanding and collaboration to rebuild trust and confidence in policing and criminal justice, in all communities and with all groups, particularly among those who may need police services most. Our work will include a commitment to truth and transparency, accountability, and frank and constructive conversations about the realities of race, class, crime and justice.

I’ll close with a passage from “Commissioner,” a 1977 book by NYPD Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy (Ret.) (the Police Foundation’s 2nd President) and Thomas Plate for purposes of reflection:

“There is nothing like the Police Foundation in the United States. The underlying thought for everything it does rests not on the proposition that American policing, with minor modifications, is in good shape but on precisely the opposite. The overall effect of the Police Foundation may be symbolic and inspirational as much as anything else, for its very existing is probably reassuring to those in this country who are either intuitively or through experience persuaded of the need to improve policing. Is very existence means that there are persons in this country who care deeply about this improvement. It means there is a very reason to hope that someday quantum improvements will come. It means that there can be institutions like the Police Foundation that may someday help transform policing into, if not a profession, then at least into a legitimate calling.”

I am honored to serve as President and to work with such an incredibly talented staff and cadre of fellows and subject matter experts. Together and with the leadership of law enforcement throughout the U.S. and internationally, we will make positive change in policing and in our communities.

Jim Burch
President

Recent Appointments

 

Acting Assistant Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives, U.S. Department of Justice (2014-2015)

Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice (2011-2014)

Acting Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice (2009-2011)

 

Honors & Affiliations     

 

George Mason University, Department of Criminology, Law, and Society
Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame
Inductee (2015)  

George Mason University, Department of Criminology, Law, and Society
Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy
Senior Fellow

Street Law, Inc.
Board Member

National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund
Board Member

National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation
Board Member

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Podcasts

 

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