Lawrence W. Sherman, Ph.D.
The new paradigm of “evidence-based medicine” holds important implications for policing. It suggests that just doing research is not enough and that proactive efforts are required to push accumulated research evidence into practice through national and community guidelines. These guidelines can then focus in-house evaluations of what works best across agencies, units,victims, and officers. Statistical adjustments for the risk factors shaping crime can provide fair comparisons across police units,including national rankings of police agencies by their crime prevention effectiveness. The example of domestic violence, for which accumulated National Institute of Justice research could lead to evidence-based guidelines, illustrates the way in which agency-based outcomes research could further reduce violence against victims. National pressure to adopt this paradigm could come from agency-ranking studies, but police agency capacity to adopt it will require new data systems creating “medical charts”for crime victims, annual audits of crime reporting systems, and in-house “evidence cops” who document the ongoing patterns and effects of police practices in light of published and in-house research. These analyses can then be integrated into the NYPD Compstat feedback model for management accountability and continuous quality improvement.