16: What is next for evidence-based policing?
The final chapter in the book looks to the future and discusses some areas where evidence-based policing can move forward. First is a need to expand the scope of the use of research evidence beyond crime control. Areas such as recruitment, retention of police staff, training, officer safety and wellness, and the management of vulnerable populations are all in need of a more substantial evidence base for police practice. Analytical support from crime analysts and embedded criminologists, moving to a no-blame culture for legitimate errors, and an expansion of experimental work are all proposed as ways to advance the knowledge base for policing.
Glossary terms in this chapter
Crime analysts: Police personnel who analyze data and information and help the police department make operational decisions in investigations, crime control, and disorder mitigation.
Embedded criminologists: Academics who have long-term collaborations with specific police departments.
Pre-mortem: A meeting before a project starts, in which the implementation team try to imagine what might cause their project to fail. They then work backward to create a plan to help prevent potential obstacles and reduce the chances of failure.
Additional information and links
Change the ‘blame game’
As the chapter discusses, NASA is part of an aviation accident reporting process that is designed to be more of a learning exercise than a punitive one. There has been a similar attempt to start something like that in policing around sentinel events. A sentinel event is a significant negative outcome that:
Signals underlying weaknesses in the system or process.
Is likely the result of compound errors.
May provide, if properly analyzed and addressed, important keys to strengthening the system and preventing future adverse events or outcomes.
In criminal justice, a sentinel event might be a police shooting, the wrongful conviction of an innocent person, the release from prison of a dangerous person or even a “near miss” that could have led to a bad outcome had it not been caught. You can read more at the Sentinel Events Initiative page at the National Institute of Justice.
Institutionalize analytical support
Probably the most useful and accessible resource is to watch Anthony Braga's conference presentation on embedded criminologists. As probably one of the leading embedded criminologists in the world, he nicely articulates the value of the benefits of police working closely with an academic.
Address implementation challenges
Evidence-based studies and policies are useless unless they are successfully implemented. The chapter contains a personal guide to thinking about implementing an experimental study. There is also this handy refresher on randomized experiments from the Harvard Business Review.
Why we need science, not assumptions
There are two studies mentioned in this section. The first is the Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study, which has a nice page that outlines the study and key publications.
And as noted in the book, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors were introduced to a specialist domestic abuse court in the UK. The advisors were specially trained to arrange the safety of domestic abuse victims, be a point of contact for them, and to act as their advocate. This research was recently published as Ross, J., Sebire, J., & Strang, H. (2022). Tracking repeat victimisation after domestic abuse cases are heard with and without independent domestic violence advisors (IDVAs) in an English magistrate’s court. Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, 6, 54-68. You can access details of the article here. Also note that one of the study's authors is Dr Jackie Sebire and she discusses this research in her Reducing Crime podcast episode (see below).
Related Reducing Crime podcast episode
Jackie Sebire retired in 2022 as Assistant Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police in the UK. We discuss Dr Sebire's work as a director on the UK College of Policing's Senior Command course, her time as staff officer to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, and important new findings she just published around independent domestic violence advisors. A link to the article is above.