Moving Forward With Evidence-Based Policing: What Should Police Be Doing and Can We Get Them to Do It?

Cody W. Telep

Major Professor: David Weisburd, PhD, Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Cynthia Lum, Christopher Koper, Nigel Waters

Robinson Hall A, #251
April 22, 2013, 01:00 PM to 10:00 AM

Abstract:

This dissertation by articles is focused on moving forward with evidence-based policing, concentrating in particular on the tactics officers should be engaging in to most effectively reduce crime and disorder.  Three important questions in moving forward are discussed in detail.  The first is what exactly does the research evidence suggest police should be doing?  Specifically, the dissertation focuses on drawing lessons for police on how specifically they should be implementing strategies that have proven to be effective in rigorous evaluation studies.  Drawing out these lessons is potentially one way of making research more digestible and usable for police agencies.  This review of what the police should (and should not be doing) draws upon both primary studies and systematic reviews of the policing literature.  A second key question is what does evidence-based policing look like in action?  Can agencies successfully use the lessons gleaned from prior research to design and evaluate evidence-based approaches to crime control?  An evaluation of a hot spots policing experiment in Sacramento, California, suggests that policing interventions using specific tactics guided by prior research can be successful in reducing overall calls for service and crime incidents.  The Sacramento study is particularly useful to include in this dissertation because the experiment was undertaken with existing departmental resources and with only limited consultation with researchers.  The police department took the initiative to design and implement a strategy based on scientific evidence about what works best, suggesting a model for moving forward in evidence-based policing.  A third and final question is what challenges exist in moving forward?  The primary challenge considered in this dissertation surrounds officer receptivity to research and evidence-based policing.  That is, do officers have an understanding of what works in policing, and are they willing to be innovative and evaluate the effectiveness of their tactics and strategies?  Survey responses from officers in the Sacramento Police Department and the Richmond Police Department suggest some of the prospects and challenges that exist in trying to institutionalize the use of science to guide departmental practice.  The dissertation concludes with a discussion of issues in increasing research utilization in policing and areas where future research on evidence-based policing is needed.