Attitudinal Dimensions and Openness to Evidence-Based Policing: Perspectives of Academy Recruits

Julie Grieco

Advisor: Cynthia Lum, PhD, Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Christopher Koper, James Willis, Anne Kringen

Research Hall, #301
June 22, 2016, 10:00 AM to 07:00 AM


Evidence-based policing is a relatively new movement in policing encouraging law enforcement agencies and officers to pay more attention to information derived from systematic study, analysis, and research. While evidence-based policing holds a great deal of promise for law enforcement agencies, what is less clear is whether it is practiced regularly by officers, how it is implemented, what officers know about it, and what types of mindsets are needed by officers to be receptive to it. One arena of policing which might present some clues to these questions is training academies, which is explored in this study. Research shows that police academies are where recruits first acquire attitudes and assumptions about the field of policing, and that individuals may be more likely to be open to change and new ideas during their educational or transitional period. However, research has yet to examine what attitudes may contribute to evidence-based policing, and whether these attitudes are fostered or discouraged during a police officer’s initial academy training experience. These questions are explored in this dissertation, by surveying a large number of police recruits in two police academies, across four cohorts, before and after their training experience.

Findings indicate that recruits begin their training with relatively positive attitudes that might be connected to evidence-based policing, but that most of these attitudes change in a negative direction by the end of their training. Factors contributing to variations in these changes are explored, including recruit officers’ education levels, race and ethnicity, and academy location. This dissertation highlights the need for the evidence-based policing movement to create and test specific scales measuring attitudinal openness for certain desired mindsets, as well as the importance of training organizations and their relation to promoting (or undermining) attitudes relating to evidence-based policing.