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Fix the divide between science and policing

By Peter Neyroud and David Weisburd

In recent years, science has become an important tool for police agencies.  But how should police departments evaluate and assess these tools?  For instance, it is conceivable for every police officer patrolling a favela in Brazil to record his every move with a wearable camera. But how should this technology be adopted, and would it actually bring down crime and reduce police abuse?  Similarly, many police departments are developing new patrol strategies.  How should the National Police in Colombia decide which are appropriate for them to employ?

The challenge of translating the lessons on research into practice in policing is considerable. These innovations require a new institutional relationship between the police and scientists.

There is need for a broad conception of science in policing.  We have divided these into four broad areas:

  • Natural Sciences;
  • Engineering Sciences;
  • Informational science;
  • Social Science of evaluation.

It is clear to us that almost all of the significant innovations, tactics or strategies in policing need to be studied by viewing them through more than one of these lenses. For example, as the National Academy of Sciences report on Forensic Science demonstrated, the reliability of law enforcement’s development of fingerprint evidence suffered from a failure to use a mixed methods approach. The same could be said for the way that Tasers or Conducted Electricity Devices were initially introduced relying on the medical evidence of physical harm, rather than experimentally testing the relative effectiveness in preventing injury or qualitatively assessing the public acceptability of the devices. Body worn cameras were heading in the same direction until Ariel and Farrar (2013) conducted a randomized controlled trial in Rialto.

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Flickr – Sallytudor@att.net

There remains an urgent need for more qualitative and quantitative research in the impacts and effectiveness to ensure that the police do not fall victim to science-free gadgetry. The leadership of police science is largely in the hands of the technology vendors, government agencies and academics.

The police remain unable and unprepared for a leadership role in police science. Police science is not securely embedded in the education or culture of policing, and police tend to the “end-users” or consumers rather than determining the priorities for science, setting the standards for research or participating in its production.

This raises the question of how to build a sustainable policing in which science is integrated into the whole institutional and professional system and structure.  We have identified three connected themes that are key to the police reform we are proposing.

  1. The police must “value” science and its potential contributions to policing.  Valuing science means seeing it as a key concern of the police.
  2. Police must have knowledge about the scientific enterprise. Police today have little knowledge about scientific methods and evidence about policing.  This is one reason why they often fail to adopt and develop innovation wisely.
  3. The police need to take a leadership role in science and become one of the key players in developing and utilizing police science.

In this sense, we propose a fundamental re-examination of the police themselves, from the process of recruitment and training to continuous professional development, organizational structure and cultures.

However, it is not enough to reform the police – academics and government need to behave very differently.

Just as the police have not valued science, the academic world of police science does not value policing, which is of low status in the world of criminology. For example, until 2014 there has been no Division of Policing at the American Society of Criminology. Police Journals are generally rated low impact in the journal assessments, discouraging scholars from submitting work.

Furthermore, academics generally have little experience of policing and yet control the production of knowledge in police science. Partly as a result of this police science does not provide the central contribution to the development and renewal of policing that it should. In contrast, there should be a very different model of police science, embedded in policing and valuing police practice, with a new emphasis on building a shared leadership between the police and the scientists.

It is also clear to us that task of realizing the potential of science in policing depends on wider changes beyond the police and the scientists. There is a need for much greater integration and this, we suggest, requires institutional changes. In the UK, the emergence of the new National College of Policing as a professional body for policing offers one model of change. The College has been encouraged by government to take a lead role in the identification of “what works?” in police science. However, this is still a comparatively narrow role that does not yet extend to coordinating the development of police science across higher education and a strong partnership with academic criminology.

This new relationship between the police and researchers and government agencies would lead to improved policing through more and better science about policing, and the embedding of science in the education and training of police officers.

Peter Neyroud has held numerous positions in the police Constabulary and is now with the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge.

David Weisburd is a member of the committee of experts advising the Inter-American Development Bank. He is with the Center for Evidence Based Crime Prevention at George Mason University and with the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Both authors are grateful to Rockefeller Foundation for its support

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Artículos escritos por autores invitados. Esta sección está abierta a expertos de los sectores público y privado, de la academia y de otras organizaciones multilaterales que quieran contribuir al debate.
  1. RAMÓN DIEGO BORJA SÁNCHEZ Reply

    hola noches para todos desde Cali Colombia Sur América

    Que buen tema para evaluar, profundizar, analizar, confrontar, evaluar, hacerle seguimiento y formular un plan de acción; desafortuandamente este problema es fruto de la mala planificación de las ciudades y su creciente super población, sumandose a la mala y mediocre educación y formación que se recibe desde todos los ambitos de la vida social, aquí no se le puede hechar la culpa a nadie, solo que si se pueden tomar acciones corretivas desde ya para el mañana, pensando en un futuro de bienestar integral; la seguridad ciudadana es un factor clave hoy, por el mismo desorden social de la vida hoy, por la falta de desemplo, y todos los factores a que esto se le suman, los gobiernos por mas politicas socilaes que formulen siempre habrá mucho por hacer. Sien embargo si se puede formular politicas de seguridad ciudadana en las cuales se formulen los nuevos perfiles de lso que cuidadn dicha seguridade, hay que empezar por valorarlos y valorar su condición de persona primero, segundo rodearlos de garantias sociales importantes como el ambito familiar que les rodea, hay que abrirle espacios de formación personal integral para que empiese primero por cuidar de su seguridad integral personal, entonces viene la formación ciudadana para garantizar el respeto de la autoridad y la de los ciudadanos; al lograr el anterior proceso entonces si podemos pasar a la capacitación de conocimiento de seguridad integral, por lo que se inicia con conicimentos culturales, intelectuales,a cademicos, herramientas tecnologicas y de seguridad, altos estudios de conociomiento cientifico en balistica, en investigación cientifica forense, capacitacion en derechos humanos y constitucion nacional, y por ultimo si realizar carreras especializadas acorde al perfil de cada policia o militar así lograr por parte de la autoriodad la prestación de un servicio integral humanizado.

    RAMÓN DIEGO BORJA SÁNCHEZ
    ASESOR Y CONSULTOR DE PROYECTOS
    CER – FUNDEPAC/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlBmELGlMG8
    PACIFICO COLOMBIANO
    FUNDACIÓN ORGANO INTERNACIONAL DE LOS DDHH CAPITULO COLOMBIA

  2. RAMÓN DIEGO BORJA SÁNCHEZ Reply

    hello nights for everyone from Cali Colombia South America

    What a good topic to evaluate, further , analyze , compare , evaluate , track and formulate a plan of action; desafortuandamente this problem is the result of poor planning of cities and their growing super- population , adding to the bad and mediocre education and training that is received from all areas of social life , here you can not blame anyone hechar only if corretivas actions can be taken from and for tomorrow , thinking about a future comprehensive welfare , public safety is a key factor today, the same social clutter of life today , the lack of desemplo , and all factors to this we add , the more governments formulate policies socilaes always be done. Sien But if you can formulate policies on citizen security in which new profiles that Seguridade cuidadn lso are formulated, we must begin by valuing and assessing their status as a person first, second major societal guarantees surround the family sphere as they around , you have to open spaces comprehensive staff training i started first by taking care of your personal comprehensive security, then comes the civic education to ensure respect for the authority and citizens , to achieve the above process so if we can move to training of comprehensive safety knowledge , so start with cultural conicimentos , intellectuals, cademicos , technological and security tools , high scientific studies conociomiento ballistics , forensic scientific research , training in human rights and national constitution , and finally if perform specialized racing line profile of each police or military to achieve well by the autoriodad providing a humanized comprehensive service .

    RAMÓN DIEGO BORJA SÁNCHEZ
    CONSULTANT AND PROJECT CONSULTANT
    CER – FUNDEPAC / http :/ / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlBmELGlMG8
    COLOMBIAN PACIFIC
    FOUNDATION INTERNATIONAL ORGAN OF COLOMBIA CHAPTER HR

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