Evidence-based Policing


Evidence-based Policing

Strayer University

Evidence-based Policing

American police today are a far cry from the night watchmen of colonial times. Training, equipment, and organization have developed a tremendous amount in the last few centuries. One major development that has greatly influenced the modern police forces is the creation of evidence-based policing. This report will delve into what evidence-based policing is. It will also discuss the pros and cons of evidence-based policing. Finally it will look into some examples of evidence-based policing.

Evidence-based policing is “The use of the best available research on the outcomes of police work to implement guidelines and evaluate agencies, units, and officers” (Schmalleger, 2009, p. 160). To elaborate, it uses scientific research to develop policies for law enforcement officers and investigators to adhere to. This creates a structured approach to any situation officers may encounter and from an administrative standpoint can be used to increase efficiency within their departments. The origin of evidence-based policing began in 1969 (Schmalleger). Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) spent approximately eight billion United States dollars between 1969 and 1982 to create crime prevention and reduction programs. Unfortunately for the LEAA the United States congress cut their funding, putting an end to the organization. The abundant amount of research left over has influenced police departments around the country and created the concept behind scientific police management.

The benefits of an evidence-based approach to policing are obvious. If police are more efficient, they respond faster, prevent more crimes, and resolve more investigations. The structure given by procedures developed from scientific research is based solely on fact and not opinion. That point however may be the downfall of evidence-based policing. If officers are more biased towards the structure of policy and procedures they may be close minded to different concepts and ideas. The officer may feel that their opinion has no relevance to a situation, when sometimes an opinion or looking at a problem in a different way can sometimes provide a new solution. There is also the argument that no amount of scientific research can equal real world experience, however if a law enforcement officer has little to no experience the procedures and training that comes out of evidence-based policing can help create a base for that individual to develop.

Recently, on March 18th 2009, an article was released by the city of San Jose California in regards to a major research initiative on police practices (City of San Jose California, 2009). The initiative will involve several social scientists to research the law enforcement agencies of San Jose’s current policies and procedures in an attempt to improve gender and racial equality.

This initiative was triggered by arrest statistics between the agencies. These statistics supported that; members of the departments may have shown biased exercises while performing their duties. Though the inappropriate bias of race and gender of the individuals is not confirmed, only implied, the city developed the Consortium for Police Leadership and Equity (CPLE) to revise procedure to provide fair practices for the entire community and avoid defamation by the local media. This is a prime example of how research can change policy and procedures so as to update into what is needed in present day policing. The United States Department of Justice has dealt with a similar matter, however on a broader scale. They conducted a study on the views of police when addressing the issue of abuse of authority (United States Department of Justice: National Institute of Justice, 2000). They identified the correlation between police abusing their authority and how the communities mistrust. The study went in a similar direction as the CPLE and identified the need to change specific procedures on a national scale to improve police relations with the communities and stop the abuse of authority. It has shown that police officers that adhere to procedure are seen as more trustworthy in the community. Studies that help change the policies of the law enforcement agencies to help improve their efficiency and relations with the communities are all too important. It proves that evidence-based policing is a concept that will continue to affect the criminal justice world for years to come.


City of San Jose California (2009). Major Research Initiative on Police Practices. Retrieved October 26, 2009, from http://www.sanjoseca.gov/pdf/PP-CPLEAnnouncementPressRelease.pdf

Schmalleger, F. (2009). Policing. In V. R. Anthony, T. Peyton, & E. Rogers (Eds.), Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the 21st Century (10th Edition) (pp. 148-179). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

United States Department of Justice: National Institute of Justice (2000). Police Attitudes Toward Abuse of Authority: Findings From a National Study. Retrieved October 26, 2009, from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/181312.pdf