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Evidence-Based Policing (EBP) is an approach to policy making and tactical decision-making for police departments. It has its roots in the larger movement towards evidence-based practices.
Advocates of evidence-based policing emphasize the value of statistical analysis, empirical research and ideally randomized controlled trials. EBP does not dismiss more traditional drivers of police decision-making, but seeks to raise awareness and increase the application of scientific testing, targeting and tracking of police resources, especially during times of budget cuts and greater public scrutiny.
Experiments had been used in earlier decades to find better policing methods, before Lawrence Sherman first outlined a definition of "evidence-based policing" in 1998.
The Police Foundation was founded in 1970 and in 1971-72 worked with the Kansas City Police Department to carry out a landmark study on car patrols. In the early 1980s, Sherman worked with Richard Berk and the Police Foundation to carry out the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. The study showed that arresting domestic violence suspects was a deterrent against repeat offending. The study had a "virtually unprecedented impact in changing then-current police practices." Sherman later worked with fellow criminologist David Weisburd for a 1995 study which showed the efficacy of focusing police crime prevention resources on small hot spots of crime.
In a 1998 Police Foundation "Ideas in American Policing" lecture, Sherman outlined the concept of "evidence-based policing". His core idea was that police practice can be made far more effective if tactics proven to work during controlled field experiments are prioritized. Angel Cabrera later described Sherman as being the "father" of evidence-based policing.
In February 2000, Sherman co-founded the Campbell Collaboration's Crime and Justice Group, which has pursued the synthesis of research evidence on the effectiveness of policing and other crime prevention practices. In 2013 Sherman established the Cambridge Centre for Evidence-Based Policing[permanent dead link] as a global police training and research consultancy service for members, and in 2017 he launched the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing as the membership journal of the Cambridge Centre. The Journal's priority is to publish original, applied research led by "pracademic" police officers, with many articles based on master's degree theses completed under supervision of Sherman and his Cambridge colleagues, Heather Strang and Sir Denis O'Connor, by police leaders who were mid-career, part-time students in the Cambridge Police Executive Programme.
The first professional Society of Evidence-Based Policing was founded at Cambridge University in 2010, and now has some 2,000 members from mostly UK police agencies. In 2013, police in collaboration with the University of Queensland established the Australian-New Zealand Society of Evidence-Based Policing, which now has over 2000 members. In 2015, both Canada, and the United States established their own branches of this learned professional society. The Police Foundation provided support for the establishment of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing, as it once did to create the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).
Evidence can be used in a number of ways to support policing:
Policy-makers may factor in the population-wide priorities in policing action. Freedom from violent coercion is associated with happier populations, which may inform the use of force, or actions that nominally enforce laws but raise levels of community violence. Law enforcement may make enforcement decisions on the basis of flow-through effects in subsequent crimes. For instance, a 2011 meta-analysis drug market disruption, such as seizures of illicit goods or arrests of organised crime figures, as with drug prohibition increases levels of community violence and associated crimes. This contraindicates certain drug control strategies. And, evidence from illicit distribution/trafficking networks suggest that gang membership isn't important to the flow of resources between violent, competing groups. With community outcomes in mind, this would contraindicate bans on gang membership. The use of evidence in this manner sometimes leads to law enforcement decisions that contrast with popular intuition. For instance, gang members are not prohibited from joining the United States military.
Police may also share evidence about the consequences of crime as a preventative measure. For instance, politically motivated groups that use violent methods, or escalate from nonviolent to violent methods are less likely to gain the compliance of governments, suggesting that terrorism is less effective than civil action. And, bank robbery typically only returns around 15,000 UK pounds per person.
Evidence can also be used in sentencing. Certainty of punishment, and therefore consistency of sentencing deters crime far more effectively than the imminence or severity of punishment.
There is a growing movement for the use of blinded procedures in lineups in which the officer who shows the photos to the witness does not know which photo is of the suspect. The use of such blinded procedures may reduce false identification of suspects.
In 2008, Sherman made EBP the core of the Police Executive Programme at Cambridge University, a part-time course of study for senior police leaders from around the world to earn a Diploma or Master’s in applied criminology. In that year, the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) funded the first international conference on EBP, which was attended by police executives from Asia, Australia, Europe and the US. Since then the conference has been held each July, with the 10th International Conference in 2017 attended by over 300 police and scholars from six continents.
In 2010, a group of UK police officers founded the Society of Evidence-Based Policing, and elected Sherman Honorary President, along with Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of the UK's Greater Manchester Police; as of 2015 the Society has over 2,800 members, including its 750-member Australia-New Zealand affiliate, consisting primarily UK police officers but with membership from Australia to Argentina and North America. The Society's twice-annual UK meetings have attracted over 200 attendees per meeting (including 2015), as well as press coverage.
In 2012, the UK Home Office founded the College of Policing, which took over many of the responsibilities of the National Police Improvement Agency (formally abolished in 2013). One of the College's five strategic objectives is "identifying, developing and promoting good practice based on evidence". The College is committed to identifying and sharing with police practitioners "what works". In 2013, the UK's largest police force, London's Metropolitan Police Service committed to "crime fighting based on what we know works".
What Works Center For Crime Reduction Toolkit
The What Works Centre for Crime Reduction is part of a network of What Works Centres created to provide easy access to robust and comprehensive evidence to guide decision-making on public spending. The Crime Reduction Toolkit is an online tool that allows users to weigh up evidence on the impact, cost and implementation of different interventions and use this to help shape their crime reduction efforts. The What Works Centre Crime Reduction Toolkit currently includes 35 evaluations of interventions and has identified over 300 systematic reviews covering 60 different interventions.
|Aftercare programmes for young offenders||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease and or an increase)||Strong quality|
|Alcohol tax and price policies||A decrease in crime||Strong quality|
|Alternative education programmes||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease and or an increase)||Strong quality|
|CCTV||Decrease in crime||Strong quality|
|Cognitive Behavioral Therapy||Decrease in crime||Strong quality|
|Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Domestic Violence||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Strong quality|
|Correctional boot camps||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease and or an increase)||Very strong quality|
|Criminal sanctions to prevent domestic violence||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Limited quality|
|Drunk driving (DWI) courts||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Strong quality|
|Drug courts||A decrease in crime (but some studies suggest an increase)||Very strong quality|
|Educational interventions to prevent relationship violence in young people||No impact on crime||Very strong quality|
|Electronic monitoring||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Moderate quality|
|Environmental design to prevent robbery||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Limited quality|
|Firearm laws||Decrease in crime (but some studies suggest an increase)||Strong quality|
|Hot spots policing||Decrease in crime||Very strong quality|
|Increased police patrols to reduce drunk driving||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Strong quality|
|Juvenile curfew laws||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease and or an increase)||Moderate quality|
|Mass media campaigns to reduce drunk driving||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Limited quality|
|Mental health courts||A decrease in crime (but some studies suggest an increase)||Very strong quality|
|Minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease and or an increase)||Limited quality|
|Moral Reconation Therapy||Decrease in crime||Strong quality|
|Multisystemic therapy||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Strong quality|
|Music making interventions||No impact on crime||Limited quality|
|Neighbourhood watch||Decrease in crime||Strong quality|
|Policies on hours and days of alcohol sales||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease and or an increase)||Moderate quality|
|Restorative Justice (RJ) conferencing||Decrease in crime||Very strong quality|
|Retail tagging to prevent shop theft||No impact on crime||Strong quality|
|"Scared Straight" programmes||Increase in crime||Very strong quality|
|School-based programmes to reduce drunk driving||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease and or an increase)||Moderate quality|
|Second responder programmes to prevent domestic abuse||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease and or an increase)||Strong quality|
|Sobriety checkpoints||Decrease in crime||Very strong quality|
|Street lighting||Decrease in crime||Very strong quality|
|Temporary release from prison||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Limited quality|
|Training probation officers in core correctional practices||Decrease in crime||Strong quality|
|Transferring youths to the adult criminal justice system||Increase in crime||Limited quality|
|Victim Offender Mediation||Decrease in crime (but some studies suggest an increase)||Strong quality|
|Wilderness challenge programmes||No impact on crime (but some studies suggest a decrease)||Strong quality|
EBP has become the subject of debate in research journals, deliberating the extent to which policing should be guided by experimental criminology. But there is consensus that more needs to be done to bridge the 'translation gap' between frontline police officers and academics.
Academics from the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University launched the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy in 2008. Their Evidence-Based Policing Matrix records, orders and rates scientific evaluations in policing and seeks to enable police departments to access and assess existing evidence.
In 2015, a group of working police officers and crime analysts formed the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing (www.americansebp.com). This organization was formed with the intent of educating police officers about the concept of EBP, advocating for the use of best available research to drive policing strategies and tactics and facilitating the creation of new research findings by connecting researchers and practitioners. Membership is open to all serving police officers, civilian staff members, researchers and academics. The first annual ASEBP conference will be held on the campus of Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona on May 22nd and 23rd, 2017 with conference attendees and panelists representing the United States, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
The Australia & New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing (ANZSEBP) was formed in April 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. The ANZSEBP is a police practitioner-led Society. The mission of the ANZSEBP is to develop, disseminate and advocate for police to use scientific research (“the evidence”) to guide best practice in all aspects of policing.
The Society comprises both full members (current, serving police officers in Australia and New Zealand) and honorary members including police staff members (non-sworn), research professionals and others who aim to make evidence-based approaches part of everyday policing in Australia and New Zealand.
The ANZSEBP held its inaugural conference at the Australian Institute of Police Management, Sydney, Australia in March 2015. The Society was fortunate to secure Professor David Weisburd (George Mason University), Mr Peter Neyroud (Cambridge University), Professor Lorraine Mazerolle (University of Queensland), Chief Superintendent Alex Murray West Midlands Police (Chair of the UK SEBP) and Assistant Commissioner Peter Martin (Chair of the ANZ SEBP) to present at the conference. Further to that six short shot presentations were made that highlighted experiments or research throughout Australasia.
The Canadian Society of Evidence Based Policing (CAN-SEBP) was launched in April 2015 in Manchester, UK, as an affiliate of the UK-based Society of Evidence Based Policing, as well as ASEBP and ANZ-SEBP. CAN-SEBP is a collaborative effort between police practitioners and academic researchers aimed at generating actionable research to inform policy, practice, education and training in the field of public safety. Partners in the Society - who maintain executive-level steering and oversight functions - include representatives from several Canadian police forces and universities. Other agencies and researchers serve as active collaborators.
CAN-SEBP's membership consists of active and retired police officers, civilian police members, applied policing researchers, graduate researchers and representatives from provincial, federal and municipal community safety groups.
CAN-SEBP's international advisory group includes: Professor David Weisburd (George Mason University), Mr Peter Neyroud (Cambridge University), Professor Lorraine Mazerolle (University of Queensland), Chief Superintendent Alex Murray West Midlands Police (Chair of the UK SEBP) and Assistant Commissioner Peter Martin (Chair of the ANZ SEBP).
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