National Academies Press: OpenBook

Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence (2004)

Chapter: 9 The Future of Policing Research

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Suggested Citation:"9 The Future of Policing Research." National Research Council. 2004. Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10419.
Page 327
Suggested Citation:"9 The Future of Policing Research." National Research Council. 2004. Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10419.
Page 328
Suggested Citation:"9 The Future of Policing Research." National Research Council. 2004. Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10419.
Page 329
Suggested Citation:"9 The Future of Policing Research." National Research Council. 2004. Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10419.
Page 330
Suggested Citation:"9 The Future of Policing Research." National Research Council. 2004. Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10419.
Page 331

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9 The Future of Policing Research T he future of policing research will depend heavily on federal policy decisions. Will police be able to reduce violence, including the grow- ing threat of global terrorism? Will police be able to enhance democ- racy, by ensuring fair and equal treatment of all people in a diverse society? The answers to these questions may depend on how much, and how well, research can address them. Police research depends heavily on public fund- ing, and, given severe constraints on state and local budgets, such funding seems possible only at the federal level. Since the Safe Streets Act of 1968, federally sponsored research on po- lice has contributed to the substantial accumulation of knowledge that is reviewed in this report. Federal interventions of a variety of kinds have helped make American policing far more receptive to the use of scientific research in the advancement of their mission. They have created a demand for even more knowledge about what works and what doesn't to prevent crime and promote fairness and justice. Policing stands in first place among all criminal justice agencies in the use of the tools of social science, includ- ing surveys, sophisticated statistical analysis and mapping, systematic ob- servation, quasi-experiments, and randomized controlled trials. Neither prosecutors nor prisons nor courts can match the intensity with which po- lice have embraced social science. However, the test of success of any program of police research is not the methods it uses, but what it accomplishes. This report includes a num- ber of specific research and policy recommendations that reflect what we have learned via a variety of methodologies. Also reflecting the field as a whole, they represent a mix of operational and theoretical concerns. 327

328 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING ENHANCING CRIME CONTROL EFFECTIVENESS Among the central questions in police research are how the police can prevent crime and injury, how they can more effectively foster desistance once it has developed, and how they can minimize the damaged caused to victims, their families, and the community. The committee concludes that there is strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of focused and specific policing strategies. The more strategies are tailored to the problems they seek to address, the more effective police will be in controlling crime and disorder. Crime control strategizing should consider the specific locations, crimes, criminals, and facilitating community factors that are linked to crime hot spots. The strategies themselves should be diverse and carefully targeted. The committee's review of research also suggests that police should look beyond reactive law enforcement strategies in their search for ways to reduce crime, disorder, and fear of crime. Criminologists have long recog- nized that rates of crime and fear are affected by many powerful social forces. Although the role of the police among these forces is not entirely clear, community factors doubtlessly weigh more heavily in the long run. The police should seek ways to engage the broader community in the task of securing safety. Such approaches have promise and should be the subject of more systematic investigation. ENHANCING THE LAWFULNESS OF POLICE ACTIONS When the authority of the state is evoked, the public has a right to understand its use and to query whether it has been used fairly and justly. However, not enough is known about the extent of police lawfulness or their compliance with legal and other rules, nor can the mechanisms that promote police lawfulness be identified. Modern police research had its origin in the study of police lawfulness in the exercise of their discretion. The committee recommends renewed research on this topic, as well as a coordinated research emphasis on the effectiveness of organizational mecha- nisms that foster police rectitude. To advance this, the committee recommends legislation requiring po- lice agencies to file annual reports to the public on the number of persons shot at, wounded, and killed by police officers in the line of duty. The committee also recommends an emphasis on measuring citizen views of the quality of police service, through support for the Bureau of Justice statistics to develop and pilot test in a variety of police departments a system to document the nature and extent of police-citizen encounters and informal applications of police authority.

THE FUTURE OF POLICING RESEARCH 329 ENHANCING THE LEGITIMACY OF POLICING By legitimacy we mean the judgments that ordinary citizens make about the rightfulness of police conduct and the organizations that employ and supervise them. The report reviews what is known about the factors that help build trust and confidence in the police. However, given the regular recurrence of allegations of racial injustice by the police and the inconclu- sive nature of the available findings, the committee judges it a high research priority to establish the nature and extent to which race and ethnicity affect police practice, independent of other legal and extralegal considerations. The committee recommends the launching of a periodic national survey to gauge public assessments of the quality of police service in their commu- nity. The committee recommends expanding data collection to encompass a wider range of policing outcomes, to enable the monitoring of the quality of police service and not just its quantity. The committee also recommends that research on police service delivery be expanded to include the metro- politan areas of cities as a relevant domain of concern. IMPROVING PERSONNEL PRACTICES In the end, policing policies are implemented by the men and women serving in the field, and, as a service organization, the police depend heavily on the quality of their recruitment and training practices. In the case of recruitment, a prominent point of discussion in policing circles is educa- tional requirements for aspiring officers. However, the committee finds the available evidence inadequate to make recommendations regarding the de- sirability of higher education for improving police practice and strongly recommends rigorous research on the effects of higher education on job performance. The committee also recommends more research on police training, including the following questions: What should training be? What methods work best? Who makes the most effective instructors? At what point should an officer receive training of a given type? What is the appro- priate duration/intensity? FOSTERING INNOVATION In its report the committee describes many innovative ideas that have influenced American policing but notes that important features of the polic- ing industry may serve to retard their adoption. The committee recommends a special study of innovation processes in policing, one that includes factors that can be influenced by federal and state governments. To monitor the status of policing, the committee recommends that the Bureau of Justice Statistics continue to conduct an enhanced, yearly version of its current

330 FAIRNESS AND EFFECTIVENESS IN POLICING Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics Survey. To support this and other organizational research, the committee recommends that the Bureau of Justice Statistics' Agency Directory Survey be improved and updated on a regular basis, and that it conduct a special study of the validity of responses to surveys and experiment with methods to ensure accurate reporting of agency characteristics. The committee further recommends that the National Institute of Jus- tice support a program of rigorous evaluation of new crime information technologies in local police agencies. To better understand the nature of the policing industry, the committee recommends a special study of the dimen- sions of the private security industry, and that the Current Population Sur- vey be used to secure an estimate of the size and characteristics of the labor force in this sector. ASSESSING PROBLEM-ORIENTED AND COMMUNITY POLICING Problem-oriented and community policing, two recent innovations in policing, receive special scrutiny in this report. To better understand their nature and extent, the committee recommends that the Bureau of Justice Statistics develop measures that provide a more accurate indication of the extent to which community liaison and mobilization activities, as well as other community oriented programs, are adopted by police agencies. The committee also recommends development of measures that better docu- ment at the jurisdiction level the nature and extent of nonenforcement services delivered by police. This program of development should consider the variety of current measures available to U.S. police agencies, pilot test a system at several sites, and then propose a large, multiagency data collec- tion system. RESPONDING TO TERRORISM The committee recommends research on the organizational demands of responding to terrorism. The committee strongly encourages using the re- sults of recent research on terrorism to develop a long-term national pro- gram for tracking and evaluating the performance of local police depart- ments' efforts in gathering an handling intelligence on terrorism. ORGANIZING RESEARCH Federal support for police research has been highly variable from year to year, posing great obstacles to the institutionalization of research as a central element of American policing. Given the importance of the goals of police research, the committee recommends that careful attention be given

THE FUTURE OF POLICING RESEARCH 331 to the extent and stability of research funding. Research conducted in police agencies could be coordinated with other studies of crime causation and patterning, extending basic criminological research as well. Police chiefs, communities, police officers and crime victims all need answers to the research questions posed here--and to many others. What has been accomplished so far demonstrates that many police departments are willing hosts for researchers and consumers of their findings. What can be accomplished in the future depends heavily on the organization and fi- nancing of police research, for in the work of the police, there has rarely been any doubt that evidence matters.

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Because police are the most visible face of government power for most citizens, they are expected to deal effectively with crime and disorder and to be impartial. Producing justice through the fair, and restrained use of their authority. The standards by which the public judges police success have become more exacting and challenging.

Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing explores police work in the new century. It replaces myths with research findings and provides recommendations for updated policy and practices to guide it. The book provides answers to the most basic questions: What do police do? It reviews how police work is organized, explores the expanding responsibilities of police, examines the increasing diversity among police employees, and discusses the complex interactions between officers and citizens. It also addresses such topics as community policing, use of force, racial profiling, and evaluates the success of common police techniques, such as focusing on crime "hot spots." It goes on to look at the issue of legitimacy—how the public gets information about police work, and how police are viewed by different groups, and how police can gain community trust.

Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing will be important to anyone concerned about police work: policy makers, administrators, educators, police supervisors and officers, journalists, and interested citizens.


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