This is Encouraging!

download (1)Yes, this IS encouraging! In my new book, “Arrested Development,” I discuss the importance of creativity, innovation, research, and the use of data in making police decisions. The National Police Research Platform (NPRP) has the potential to make a huge contribution to policing.

Here’s how they came about.  Beginning in 2009, a team of leading police researchers and police executives, with support from the National Institute of Justice began to develop a new, more productive and efficient way to learn about policing in the United States.



This initiative, called the National Police Research Platform (NPRP), is being implemented in selected jurisdictions around the country. The project is headquartered at the University of Illinois at Chicago under the leadership of Dr. Dennis Rosenbaum, but involves a consortium of leading police researchers at other major universities.

The NPRP focuses on changes that occur within and across police organizations and police officers. It is currently structured around measuring the responses of four key groups  new recruits, new supervisors, employees of police agencies, and members of the community with recent police encounters

The following is a summary of the report on “Receptivity to Police Innovation: A Tale of Two Cities” by Stephen D. Mastrofski and Dennis Rosenbaum:

  • Police resistance to innovation does not appear to be occupation-wide, but it varies greatly between organizations.
  • Rank appears to bear no significant relationship to perceptions of the organizational environment for innovation.
  • Older officers are less positive about certain aspects of the organizational environment for innovation than are younger officers, but that is the case only sometimes.
  • Officers with more education are no more positive about the department’s approach to innovation than those with less education.
  • It is hazardous to generalize about police innovation. The nature of the innovation matters in officers’ assessments of their department’s approach, and the effects are especially strong comparing one department to another.
  • Organizations with more effective internal communications will have more officers receptive to the department’s innovation priorities.

A comparison of only two police agencies does not constitute a basis for generalizing to departments across the nation, but it does undermine the confidence we can have in several ideas that have become popular about the relationship of American police organizations with innovation. The most important implication of this research is that those who want to implement innovation must first take care to consider carefully the organizational environment into which it is to be introduced.

 Officers in our two departments, both similar in size and make up, and both regarded as innovative, showed strikingly different reactions to their departments’ environment for innovation and the substance of those innovations themselves. We highlight two features here.

 A large difference was found in whether creativity and innovation are rewarded, suggesting that fostering more positive consequences for innovation may be effective in promoting innovation. Receptivity to management’s preferences for innovation may well require nurturing a culture of innovation among all employees.3 Particularly challenging in both of these departments may be overcoming the tendency of even the most progressive organizations to act as “punitive bureaucracies,” as evidenced by the large proportion of officers in both departments who anticipated that they would experience negative consequences for creativity and innovation that did not turn out well. Clearly, the art in leadership to overcome this fear is finding a way to communicate clearly how innovation and creativity by individuals will be integrated with performance accountability.

 Our analysis suggests that one key organizational factor to consider is whether the department has a strong system of internal communications – one that moves information quickly and accurately, involves employees in efforts to figure out solutions to problems, and that solicits input efficiently (electronically). Of course, there may be other relevant organizational features that we did not consider in this analysis. Our analysis also suggests that it is difficult to generalize about which sort of officer is most and least likely to resist a department’s effort to innovate. For example, many have thought that more education opens minds up to the benefits of innovation, but we did not find such a relationship evident in these departments. Education is not indoctrination.

 Consequently, police leaders would do well to dig deeper to learn what features of innovations are regarded as strengths and weaknesses, and whether there are patterns in these views that can be useful to know. One pattern that did emerge in the data, and that was consistent between the two departments, was that higher levels of dissatisfaction are more likely when the innovation focuses on directing, controlling, or correcting discretion and practice. Such innovations may require extra leadership effort to justify in the eyes of many officers. What may come as a surprise to many is the relatively high level of accommodation officers seem to have made, especially in one of the departments, to some innovations that are widely viewed by researchers and reformers as particularly challenging to implement: respectful policing (procedural justice), hot spots policing, and crime analysis units.4 Such successes are clearly worthy of further in-depth investigation and perhaps emulation. These results are only suggestive, and they point to the need for a great deal of additional research on the environment for innovation in police organizations. Do medium-sized and small departments show similar patterns? What are the specific features of innovation that are the most and least attractive, and how does this vary by type of officer and organization? We hope to explore these and other questions in future Platform research (my emphases).

[Read the full report and others: CLICK HERE]

My book talks precisely about this when I documented the successful change process undertaking in Madison over 30 years ago. It was all about preparing the INSIDE of the organization, improving communication throughout the organization and instituting a new style of collaborative leadership.

This is encouraging and gives me hope. Carry-on NPRP and those departments who are willing to open their doors to substantive inquiry!




    1. Thanks for alerting me to this post. I write about the importance of compassion in both my new book and on this blog. One of my former police captains, Cheri Maples, is now a Buddhist dharma teacher in the Ticht Naht Hahn school and has given mindfulness seminars to police and other criminal justice workers. Check out my blog in 2012 for Oct. 11, Nov. 6 and 15th.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.