A Plea for Police-Academic Relationships

A number of us in Madison attempted to get this idea into a reality at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It seems that after a couple of meeting with interested police, citizens and faculty members the idea has died.

This is a sad situation and I simply have too many other pressing interests to carry this touch. Perhaps someone will. Maybe not in Madison, but, perhaps some other progressive area.

It is an idea whose time has come. It is the future of policing.

Improving Police: A Necessary Conversation

Unknown-1 Practitioner, teacher, researcher?

Early in my career, I envisioned a police department in which the officers would become experts in human behavior, relational experts. This is what I experienced in my years in Minneapolis. At night I was a tactical officer and during the day a university student. I quickly understand that much of what goes wrong in policing happens when police are unable to effectively understand what is really going on and how to effectively respond to the various behaviors they encountered on the job.

To me, it became vital that police have access to and understand current research regarding the field of human behavior and proper methods to handle people who are disturbed, angry, grief-stricken, or intoxicated without having to resort to physical force.

Or, if physical force is necessary, to use it judiciously and humanely. Sir Robert Peel knew this over 150 years ago when the field…

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  1. And it is a great idea whose time came in Dallas in 1972 when the Police Foundation attempted to promote a relationship between the DPD and Southern Methodist University. Frank Dyson, DPD Chief, supported the plan and initial steps were taken. But these relationships are fragile and prone to early deaths when there is personnel turnover or the cessation of outside funding.


  2. Coincidentally, John Bostain of Command Presence Training recently wrote regarding the need for greater access to academic research by law enforcement. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/need-law-enforcement-research-database-john-bostain)
    I believe John’s on the right track. Although a significant obstacle is the contracts between publishers and institutions that often restrict journal access to faculty and students, I’m hopeful that the partnership(s) he envisions can be developed.


  3. Hello Chief Cooper,

    I recently contacted the U of M, UW-Madison, U of IL, and Columbia University (MO) asking for a Property Crimes Investigator’s book on report writing. I did not get a reply from the U of M, UW sent me to a Law Center that did not return my call, U of IL forwarded me to a voice mail and no reply from my voice mail message. Lastly, Columbia Univ said they would call me back and they did not.

    Would you have a recommendation for a Property Crimes Investigator’s book on report writing?



  4. This is such a great discussion. As an academic who has attempted, however successfully, to make engagement with the practitioner world central to what I do, it is heartening to know there are those working in the field who see it as value added. I have the privilege of working with agencies on a nearly weekly basis and have done so for nearly 20 years. This is a very complicated discussion and “blame” (not the best word…but I can’t think of another) can be squarely laid in both courts. As academics, not much about how our careers mature reward or even support engagement with the practitioner community. Might sound like a cop-out, but it is real. As real as those officers who say, “I know I should do community policing, but in practice, nothing about internal reward structures or promotional processes recognize this work. We as academics must not use this as an excuse, but it is real. This said, it can also be quite frustrating to work with agencies where we can sometimes be in a catch-22. We are often approached to be part of internal workgroups, evaluator on grants, part of “technical assistance teams” but our views/arguments/recommendations are, well, dismissed as “not practical” or too “academic.” If I have serious concerns that my role is dubious at best, why would I professionally risk taking time away from those activities are directly rewarded as part of my promotional processes (e.g., securing research grants, publishing, putting more time into my teaching, etc.)?

    The relationships between academics and practitioners, to be meaningful and anything beyond superficial, takes time and exposure. Like all good relationships, they are built on trust and mutual understanding. Often times it is just finding a place to start a relationship. It will definitely be clunky and not always feel like the ‘right fit.’ Yet as an academic, I can find of few things more rewarding to have an agency with whom you have developed a working relationship open a door, lets us see under the curtain, and be part of teams that transform the “real world” into a better place.


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