Evidence-Based Policing

unknown-1“Most of us have thought of the statistician’s work as that of measuring and predicting . . . but few of us have thought it the statistician’s duty to try to
bring about changes in the things that he [or she] measures.” —W. Edwards Deming
[I was excited to find an old fellow-traveller from years ago, Larry Sherman, quoting Dr. Deming in this publication from the Police Foundation along with some key concepts that closed the abstract — “management accountability and continuous quality improvement.” These two concepts will be vital to the continuing forward progress of American policing. While Sherman ties this in with Compstat, it is most surely applicable to every effort to improve policing — and improve it continuously!]

Evidence-Based Policing

By Larry Sherman, Police Foundation
— Abstract —
“The new paradigm of ‘evidence-based medicine’ holds
important implications for policing. It suggests that just doing
research is not enough and that proactive efforts are required to
push accumulated research evidence into practice through national
and community guidelines. These guidelines can then focus in-
house evaluations of what works best across agencies, units,
victims, and officers. Statistical adjustments for the risk factors
shaping crime can provide fair comparisons across police units,
including national rankings of police agencies by their crime
prevention effectiveness. The example of domestic violence, for
which accumulated National Institute of Justice research could
lead to evidence-based guidelines, illustrates the way in which
agency-based outcomes research could further reduce violence
against victims. National pressure to adopt this paradigm could
come from agency-ranking studies, but police agency capacity to
adopt it will require new data systems creating ‘medical charts’
for crime victims, annual audits of crime reporting systems, and
in-house ‘evidence cops’ who document the ongoing patterns
and effects of police practices in light of published and in-house
research. These analyses can then be integrated into the NYPD
Compstat feedback model for management accountability and
continuous quality improvement.”

READ the full publication HERE.


  1. I agree that we desperately need to base policy/strategy/tactics on empirical evidence. Otherwise we are reacting rather than researching. An example of what we will react to is in today’s USA Today. What passes for research can be found in this article about disparate outcomes in police pursuits.


    In that article I read this, “That difference also shows up in chases that ended in non-fatal crashes. Thousands of records obtained from Texas and Tennessee — the only two states that keep track — showed almost identical patterns.” While the writing is not as clear as I would expect from a journalist, or even a college freshman, it seems to indicate that the only two states that keep data on all police pursuits are Texas and Tennessee. I know that Pennsylvania has tracked all pursuits in that state since 1998. Here is the link to the PSP’s annual pursuit reports.


    If the authors of that article missed something as simple as which of the 50 states require police departments to report pursuit data, it causes me to doubt the accuracy of their other data and conclusions.

    I could continue in my criticisms of the USA Today article but that really isn’t the purpose of my post. The USA Today article fills a void that we created. Until police departments across America begin to empirically examine themselves and their policing environment they will have to react to what passes for empiricism. Research or react; it’s up to us.


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