Monday, December 15, 2008

Work the field

I spent last Friday in Washington, DC at a meeting convened by the National Institute of Justice--the research arm of the Department of Justice. I had been invited, along with about a dozen other criminal justice practitioners and academicians, to participate in a discussion of strategies for improving the implementation of research-based strategies in the field. NIJ wants to improve the uptake of research findings by practitioners.

Personally, I think they do a very good job of disseminating the most important research in criminal justice. Conference presentations, publication in professional journals, the NIJ website, and a variety of concise, summary reports aimed at practitioners are used to get the word out about new findings from NIJ funded research. To the extent that important findings sometimes fail to result in research-based strategies by practitioners in the field, I don't think this is due to lack of effort by the NIJ.

Rather, I believe that we are not prepared to assimilate the results of research very well. There is a whole body of knowledge out there about research-based strategies in policing, but it does not always find fertile ground in the field. I tend to hang out with like-minded chiefs who are constantly scanning for the latest-and-greatest information about "what works," but I think this is the exception, rather than the rule. As a profession we need to do a better job in colleges and universities, police academies, and professional development training preparing our personnel to use the results of good research to guide their actions and decisions. Other fields do a comparatively better job of this--medicine and education come to mind.

On a Sunday drive last week, my mother-in-law Joyce Wagner--a farm girl at heart, made a Nebraska observation that fits very well: "That field's already been worked," she said. It was a compliment. She saw a hillside of dark earth in an otherwise muted landscape, indicating that an enterprising farmer had already put the disc to a harvested field: turning over the earth, loosening the ground, preparing the field to accept next spring's planting. More of that needs to happen in policing.


Anonymous said...

The studies are great because it can identify the scientifically based best practice with attention to the crime. Health care is similar in a sense that there are items called Core Measures. Currently there in the areas of Heart Failure, AMI, Pneunomia and Surgical site infection. Each of these measures has subsets that identifies what is best for hte patient on fighting infections or recieving the right ani-botiotics in timely manner.

My point is that just as the NIJ may find "best practices" in law enforcement through their studies there will still be a wall. In health care, some physicians call Core Measures "cookbook medicine" because it takes the art of of the practice. Law Enforcement may see a similar type inital resistance because of the dynamics of a certain type of crime.

But as the last year and half has shown, the quality in health care has improved with Core Measures.

Good Luck in your endeavour.

Anonymous said...

Just don't apply "NO TILL" to police work Chief. Then again it works in farming because of applied chemicals. Now if our police could just spray citizens to control the weeds. Wow, what an idea.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

To make another ag analogy: LE might pull dangerous weeds out of the field, but plea deals, short sentencing, and early-release throw them right back in the furrow to continue their malevolent activity. Weed apologists won't let us simply destroy the worst weeds - the ones that you pull repeatedly but keep re-rooting as soon as the courts throw them back on the field, and that is a head-scratcher. It's almost like they don't really want those really bad weeds gone.