A Letter from the President of the National Policing Institute
Dear Friends and Colleagues –
I am truly honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve as the 5th President of the National Policing Institute (NPI), formerly known as the National Policing Institute. Since its creation in 1970, NPI has served as an independent and preeminent voice for change and improvement in the policing profession for more than 50 years. As President, I am committed to strengthening our mission to advance policing through innovation and science – building on scientific research to change how policing and safety is provided and supported within communities, nurturing and testing new approaches, and continuing to encourage close collaboration between policing organizations and the communities they serve. Growing up in a "police family" and having served for nearly 30 years in this field, leading the Foundation's work is an incredible opportunity that I am privileged to have.
NPI has seen tremendous growth in the last decade, far beyond anything experienced since it was launched more than 50 years ago. Our funding revenues have increased fivefold since 2015, our active projects and studies have more than tripled, and our staff has grown from a small team to more than 50. This growth not only represents the hard work and results of our staff and partners but a growing commitment to leveraging science for the advancement of policing and safety.
NPI, including its current and former leaders, staff, and partners has made progress since its creation in 1970. Our first President Charles H. Rogovin, who spent dozens of years in public service, led the U.S. Department of Justice’s Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and brought great vision to the formative years of NPI. Our second President, Patrick V. Murphy, who served as the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department and police chief in other major cities, brought a commitment to science and a reformist mindset to NPI. Hubert Williams was one of our Nation’s pioneering African American police leaders, serving as an advocate for professional standards and uniform practices in policing. Redland’s California Police Chief Jim Bueermann (Ret.) brought a spirit of innovation, stimulating curiosity about police futures and technology to the Foundation. These are no small shoes to fill, and the mission of NPI today is as essential as it was in 1970. And while our mission has remained the same, our strategic priorities have shifted to urgent issues facing the policing profession. When I joined NPI, I focused on two important areas of change in policing: (1) the expansion of evidence-based policing and (2) enhancing police and community trust and engagement. In 2019, our Board of Directors and policing stakeholders reshaped our strategic priorities for the next several years to focus specifically on (1) force and firearms, (2) community trust and policing in a democracy, and (3) officer safety, wellness, and healthy police organizations. By engaging our research and evaluation strategies in these key areas, we hope to pave the way for evidence-based police reforms and leave a legacy that promotes healthy, safe, and just communities for all. We will continuously refocus these areas as needed to accomplish our vision for a world where police and communities work together to leverage the most effective practices to co-produce safe, healthy, economically thriving, and mutually trusting communities.
The Idea of Evidence-Based Policing
In 1989, NPI’s former Director of Research, and then Chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland at College Park, Dr. Larry Sherman authored one of the very first of the NPI’s Ideas In American Policing monographs, “Evidence-Based Policing.” In what was likely the very first published use of the term, a new era in policing was born and an elusive challenge began. Evidence-based policing was grounded in the idea that we must learn from what we do and harness the power of science to bring more effective policing and just outcomes to those we serve. Unfortunately, we’ve largely allowed that idea to live in parallel but often separate paths from everyday operations in organizations and institutions that are intended to ensure justice.
In January 2019, I submitted a letter to the editor at the New York Times about the tragedies of injustice that we may continue to experience, not because of malintent on the part of policing or criminal justice more broadly, but because we continuously fail to leverage the science that can help us practice better policing and better justice. Too often, we have relied on what we learned many years ago or what the “standard” or “common” practice is or has been, and rarely question the efficacy of these practices, or seek to find scientific or data-oriented alternatives. As President of NPI, I recommit to the idea of translating research into practice, consistently using evidence-based policing practices, and utilizing our efforts to enhance the profession’s commitment to science. In 2020, NPI hosted a conference that explored the lessons learned from a decade of using police body-worn cameras, both through scientific research and law enforcement practice, and later released a report entitled, “Police Body Cameras: What Have We Learned Over Ten Years of Deployment?” This year, NPI concluded an experiment on enhancing procedural justice in hot spots policing to determine if adding procedural justice components to hot spots policing has significant outcomes on affecting officer behavior, enhancing community perceptions of police legitimacy, and improving the effectiveness of hot spots policing, leading to greater long-term crime reduction. Findings will be released via peer-reviewed publications, Research in Brief for practitioners, webinars, and other dissemination methods.
While Sherman’s “Evidence-Based Policing” was published nearly 20 years after the creation of NPI, in those 20 years, many significant research experiments have been completed that continue to have a profound impact on policing today. For example, the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment was a multi-year experiment designed to test our thinking about patrol officer assignments within communities and the impact it may have on crime. The study shattered the idea that the presence or potential presence of officers patrolling the streets in marked police cars deters people from committing crimes and can positively impact the public’s sense of safety. The Foundation produced many other landmark studies and reports during these early years, including national studies on the role of women in policing, foot patrol experiments, police use of force, responses to domestic violence, and directed patrols.
Since then, we have continued to build upon our work every day. In 2016, we published a report, “Reducing Violent Crime in American Cities: An Opportunity to Lead,” providing evidence-based recommendations for strengthening federal and local partnerships while also enhancing local control of violent crime strategies. Additionally, in the same year, we released a report entitled, “Engaging Communities One Step at a Time,” which conducted a series of case studies on police use of foot patrol to develop a practical guide for police agencies, officers, and executives on how to effectively implement an evidence-based foot patrol strategy. The most important finding of the study was that foot patrol facilitated relationship-building between officers and members of the community. The power of evidence-based policing has shown that we can improve the narrative of what it means to be a police officer in this country while also working to keep our communities safe.
Police, Community Trust, and Engagement
The research conducted in the early years of the Foundation, and even more recently, has not only focused on improving police operations and the reduction of crime. Since its creation, NPI has been particularly concerned with the tensions that existed between the police and the community, and the civil unrest that occurred in many cities during the late 1960s. In its announcement of NPI’s creation, the Ford Foundation originally noted that the work of our agency was expected “to slow and eventually stop deterioration of police-community relations.” Former President and Commissioner Murphy shared the concern around this issue, raising (in his 1977 book “Commissioner”) the problem of “stranger policing”— the notion that officers patrol with “windows rolled up” making little contact with community members or anyone else while patrolling.
Now, looking ahead to the next 50 years, we are now, more than ever, focused on rebuilding trust between law enforcement and communities, particularly among minority groups who have understandable doubts and deficits of trust in policing. With this in mind, we supported the formation of the Council on Policing Reforms and Race, a majority African American-led, nonpartisan initiative that utilizes research and evidence to consider and offer recommendations to address some of the most significant and pressing issues regarding policing reforms and race. While various national panels and blue-ribbon commissions have been put forth previously to address similar areas of concern in the past, this current effort is distinguished by its aims of bringing together a broad cross-section of perspectives including those well outside of policing, infusing what we know and don’t know from science in relation to these issues, elevating the voices of Black American working inside and outside of the policing profession, and with the determination that aims to see these recommendations through to implementation. Key to these deliberations is our grounding in data and science as the basis for informed dialogue and conclusions.
Despite societal challenges, I believe that NPI must continue to play a significant role in expanding an inclusive, thoughtful, honest, and transparent discussion of policing in all communities. We must recognize the disparity between the results of the national ranking and those surveys conducted in communities of color and places of despair and work tirelessly to ensure equity and justice in policing and criminal justice practices. We will acknowledge the differing viewpoints and encourage deliberation, understanding, and collaboration to rebuild trust and confidence in policing and criminal justice, in all communities and with all groups, particularly among those who may need police services most. Our work will include a commitment to truth and transparency, accountability, and frank and constructive conversations about the realities of race, class, crime, and justice.
I’ll close with a passage from “Commissioner,” a 1977 book by NYPD Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy (Ret.) (the National Policing Institute’s 2nd President) and Thomas Plate for purposes of reflection:
“There is nothing like the National Policing Institute in the United States. The underlying thought for everything it does rests not on the proposition that American policing, with minor modifications, is in good shape but on precisely the opposite. The overall effect of the National Policing Institute may be symbolic and inspirational as much as anything else, for its very existence is probably reassuring to those in this country who are either intuitively or through experience persuaded of the need to improve policing. Its very existence means that there are persons in this country who care deeply about this improvement. It means there is a very reason to hope that someday quantum improvements will come. It means that there can be institutions like the National Policing Institute that may someday help transform policing into, if not a profession, then at least into a legitimate calling.”
Since 2019, I have been honored to serve as President of NPI and to work with such an incredibly talented staff and a cadre of fellows and subject matter experts. Together and with the leadership of law enforcement throughout the United States and internationally, we will make positive changes in policing and in our communities.
Acting Assistant Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives, U.S. Department of Justice (2014-2015)
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice (2011-2014)
Acting Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice (2009-2011)
Honors & Affiliations
George Mason University, Department of Criminology, Law, and Society
Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame
George Mason University, Department of Criminology, Law, and Society
Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy
Street Law, Inc.
National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund
National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation