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Chapter 10: Evidence-based policing


This chapter explores various dimensions of evidence-based policing that are relevant to decision-makers in police organizations. The chapter begins by defining evidence-based policing before describing four main types of evidence, incorporating research, professional, organizational and stakeholder perspectives. A discussion of experience follows, including warnings around confirmation bias. A section of the chapter aims to help police officers understand the varying levels of research evidence and lists a number of websites that summarize research findings for police operational decision making. The last section of the chapter briefly discusses how individual officers can start their own research projects and learn what works in their own professional context. A bullet point summary of the key points completes the chapter.

Headings and sub-headings

Policing as a science
Evidence and experience
Understanding research studies
Where to find existing evidence
Bringing together the evidence
Starting to develop your own evidence
Chapter summary

Additional links

The Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy has a series of evidence-based policing pages that include an EBP hall of fame and links to the other resources. Police Foundation President Jim Bueermann has a nice summary of what EBP means to a policing. The original Sherman manuscript outlining a first view of evidence-based policing is available on the website of the Police Foundation

An extensive, if polemic, review of the Drug Abuse Resistance program (DARE) is available here

Current websites for various evidence-based policing societies are...

Where to find existing evidence

Vignette author Renée Mitchell has contributed two TEDx talks. In one she ties evidence-based policing to one of her domestic violence investigations. In the second, she examines the challenges of bringing an evidence base to communications in policing.  

Vignette author Roger Pegram recently spoke at the 2018 UK Police Foundation conference on the topic of the evidence base around what works to combat knife crime (fast forward to 12:00 minutes for Roger's presentation). 

A deeper dive

If you want a deeper dive into level 5* of the evidence hierarchy, there is a useful blog here about the difference between a systematic review and a meta-analysis.

An example of iatrogenic policing, activities that are actually harmful, can be found in the unfortunate evidence around Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) that is still conducted by many police departments unfamiliar with the evidence. 

One-page research primers

Hot spots policing

Gun buy-backs

Body-worn cameras


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Here is a 13 minute video to help you understand the evidence hierarchy. 

Vignette authors

Renée Mitchell 

Renée J. Mitchell has served in the Sacramento Police Department for twenty years and is currently a Police Sergeant. She is the President of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco, a Master of Business Administration from the California State University, Sacramento, a Juris Doctorate from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Criminology from the University of Cambridge. She was the 2009/2010 Fulbright Police Research Fellow where she attended the University of Cambridge Police Executive Program. You can view her TEDx talks, “Research not protests” and “Policing Needs to Change: Trust me I’m a Cop”, where she advocates for evidence-based policing. 

You can follow Renée Mitchell on twitter at @DrReneeMitchell

Roger Pegram

Roger is the current Vice Chair of the Society of Evidence Based Policing, police inspector with Greater Manchester Police and Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge. He is a passionate advocate and international public speaker on the topic of using research in policing to make informed decisions. Roger has a wealth of experience in numerous operational and strategic roles, particularly in the area of complex investigation, cyber-crime, public order, organizational restructuring and police education. Roger’s research has mainly focused on the implementation and tracking of policing experiments. In 2016 Roger was commended by the College of Policing for his ‘creating a culture of curiosity’ seminars and his work in embedding evidence based practice in policing, which was described as ‘transformational’.  Roger is quoted as saying ‘it is of paramount importance that we learn what policing methods are most effective, as this is about community safety and keeping people safe’. You can follow Roger Pegram on twitter at @EBPegram

Chapter-related review questions

Chapter 10: According to the U.K. College of Policing’s working definition, “in an evidence-based policing approach, police officers and staff create, review and use the best available evidence to _______ and _____ policies, practices and decisions.” What are the missing words?
A.    Accept and expand
B.    Reinforce and sustain
C.    Inform and challenge
D.    Argue and discuss
Chapter 10: A term for people who are both academics engaged in research and publishing, and active police officers is what?
A.    Researcher-cop
B.    Lawenfanalyst
C.    Pracademic
D.    Book cop
Chapter 10: What type of evidence relevant to police decision-making is described as "usually published in academic journals and books"?
A.    Scientific
B.    Organizational
C.    Professional
D.    Stakeholder
Chapter 10: What type of evidence relevant to police decision-making is described as the "tacit understanding of problems that officers and detectives build up over time"?
A.    Scientific
B.    Organizational
C.    Professional
D.    Stakeholder
Chapter 10: What type of evidence relevant to police decision-making is described as coming from "Any person or group that is likely to be affected by the outcome of your project"?
A.    Scientific
B.    Organizational
C.    Professional
D.    Stakeholder
Chapter 10: What type of evidence relevant to police decision-making can consist of "employee information, financial breakdowns, internal affairs records, and sickness reports"?
A.    Scientific
B.    Organizational
C.    Professional
D.    Stakeholder
Chapter 10: Professional experience differs from personal experience because professional experience does what?
A.    Involves the professional experience of practitioners
B.    Asks practitioners for their perspective
C.    Involves research from pracademics
D.    Pools the knowledge of many practitioners
Chapter 10: When we cherry-pick information that fits our assumptions and beliefs, we commit what?
A.    Implementation evaluation error
B.    Availability bias
C.    Confirmation bias
D.    Stakeholder bias
Chapter 10: Which of the following is NOT one of the four components of methodologically rigorous evaluations?
A.    A plausible mechanism
B.    Temporal causality
C.    Statistical correlation
D.    Reject competing explanations
Chapter 10: Which of the following is ranked zero (0) and is at the bottom of the evidence hierarchy for policy decision-making?
A.    Anecdotes
B.    Quality longitudinal analyses
C.    Randomized controlled experiments
D.    Systematic reviews
Chapter 10: Which of the following is ranked 5-star (5*) and is at the top of the evidence hierarchy for policy decision-making?
A.    Anecdotes
B.    Quality longitudinal analyses
C.    Randomized controlled experiments
D.    Systematic reviews
Chapter 10: Which of the following is NOT a part of the five-stage process for building evidence into decision-making?
A.    Review organizational evidence
B.    Canvas stakeholders
C.    Gather your personal experience
D.    Collate scientific research
Chapter 10: The Society of Evidence Based Policing is run only by academics. True or false?
A.    TRUE

Select another chapter: Chp 1  |  Chp 2  |  Chp 3  |  Chp 4  |  Chp 5  |  Chp 6  |  Chp 7  |  Chp 8  |  Chp 9  |  Chp 10  |  Chp 11

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