Exploring evidence-based policing
Exploring evidence-based policing

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Exploring evidence-based policing

4 Putting evidence-based policing into practice

There is no doubt that EBP offers great opportunities within policing. A number of highly publicized pieces of EBP research have had an impact on policing in various areas and the College of Policing summarises much of the research on the effectiveness of the most common interventions in their Crime Reduction Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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Figure 3 How effective are body cameras in policing?

In 2015, the College of Policing published a report on the effectiveness of Body Worn Video (BWV) in policing in London. This extract from the report provides a useful insight into the evidence-based approach taken:

Given growing interest in BWV across England and Wales this trial starting in May 2014 sought to test a consistent approach to the distribution of approximately 500 cameras across Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) in ten London boroughs. The basic premise of introducing BWV was that the presence of a camera and the captured footage would improve CJ [criminal justice] outcomes because the quantity and quality of available evidence would increase, thereby supporting victims and witnesses. In addition, it would introduce a layer of accountability for the police and public, which would impact on the quality and nature of interactions – reducing complaints and the number of stops and searches. London’s ‘Global City’ status, with around 31,000 officers, means this trial will address an evidence gap on the impact of BWV in a larger UK force.

(Grossmith et al., 2015, p.5)

The full College of Policing report outlines in detail the process taken and the conclusions reached.

One useful approach for evaluating interventions such as this has been called EMMIE and this is summarised in the table below:

Table 1 The EMMIE Model

Effect ​Impact on crime Whether the evidence suggests the intervention led to an increase, decrease or had no impact on crime.
Mechanism How it works What is it about the intervention that could explain its effect?
Moderators Where it works ​In what circumstances and contexts is the intervention likely to work / not work?
Implementation ​How to do it ​What conditions should be considered when implementing an intervention locally?
Economic Cost ​How much it costs What direct or indirect costs are associated with the intervention and is there evidence of cost benefits?
Source: College of Policing

Activity 3 Putting EBP into practice

In Video 2, Superintendent Gordon McCalmont of the Police Service of Northern Ireland discusses some of the challenges and opportunities of putting evidence-based policing into practice.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2
Skip transcript: Video 2 Superintendent Gordon McCalmont, Police Service of Northern Ireland

Transcript: Video 2 Superintendent Gordon McCalmont, Police Service of Northern Ireland

My name's Gordon McCalmont. I'm a superintendent in the police service of Northern Ireland. I have 27 years of policing experience and I'm currently on the command team in Derry City and Strabane. I was very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to study at Cambridge University and get a really significant insight in the evidence-based policing. And the most compelling way it was explained to me is we compare policing to the medical profession and the medical profession's buildup of years and years of evidence, really in-depth research. And if we want to professionalize policing, we have to apply the same rigor and the same evaluations to the work that we are undertaking as a police service protecting communities.
Following that insight, so I was very fortunate in making connections and talking to people. So I had the opportunity to-- stop and search, a really controversial issue within policing, and I was able to reach out and meet people from Australia who had done some fantastic experiments around applying the principles of procedural justice to stop and search. And I took up learning some work we'd done with probationers there and brought it back and looked at the host environment in Derry City and Strabane, and developed a course around stop and search.
I've also been really invested in terms of crime prevention, and early intervention, and working in partnership with the education authority, working with young people, trauma-informed approaches, ensuring young people aren't criminalized, applying evidence-based practices and working with academics also. And not to mean-- better outcomes for the community is where it really starts for me. So that's individuals, communities, and organizations. If we apply the rigor and the evidence base there, it's better outcomes for everybody across the place. It's our responsibility as a policing service to apply the appropriate evidences there and be reaching out and see what's going on across the world, and gathering that evidence base and applying it to the interventions that we are applying as a police service of Northern Ireland.
And the biggest advantage to me personally as-- whenever I'm invested in working with those young people, delivering interventions, doing something that I know makes a difference, and again, that goes beyond me. It's every colleague, every member of staff, whenever they're operationalizing in interventions that they're applying in evidence-based. And again, the reward and the fulfillment that comes with that is substantial, as a police officer.
Yeah, indeed, obviously, we've made substantial growing. But I still believe we've some way to go. We're a very proud profession, lots of professional judgment. Sometimes you just need to step back from that and be scanning and looking to see what is the best evidence practice. And there's some real challenges. It's a rigorous environment. We're always looking for quick solutions. But sometimes we just need to put the brakes on and step back, make sure we've got the right evaluation, because what is really important is that we're doing stuff, we're actually creating the evidence base also, so the evaluation has to be correct. And we're always looking for results as policing services to protect communities.
Community expectations, real challenges as imply in some of the stuff with the interventions, no community expectations. Whenever there is a burglary, they just want us to respond quite rightly with lots of police resource, but the reality is that could just be regression to the mean, whenever we look at the data and start examining the evidence base around it. If we look at the evidence base around hotspots, locations and offenders, it's quite compelling with durable hotspots that we need to maintain in other areas, yet the community's telling us we need to be in such and such an area.
Policing, we can be risk-averse about new interventions or taking an issue of some other parts of the world. Our own culture is this is the way we do things around here. We've always done it. But I really do think, rather than being a boxer on the ropes, taking the punches, we need to step outside and look at the evidence base across the world and start drawing in new practices and new interventions. And policing, by its very nature, it's about crisis management and creating that space so that we can look at prevention and early intervention. Can be a real challenge as we manage the demands on a day-to-day basis, and also for the aspects of setting up an evidence-based policing unit. Where do you find the resource? Where do you find the finances for that with the challenges of the ongoing demand?
Key for me in the process is that I applied, as I said, evidence-based policing goes beyond me. It's every colleague operationalized. And so we use the Sahara model. And I think whenever we're applying the analysis aspect, we're reaching out. And I find very useful the toolkit on the College of Policing website, which we can draw down at and give us an insight to what is the evidence base around certain interventions.
Because there are all interventions out there that have been proven to cause harm. If we look at Scared Straight, an intervention with young juveniles being taken to prisons to get an insight, that was actually shown to increase offending. So we need to look at other stuff that we know doesn't work. And the focus, again, whenever it comes to the assessment through the Sahara model, that we're ensuring that we know whenever we get to the end of the intervention or a year in the intervention, how do we tell how that works? How do we know we have a responsibility to be adding and supporting the development of that evidence base?
And a key is collaboration, reaching out to partners who have their own evidence bases. I talked about young people earlier, getting an understanding of what works with them. And my learning around that was with young people and the real positive outcomes in terms of peer support, mentoring, having a real difference in young people, and ensuring they don't go down the difficult pathways.
And indeed with communities as well, and getting them to understand them, because they'll have their own evidence base of what has worked before and what hasn't worked. And it's really about gathering that information and getting a real keen insight.
And as police officers, I was as guilty as anyone. You stand and you'd be an academic tone, this might be the way to do stuff or that might be the stuff, we can be resistant, but the reality is whenever we get some balance, common ground, some of the evidence based on, again, I mentioned around places, I mentioned around the concentration and in terms of offenders, and the data around that is very, very compelling. And as a policing service, we have to listen.
End transcript: Video 2 Superintendent Gordon McCalmont, Police Service of Northern Ireland
Video 2 Superintendent Gordon McCalmont, Police Service of Northern Ireland
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As discussed in the clip, putting evidence-based policing approaches into practice brings great opportunity to enhance policing and better serve communities. Yet it also comes with challenges and is not always easy to do correctly. Nonetheless, the benefits far outweigh the challenges and any opportunity to implement evidence-based approaches should be embraced.


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