New Center for Police Research and Policy Takes on Pressing Issues

A new partnership is bringing together law enforcement and academic researchers to develop police policies and practices to best serve communities. The collaboration will leverage the different research strengths of academia and police organizations.

Both the law enforcement community and the academic community conduct research on police issues, but they typically operate independently. To break down those silos and bring together their efforts on a large scale, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, University of Cincinnati, and Laura and John Arnold Foundation have created the IACP/UC Center for Police Research and Policy.

We need more law enforcement agencies partnering with academic institutions. It may change the narrative.

The center will conduct research that produces data and recommendations that police agencies can act on. The goal “is to provide a path for law enforcement and researchers to work together on evidence-based research studies that will drive future practices and policies,” said IACP President Terrence Cunningham, chief of the Wellesley (Massachusetts) Police Department, in a statement. “Academic researchers often don’t have access to data police departments collect. Additionally, research does not provide actionable recommendations that can be easily translated into specific policies and practices that could enhance policing.”

The center will evaluate police practices for effectiveness and fairness, and it will facilitate the exchange of information between the police and academic communities.

This is the first time these two communities have collaborated on such a large scale, said Domingo Herraiz, IACP director of programs. He noted that some universities work with local police agencies, but “this is broader.”

“There’s a lot of research out there, but there are gaps,” Herraiz said. The center will “help identify where there are gaps.” Police agencies conduct research, but it may not be scientifically developed—and, on the other hand, academic research may not lend itself to policy recommendations, he explained.

“We need more law enforcement agencies partnering with academic institutions,” Herraiz said. This will yield best practices and help police agencies with curriculum development, and if it produces compelling evidence, it may even change how police are certified, he said. “It may change the narrative.”

The center is intended to be a model for law enforcement agencies and academic researchers working together to help protect communities, safeguard citizens’ rights, and ensure fair treatment of all people. This collaboration might create research hubs in different areas, Herraiz said.

Robin Engle, the University of Cincinnati’s vice president for safety and reform, will lead the center. She is “well known in police circles and in the academic community,” particularly for looking at issues from a citizen perspective rather than from a police point of view, Herraiz noted. The center will have staff at the university and at IACP headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The center was funded by a $3.3 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

In its first three years, the center plans to create a national policy for conducting police research and for police-researcher collaborations, launch at least three research projects targeting urgent issues, and translate research reports written for an academic audience into actionable items that practitioners can implement.

The next step is to decide what issues the center will focus on. That process is set to begin in June.


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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