After the Webinar: Evidence Based Policing. Q&A with Dr. Gary Cordner

Webinar presenter Dr. Gary Cordner answered a number of your questions after his presentation, "Evidence-Based Policing: A Practical Approach." Here are a few of his responses.


Audience Question: What do you define as internal or external conditions? Can you explain those two terms? 

Dr. Gary Cordner: What I had in mind with external conditions are things in the community such as crime, fear of crime and so forth. I think of it as situational awareness. One of the things that the police agency ought to want to know about what is going on in its jurisdiction to enable it to be as effective as possible. External is really outside the boundaries of the agency itself and internal is inside the agency. The conditions inside the organization including conditions for employee and so forth. I'm reminded of a work that was done in the Madison Wisconsin Police Department in the 1990s. They developed what they call an inside-out approach. The chief of the time, David Cooper, came to the conclusion that the first thing he needed to do in the department changed the way he managed the agency and change the conditions inside the police department so that people are treated with more respect and there was procedural justice inside the agency. Once that was accomplished, then he can be more demanding of officers and employees in terms of changing the way they did their work with the public – treating the public with respect and professionalism. Taking that phrase, inside-out approach makes a lot of sense. It emphasizes that internal conditions in the police department really matter because it can be a necessary prerequisite to trying to ask employees and the organization to do a better job.


Audience Question: How is CompStat related to the Evidence-Based Policing approach? 

Dr. Gary Cordner: CompStat has been around now for a couple of decades, it came out of NYPD. I think as CompStat was originally designed. It was almost entirely focused on reducing crime so in that sense, this framework of EBP I would say is broader than CompStat because it tries to emphasize that there's a whole range of outcomes that matter and crime is one – arguably the most serious one, or the top priority, maybe. But it's only one.

However, it's also true I think that in a lot of jurisdictions, CompStat has evolved in the early 90s and has gotten broader. But all in all, EBP's still a little bit broader than CompStat. Of course, most of us are aware of the criticisms of the early version of CompStat, is that there wasn't very much analysis. It identified where the crimes are happening and do something to make the numbers go down. There wasn't always much effort toward figuring out why those crimes are clustered where they were, figuring out if there were underlying conditions and doing something about that, or determining what it was that the police did that caused those numbers to go down. To some extent, the early version of CompStat seems to most people like whack-a-mole. It wasn't really evidence-based, it was probably data-driven but ultimately, not necessarily evidence-based.



Audience Question: How do you determine which outcome is more important when you have limited resources in terms of implementing the options you've come up with? 

Dr. Gary Cordner: That's a big question. I don't think there's a scientific answer to that. I suppose you could in any particular jurisdiction, do some public survey and find out from the people the relative importance let's say of those seven outcomes and then adjust the PD's attention based on the public's ranking or rating of that. That would be quite an exercise and on top of that, I think a lot of places, the public's rating or ranking will change over time depending on what happened last night. To make it even worse, it might feel like the public's view of what's most important might depend on what happened last night a thousand miles away that they read about on the internet. I think getting public input about what are the most important outcomes will be a smart thing to do and will be helpful. Ultimately, I think that's why we pay police executives big bucks. That's where their wisdom, experience, and judgment has to come into play. Again, I don't think there's an equation for this necessarily. It varies from place to place. The town I happen to live in right now, I think the biggest complaint about people is that they have a hard time crossing Main Street because drivers don't slow down for people in crosswalks. Probably that's not the biggest issue for others but in the PD here where I live, maybe that's the most important outcome and they should devote a lot of attention to that because in people's mind that's very serious here. Other places have relative priorities that will be a lot different. Ultimately, you'll have to figure out priorities.


Audience Question: Do you find that some law enforcement agencies on a county level, for example, don't wish to share EBP practices? If so, why does that happen and what could be done to overcome this obstacle? 

Dr. Gary Cordner: My sense is, when agencies think they're doing something that's working, they usually like to publicize it and get credit for publicly. I think the vast majority of the people in the police field want to share what they learn with others. Though, surely there are exceptions. I think your question is on the county level. I don't know anything from my own experience or what I've read that would indicate that a county agency contrast to city or town or state would have a different stance regarding that. 



Audience Question: A lot of agencies won't have the human resources or the talent necessary to do the research that you're talking about, do you have recommendations on how we might be able to reach out and involve our local colleges to be able to help to do this kind of analysis and recommendation? 

Dr. Gary Cordner: Collect data or analyze data or do studies. One thing you'll learn from NIJ LEADS program is there are immensely talented people in all kinds of agencies around the country. So I guess the response to your question, I would encourage any agency to take a look inside and make sure you do have people, who have got the skills necessary to do some kind of a study because a lot of agency are sometimes surprised at the talent level of people that they have and a lot of agency underutilize the talent that they have. But having said that, it can be a challenge, you know, college professors believe it or not are busy, they are not as helpful and not be able to as helpful as local agencies might wish because they are just pretty tied up in teaching classes, advising students and so on. I know it’s hard to believe that a college professor could be that busy. There are a lot of criminal justice programs around the country, there are a lot of faculties and local colleges and universities and criminal justice or sociology or psychology or other related fields. They do have the skills, the research skills to help an agency that you evaluate, in a particular practice or help them analyze a particular problem and figure out what's going on and they don't always expect to get paid as you said. Sometimes an opportunity to work with the local agency is actually quite appealing to a local professor, if you find the right one. Access to data which you can give them an opportunity to use that data once they help you figure your thing out, if you can allow them to use that data to try and get a publication and they get something out from it for their career as well as helping the agency up. I always urge, especially young professors when they are asking "how can I get to a police station and get data?" I always urge them to reach out without any expectation that they'll be paid. After reaching out to agencies and say is there anything that I can do with it that could be helpful to you. The other thing is we always encourage professors to develop relationships with agencies, not just with chiefs, that can last over time and like any relationship that once you build trust in both ways then it’s much more likely that you'll be able to do something useful and on the researcher side that you are able to gain access and get data because the agency trust that you are not going to use it to burn them in the local newspaper or something. On reaching out, keep your eyes open, be aware, not every college professor actually has great research skills, don’t assume that they all do, so you got to check them out a little bit. And also set some ground rules. I think the IACP has got a model policy on how to create a partnership with the local researcher including locals in college or university, it's probably worth looking at that since I think there are some tips in there and some mistakes to avoid.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of "Evidence-Based Policing: A Practical Approach."


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