After the Webinar: Mental Models. Q&A with Renee Mitchell

Webinar presenter Dr. Renee Mitchell answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Mental Models: A Method for Attacking any Policing Problem. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: Does your book cover everything that you talked about in this presentation, as well? She would love to share it with agency leadership and her head researcher.

Renée J. Mitchell: Yeah, the book covers all the mental models, and the ones that I missed too, covers all 21.


Audience Question: A presenter in a crime analysis webinar I attended last week suggested that it was hard to do randomized control trials in policing because you can’t not respond to crime. How might you respond to this statement? 

Renée J. Mitchell: So, if you think about it, and you’re never not responding to crime, that’s not your control. Your control would be that you respond, as you typically do. So, in the hot spot policing study, that the first one I did, the treatment was to do high visibility 15 minutes as many times between calls for service as you could in those hot spots. And the control area the officers didn’t know where the control area was. So, you’re still responding, you’re still patrolling those areas in your standard police patrol manner. Medicine’s the same way. It’s not it’s usually not a matter of withholding, it’s a matter of business as usual is what they call it, so depending on what intervention you’re doing in policing, your control will be business as usual. The problem is that like if the community hears about it, often they’ll think well, different is better. I can give you study after study after study that shows that the better thing we did actually had a backfire effect scared straight increased crime. I showed you critical incident stress debriefing actually increased PTSD outcomes. What are the other ones? DARE has increased the use of nicotine and alcohol. So, like, different doesn’t mean better. That’s why you want to test it against your business, as usual, because business as usual might be the better strategy.


Audience Question: Are there ethical issues if we withhold intervention from a section of the city that needs help? And based on what I just heard; you’re not withholding intervention. You’re not responding. You’re just not responding in this new way if I understand that correctly. 

Renée J. Mitchell: Yeah. And often, depending on what the intervention is, there are often limited resources too. It’s the way medicine, especially in areas of dire poverty, has done it because often you don’t have enough of the resource for everybody, right? So, and with RCTs, there are ways to set up a design where you might do it where like this wave gets the intervention first, and then you have a delayed second wave. So, you still get a comparison group in there. But because you have limited resources, just everybody’s not getting it all at once. So, there are different designs you can do, and I know everybody thinks about ethics. But once again, you don’t know that the different thing is better unless you test it, unless there’s evidence, unless there’s research that says here, we know conclusively that this intervention reduces crime, reduces calls for service X, Y, and Z, then, there’s really nothing that says that the different approach is better for the community — and there’s an article written by Weisburd about ethics and RCTs in criminal…


Audience Question: Have you ever reviewed a tribal police department to assist and where to start with crime analysis due to complexities with jurisdiction? 

Renée J. Mitchell: No, I’ve actually never worked with tribal police departments before, and I know that it is a very complex issue.


Audience Question: What organization did you mention that supports law enforcement self-research? I think it was around slide 40ish or so. 

Renée J. Mitchell: The NIJ LEADS, the Law Enforcement Advancing Data Science, so I think they might be open right now for taking applications. So, they take 10 a year of sworn practitioners. And they also take, I think, 3 or 4 non-sworn practitioners. And the program is built to one, you kind of get the community of other, like-minded people that are trying to learn and do their own research in their organizations. And so, you are a LEADS scholar for three years. You go to IACP. You go to the George Mason’s Center for Evidence-Based Policy Conference every year, but it’s really it’s a great program. And, as I said, I think the application still might be open or closing soon.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Mental Models: A Method for Attacking any Policing Problem.  



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