Mental Models: A Method for Attacking any Policing Problem

Mental Models: A Method for Attacking any Policing Problem
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-05-17
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Mental Models
Unit 2Transcript: Mental Models
Unit 3Workbook: Mental Models
Unit 4Recording: Mental Models

Numerous programs are being implemented in law enforcement in attempt to combat existing problems that plague the community – some of which achieve the goals they set out, some not quite. This session shares mental models that can be applied to track the accomplishment of strategies employed to measure effectiveness vis-à-vis goals and to ensure all policing efforts undertaken and sustained are evidence-based.

This session’s instructor is Renée J. Mitchell. She is currently a Senior Police Researcher with RTI International. She served with the Sacramento PD for 22 years, a co-founder of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing, was a Fulbright Police Research Fellow, a National Police Foundation and BetaGov Fellow, a member of the George Mason Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame, and a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge.

Specifics of the webinar are about:

  • An overview of the content of the book Twenty-one Mental Models That Can Change Policing, what the 21 models are, and their scope.
  • What System 1 and System 2 Thinking is.
  • How Cognitive Biases get in the way of System 2 Thinking, how it impacts sense-making, its types, the importance of being aware of these, and the process of forming belief systems.
  • Applying First Principles Thinking to break down beliefs and assumptions until it arrives at base facts supported by evidence and data.
  • The tendency for False Linear Thinking when attempting to predict how trajectories progress over time that fails to account for real-world changes and conditions.
  • The conundrum with Binary Percent Changes and how it may precede misleading cause-and-effect conclusions.
  • How the Pareto Principle, Law of Crime Concentration, and Crime Concentrates within People all point towards a precise approach to problem-solving in policing.
  • How Distribution, Law of Large Numbers, and Regression to the Means create better understanding of research sampling and how trends develop over time, and make sense of fallacies that may be attributed as causation.
  • Understanding why Correlation is not Causation given the number of variables at play alongside an intervention that may skew its actual effect.
  • The components required in Causal Inference to establish a causal link and the formula to apply to isolate the effect of an intervention.
  • The importance of Peer Review in overcoming cognitive bias, ensuring that sampling, sources and methodologies are valid and reliable, and verifying results and conclusions.
  • Leveraging the Scientific Method to synthesize observations, questions, hypotheses, predictions, and data into general theories.
  • Evidence-Based Practices (EBP)
    • What it is, entails, looks like, and its basic standard.
    • Why it is crucial that policing initiatives support an evidence-based approach.
    • An exercise that integrates all the mental models discussed so far to assess the accomplishment vis-à-vis goals and overall success of law enforcement programs
    • Differentiating between output and outcomes.
  • The inherent complexity of policing and crime that requires the understanding and application of mental models to arrive at better decisions and implement the most effective strategies.

Points raised during the Q&A were about:

  • The scope of the book Twenty-one Mental Models That Can Change Policing.
  • What a control group looks like in policing.
  • Ethical issues in withholding intervention for specific segments of society.
  • Crime analysis which tends to be complex in tribal jurisdictions.
  • Organizations that support law enforcement self-research.


Webinars with these Speakers


Or click here to view and register for other upcoming ASEBP webinars on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Most valuable take-away: Evidence-based policing is NOT a strategy it is a WAY OF THINKING!” — Roseann
  • “The entire thing was useful and helped to put research in a new perspective.” — Dana
  • “There are so many things to get out of this webinar. I would like to see a future webinar or series of webinars going more deeply into conducting research at the agency level.” — Frank
  • “The idea of “regression to the mean” was new to me and create a whole new consideration when looking at data. I also found the entire “mental models” concept helpful, and also the ways to know if something is being done well in research according to the scientific method rather than just playing on preconceptions tied to perceived results. The percentages description was also very good…it’s something that often trips folks up…100% increase could mean something went from one incident to two. Thanks!” — Mary
  • “I was intrigued by having control groups with trying out a new approach, ie targeted policing or group violence intervention. Look forward to pushing for that in my city. Lack of linearity and deceptive stats was also very enlightening as our city tries to say whatever they are doing is responsible for the reduction in murders here. NO causality whatsoever but very deceptive.” — Mary
  • “This has been the best webinar I have ever attended. Wonderful stories/examples with very clear, efficient PowerPoint! Thank you! Makes me want to come back, especially for Renee Mitchell’s work.” — Rod
  • “Excellent Presentation.” — Robert



The American Society of EvidenceBased Policing is a non-profit organization started by working police officers designed to drive the national conversation towards ensuring that the least harmful, most effective, fairest, and safest strategies are employed to prevent crime, reduce harm, and improve community wellness.





Additional Resources
1 year ago
Online Course: Introduction to the Inductive Interview System
Built on the foundation of time-tested interviewing principles, the Inductive Interview System bring […]
1 year ago
After the Webinar: Mental Models. Q&A with Renee Mitchell
Webinar presenter Dr. Renee Mitchell answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Men […]
3 years ago
You don’t just need MORE data. You need the RIGHT data.
Data-driven and evidence-based approach is the buzzword in almost any industry lately. With all the […]
3 years ago
Understanding Implicit Bias: Research and Reality
Implicit bias is a hot issue that the Justice Clearinghouse has covered in past webinars. However, m […]
4 years ago
Thoughts about Evidence Based Policing from Dr. Renee Mitchell
Such a great reminder about the importance of evidence-based practices in policing that Dr. Renee Mi […]
4 years ago
Beyond Compstat: The Role of EBP in Policing
Evidence-based policing (EBP) is more than a buzzword or trendy approach in law enforcement. It is a […]