Police-Led Field Experiments: Lessons from the NIJ’s LEADS Scholars Program

Police-Led Field Experiments: Lessons from the NIJ's LEADS Scholars Program
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Resources
Recorded on: 2019-07-11
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Police-Led Field Experiments: Lessons from the NIJ’s LEADS Scholars Program
Unit 2 Workbook: Police-Led Field Experiments: Lessons from the NIJ's LEADS Scholars Program
Unit 3 Recording: Police-Led Field Experiments

When it comes to policing initiatives, it really helps not having to start from scratch. Evidence-based policing (EBP) advocates an approach that does not involve reinventing the wheel, instead, it provides tried and tested ways that can be improved and customized to whatever the jurisdiction needs. EBP likewise supports innovative solutions and approaches, and testing efficacy first before actual implementation.

As the research and science branch of the US-Department of Justice, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is in the forefront of advancing Evidence-Based Policing efforts. Through their Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science (LEADS) program, they select scholars from law enforcement agencies across the US for an opportunity to further their interest in research and in effect influence policing.

On this course, two LEADS scholars – Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson from the Darien (Connecticut) Police Department and Lieutenant Jason Potts from the Vallejo (California) Police Department – showcase how their respective jurisdiction utilized resources and capabilities through the LEADS program to test the effectiveness of their patrol techniques.

Specifics discussed in this session include:

  • An overview of the NIJ, its initiatives and the LEADS Scholars program which the speakers are/were a part of.
  • A look into Darien PD’s Shoreline Cruise Light Experiment that aims to understand the relationship between crime and police visibility on patrol.
    • The visibility spectrum based on the types of patrol cars used.
    • The context by which the experiment was conducted to address vehicle burglary and auto theft.
    • The Randomized Controlled Trial of cruise lights done in 122 days with 61 shifts with cruise lights on and 61 shifts with cruise lights off.
    • The outcomes that saw a decline across various related crimes, albeit not statistically significant correlation.
    • Takeaways from the experiment highlighting the importance of officer safety, across the board buy-in, timeline flexibility, research credibility through measurable variables, fidelity, replication, and communicating findings to the community.
  • Vallejo PD’s series of experiments supporting evidence-based policing on areas of theft deterrence, police visibility, and virtual reality training.
    • The 55-day HideIt-LockIt-TakeIt study targeted at shopping centers where chronic thieves of electronic gadgets and power tools abound.
      • Employing patrol cars, bulletin boards, flyers, social media, and other technology in an effort to deter theft.
      • The results that found the significant correlation of field interrogations to decreasing cases of theft and increasing arrests.
    • The 34-day Cruise Light Randomized Controlled trial, a replication of Darien PD’s initiative.
      • Testing for 17 days without lights and 17 days with lights that created an uncomfortable environment for criminals to commit crimes.
      • The results that found how auto-related crimes decreased and officers tend to be more active with citizen contact when cruise lights are on.
    • The three-year comparison for theft deterrence strategies between a controlled area and an intervention area.
      • How intervention created a significant decline in motor vehicle theft (MVT).
      • The significance of differentiating actual effects of a change versus regression to the means.
    • The Virtual Reality RCT conducted at the ASEBP Conference that aims to understand how virtual reality augments police training.
      • The VR Scenario and the conditions that are expected to affect the outcomes.
      • The participants in the VR exercise.
      • The response of the participants to the VR RCT that established the effectiveness of police training
    • Key takeaways that demonstrate
      • How BetaGov can simplify police research and still provide meaningful insights.
      • The importance of doing comparisons with a control group to be able to correctly attribute the cause of findings and the success of an intervention.
      • How research can enhance law enforcement practices.
      • The need to acknowledge challenges and working towards minimizing these.
    • Topics raised during the Q&A were about:
      • The meaning of the term ‘primed’.
      • Learning more about the LEADS program, who qualifies to be part of it. the researches and their outcomes.
      • Data collection for the research.
      • Determining the duration when studies are conducted.
      • What does statistical significance mean.
      • What are cruise lights.
      • Getting buy in from the leadership and across all involved ranks on the research.
      • The goal of the LEADS program.
      • Next steps, updates, and what to expect on Jason and Jeremiah’s researches and the LEADS program.



Audience Comments:

  • “Excellent review of studies in a relatively short amount of time. Bravo!” — Adam
  • “Practitioners are in the field, conducting the research and gathering the data while employed as active law enforcement brings credibility and buy-in academically.” — Brian
  • “Great information about the LEADS program. I want to learn more and work towards implementing some research projects at my agency.” — Bill
  • “The insight offered by the two law enforcement officers as researchers on determining the effects of a specific action aimed at crime deterrence. We try varying strategies regularly in policing communities, but we don’t stop to ensure they are controlled experiments as we strive to determine if the strategy was, or was not, effective or successful. This presentation planted the seed for more experimentation and research in our policing efforts.” — Silver
  • “The webinar was excellent. This is a wonderful thing you are doing with the webinar series. I appreciate opportunities like this as I continue to grow and improve how we serve our community. I valued everything that you’re researched provided and I looked forward to being part of the next one. Thank you!” — Theresa



Additional Resources
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