Understanding Your Data: Lessons for Criminal Justice Professionals

Understanding Your Data: Lessons for Criminal Justice Professionals
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2024-03-07
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Understanding Your Data: Lessons for Criminal Justice Professionals
Unit 2Transcript: Understanding Your Data: Lessons for Criminal Justice Professionals
Unit 3Workbook: Understanding Your Data: Lessons for Criminal Justice Professionals
Unit 4Recording: Understanding Your Data: Lessons for Criminal Justice Professionals

Evidence-based practice powered by robust data is enabling law enforcement agencies to strategize and target their programming in ways that most effectively address identified issues. Numbers don’t lie, but only as far as the understanding of the people analyzing it. This webinar delves into the nuances of analyzing crime and policing data, emphasizing the importance of context and statistical principles in interpreting trends and making informed decisions.

Leading the discussion is Renée J. Mitchell, the co-founder and president of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing (ASEBP), and previously served in the Sacramento Police Department. She is a 2009/2020 Fullbright Police Research Fellow and has several TEDx Talks and authored several books.

Specifics discussed in this session include:

  • A warning from Dr. Howard Wainer on judicious use of data analysis and technology due to their limitations.
  • The common pitfalls of and assumptions on policing data that can result in erroneous reporting.
  • Differentiating descriptive from inferential statistics based on their purpose, sampling, measurements, and sample representativeness, examples of each one, and who typically confuses the two.
  • The steps involved in data analysis, what is required, and how much time is spent on each.
  • Factors to consider to correctly interpret policing data.
    • Criminological theory that establishes how and why crime is committed in communities.
    • The likelihood for false linear thinking that doesn’t account for real-world variables such as location and policy and the fact that policing data is neither linear nor random.
    • The insignificant connection between crime types and the better basis for connection being place, people, and social network.
    • Sample sizes, cautioning against variations and assumptions made on small datasets.
    • Base rate where having a lower base rate produces deceiving percentage increases which can mislead analysis.
    • Data organization which can obscure meaningful insights.
    • Binary percent change comparisons that can introduce bias and manipulate perceived trends.
    • Probability and the correct way of computing for it based on inferential statistics.
  • An example of…
    • Generalization of RIPA data on traffic and pedestrian stops in LA county.
    • Missed raw data from Burlington PD’s mental health calls.
    • Using inferential language to describe descriptive statistics in a San Diego County RIPA report.
    • The mistake of not taking criminological theory into account, assuming all cities are equal despite differences in population, missing data, and false linear thinking in a Sacramento Bee article.
    • How false linear thinking misled baseball statistics and police pursuit numbers.
    • The Gates Foundation that spent a lot of money on smaller top schools based on its students’ averages which were based on a small dataset.
    • How base rate put Chula Vista as the city with the highest murder rate because of a 100% increase in numbers.

Points raised during the Q&A are about:

  • Obtaining the correct data and drilling down on it to accurately capture the issue and possible solution.
  • The value in defining problems rather than requesting specific datasets for effective data analysis.
  • Determining the cost of police services despite fragmented data.
  • The reliability of comparing data to the same period in the previous year as part of the analysis.
  • Integrating multidisciplinary support and public health data into police departments and potential funding sources for such initiatives.
  • Responding to data inquiries in such a way that ensures data is interpreted accurately.


Other Webinars with this Presenter


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


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Great webinar! The information is perinate to my current position as an analyst. More webinars similar to this would be very beneficial.”
  • “Really enjoyed the walk-through data to demonstrate how percentage change data is misused.”
  • “This data info webinar was super informative. My head is spinning. It would be great to take a semester-long class taught by this presenter!”




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
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