Marrying Police Craft to Science


New police reforms should emphasize a coupling between those who advocate for scientific, evidence-based, policing and those who espouse a mastery of the craft, says Professor James Willis in a lecture recently published by the Police Foundation.

Willis argues that scientists often ignore the “fundamental normative component to assessing the quality of work that street-level patrol officers perform,” instead preferring to analyze and predict police behavior. At the same time, police officials are often exposed to scientific evidence about best practices, but prefer to rely on knowledge of laws and rules and in-depth understanding of people, places, and events.

Willis is Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Center for Justice, Leadership and Management in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University.

“The marriage between science and craft could be further improved by partisans from both sides working more closely together to help police officers deliver more justice than is currently on offer,” Willis argues.

In order to fuse the two rival schools of thought, Willis suggests new standards for measuring police performance, including measures of procedural fairness to victim and offender, problem solving skills, maintenance of safety, lawfulness of response, fairness, efficiency and risk reduction.

Read the entire lecture below:

Improving Police: What’s Craft Got to Do with It?

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