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Evidence-Based Policing

NCJ Number
Date Published
16 pages

In presenting a new paradigm called "evidence-based" policing, this paper considers its definition, what is new about it, how it applies to a specific example of police practice, and how it can be institutionalized.


The new paradigm of "evidence-based medicine" holds important implications for policing. "Evidence-based policing" is the use of the best available research on the outcomes of police work to implement guidelines and evaluate agencies, units, and officers. It suggests that just doing research is not enough and that proactive efforts are required to push accumulated research evidence into practice through national and community guidelines. These guidelines can then focus in-house evaluations on what works best across agencies, units, victims, and officers. Statistical adjustments for the risk factors that shape crime can provide fair comparisons across police units, including national rankings of police agencies by their crime prevention effectiveness. The example of domestic violence, for which accumulated National Institute of Justice research could lead to evidence-based guidelines, illustrates the way in which agency- based outcomes research could further reduce violence against victims. National pressure to adopt this paradigm could come from agency-ranking studies, but police agency capacity to adopt it will require new data systems that create "medical charts" for crime victims, annual audits of crime reporting systems, and in- house "evidence cops" who document the ongoing patterns and effects of police practices in the context of published and in- house research. The principles of using evidence both to change and evaluate practice can be applied to a broad institutional analysis of implementation. 6 figures and 33 references

Date Published: January 1, 1998