Papers From the Harvard Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety

Following are the papers from the second Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety, sponsored by NIJ and the Harvard Kennedy School's Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

The papers from the first executive session have become become a foundation for police executive training across the nation and we hope that these new papers have a similar impact.

Title, Author and DateDescription
Challenge of Policing in a Democratic Society: A Personal Journey Toward Understanding (pdf, 16 pages)
By Charles H. Ramsey
June 2014
The history of the cooperation of the German police with the Nazi regime during World War II, as shown in a series of exhibits from the Holocaust Memorial Museum, teaches contemporary police professionals cautionary lessons about tolerance, upholding constitutional values, and the duty to protect the rights of all members of society. In this bulletin, adapted from a speech at the Holocaust Museum and other reflections on the role of police in a democratic society, Commissioner Charles Ramsey of the Philadelphia Police Department discusses how "zero tolerance" for crime can become "zero tolerance" for those whom a society deems undesirable and how absorbing the lessons of the Holocaust can lead police to renew their commitment to protecting and defending the rights of all members of our society.​
Social Media and Police Leadership (pdf, 24 pages)
By Edward F. Davis III, Alejandro A. Alves and David Alan Sklansky
March 2014
The Boston Police Department (BPD) has long embraced both community policing and the use of social media. The department put its experience to good and highly visible use in April 2013 during the dramatic, rapidly developing investigation that followed the deadly explosion of two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. BPD successfully used Twitter to keep the public informed about the status of the investigation, to calm nerves and request assistance, to correct mistaken information reported by the press and to ask for public restraint in the tweeting of information from police scanners. This demonstrated the level of trust and interaction that a department and a community can attain online. In the aftermath of the investigation, BPD was “applauded for leading an honest conversation with the public during a time of crisis in a way that no police department has done before.”

In critical ways, BPD’s successful use of social media during the marathon bombing investigation relied on previous trust building by the department — including a longstanding, if more mundane, use of social media. This paper discusses the lessons to be learned from BPD’s use of social media during the marathon bombing investigation and earlier. However, it is not strictly or even primarily a case study. It is an effort to contribute to a broader, ongoing discussion about police and social media. It is a reflection, in light of Boston’s experience, on the opportunities and challenges that social media present to the police and on the ways in which social media can help develop new models of policing that are adapted to our 21st-century world but rooted in traditions of community engagement stretching back through the community policing movement to Robert Peel’s 19th-century goals for a modern constabulary.​
Police Leadership Challenges in a Changing World (pdf, 24 pages)
By Anthony W. Batts, Sean Michael Smoot and Ellen Scrivner
July 2012
There is a new generation of police recruits entering the profession, with habits and expertise in different areas that can clash with police organizations' traditional paramilitary culture and industrial-type bureaucracy. The success of police organizational leaders may depend on how effectively they recognize and adapt to the dynamic characteristics of younger officers. This paper argues that these "contemporary employees" present not only leadership challenges but also significant opportunities, as they bring demographically unique attributes to law enforcement that may help it align better with community and citizen expectations. The contemporary employee demonstrates a familiarity with technology and social media; new attitudes towards their role in law enforcement and the community; greater acceptance of diversity; and new expectations regarding autonomy, participation in decision making and flexibility of working conditions. These skill sets, attitudes and expectations are among the competencies needed for 21st century law enforcement.
Exploring the Role of the Police in Prisoner Reentry (pdf, 24 pages)
Jeremy Travis, Ronald Davis, and Sarah Lawrence
July 2012
One thing is certain for nearly all prisoners who are in state and federal custody: they will come back. Traditionally, the police have played little part in facilitating the reentry of prisoners into the community, both because the police have seen their role as limited to the surveillance of probationers and parolees for the violation of the terms of their release or the commission of new crimes and because of a historical lack of trust between organizations that work with returning offenders and law enforcement agencies. In this paper, the authors argue that police, particularly urban police departments, have a major role to play in prisoner reentry, in part because of high recidivism rates among returning offenders and because of their concentration in some of the poorest, highest crime neighborhoods. Greater involvement of the police in prisoner reentry can promote public safety through more focused problem-oriented policing efforts and increase police legitimacy, particularly in minority communities, through enhanced community policing efforts.
Police Discipline: A Case for Change (pdf, 27 pages)
by Darrel W. Stephens
June 2011
This paper describes the challenges law enforcement agencies nationwide experience with current disciplinary procedures and offers alternate approaches that can improve internal morale and external relationships with the community. Stephens also highlights proactive approaches (such as education-based discipline, mediation, peer review and early intervention) that some agencies are employing to manage and reform officer behavior.
The Persistent Pull of Police Professionalism (pdf, 20 pages)
by David Alan Sklansky
March 2011
This paper suggests that the past model of police professionalism has been updated as a result of technology and federal funding. Sklansky explains that 1960s police professionalism was not about tactics, such as random patrol, but rather about the governing mindset behind policies. By the early 1980s, this professional policing model was discredited, giving birth to community policing, which also focused more on ideas and policy and less on tactics. Community policing was seen to have shortcomings, such as being vague and not reducing serious crime. Today, professional policing is mounting a comeback. Community policing, however, is still valuable. Although the community policing model is incomplete, a model of "advanced community policing" could address unanswered specifics about the nature of community policing that would help law enforcement agencies, police researchers and the public resist the persistent pull of police professionalism.
Moving the Work of Criminal Investigators Towards Crime Control (pdf, 38 pages)
by Anthony A. Braga, Edward A. Flynn, George L. Kelling and Christine M. Cole
March 2011
This paper points out the challenges to police executives in moving the work of criminal investigators toward a more active role in crime control. The paper provides research on the effectiveness of criminal investigators, the problem-oriented approach to crime control and intelligence-led policing. The authors suggest ways to allocate proactive and problem-solving work between criminal investigators and patrol officers. The paper concludes with examples by the authors of moving the work of criminal investigators at the Milwaukee Police Department, the New York Police Department, the Victoria Police in Australia, and police agencies in the United Kingdom.
Toward a New Professionalism in Policing (pdf, 27 pages)
by Christopher Stone and Jeremy Travis
March 2011
In the 1980s, community policing replaced the traditional crime-fighting model of policing, often referred to as "professional policing." Community policing was an improvement over the previous policing paradigm (one that the authors argue was more truly professional than the command-and-control model that it replaced) and represented a great change in how police officers did their jobs. The authors argue that it is now time for a new model for the 21st century, one that they call a "New Professionalism." Their framework rests on increased accountability for police in both their effectiveness and their conduct; greater legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry; continuous innovation in tactics and strategies for interacting with offenders, victims, and the general public; and national coherence through the development of national norms and protocols for policing.
Police Science: Toward a New Paradigm (pdf, 24 pages)
by David Weisburd and Peter Neyroud
January 2011
This paper urges the police to take ownership and make use of science in the policing task. The authors commend the police industry for embracing innovative management strategies and crime control and prevention policies over the last two decades, but argue that as a whole, the profession has been hesitant to adopt scientific, evidence-based policies and practices resulting in a fundamental disconnect between science and policing.

The authors discuss existing research that supports their contention and lay out a proposal for a new, science-based policing paradigm. They describe the adoption this paradigm as necessary if the police industry is to "retain public support and legitimacy, cope with recessionary budget cuts, and...alleviate the problems that have become part of the policing task."
Governing Science (pdf, 36 pages)
by Malcolm K. Sparrow
January 2011
This paper argues that the emphasis on using evidence-based practices from social science research and methodology to establish operational and program agendas for policing practice only limits and distracts from more relevant and substantive contributions from natural sciences methodology (e.g., pattern recognition); traditionally productive avenues of observation, investigation and inquiry (e.g., crime analysis); and problem-oriented policing as more effective responses to crime in communities.
Making Policing More Affordable: Managing Costs and Measuring Value in Policing (pdf, 20 pages)
by George Gascón and Todd Foglesong
December 2010
During the last 25 years, the costs of policing have risen dramatically across the nation. This rise in costs has spurred debates among city managers, elected officials, and police chiefs on how best to pay for policing — a debate that has only become sharper with the current fiscal crisis among state and local governments. This paper looks at the rising costs of policing in one medium-sized U.S. city (Mesa, Ariz.), and asks two major questions 1) What is driving up the costs of policing? 2) What return on their investment in policing are cities and their residents receiving?

The paper compares policing costs and returns for Mesa with other nearby cities in the vicinity of Phoenix and with other medium-sized cities across the country. It then considers strategies now being tested for managing the rising costs of policing, including efforts to cut spending, raise productivity, revalue the benefits of policing and reengineer operations.
The Changing Environment for Policing, 1985-2008 (pdf, 16 pages)
by David H. Bayley and Christine Nixon
September 2010
This paper explores the differences in the environment for policing between 1985 and 2008. Policing in the United States was under siege in the 1980s; crime had been rising from the early 1960s and research showed that traditional police strategies were not working (e.g., hiring more police, random motorized patrolling, foot patrols, rapid response to calls for service and routine criminal investigation). Recent research has reconfirmed this, even though crime has declined dramatically since 1990. However, the panel found that police could reduce crime when they focused operations on particular problems or places and supplemented law enforcement with other regulatory and abatement activities.
One Week in Heron City: A Case Study
by Malcolm K. Sparrow
September 2009
One Week in Heron City follows Chief Laura Harrison's through her first week on the job in this fictional city of 400,000. We invite you to eavesdrop and see how law enforcement agencies might eliminate pre-established mentalities and see problems in a new light. Chief Harrison enters a city:
  • Where the sense of safety has been shattered by the brutal, unsolved murder of a young mother who had repeatedly told police she was being followed.
  • Experiencing a rash of high-end car thefts that few people are concerned about because of excellent insurance payouts.
  • Whose public health department is preparing for a possible flu pandemic and wants to know what services the police can offer.

Chief Harrison discovers that progress is slow made despite all the department's problemsolving efforts — Compstat, intelligence-led and evidence-based policing, community policing.

Date Modified: June 18, 2014