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Using Research-Based Evidence in Your Jurisdiction

Hank Stawinski
Hank Stawinski, Chief at Prince George’s County Police Department, discusses how research can help law enforcement solve crime through evidence-based decision making and how partnerships between researchers and law enforcement can lead to innovative solutions. Learn more about researcher practitioner partnerships.

STAWINSKI:  What we tried to capture was the value of research to practitioners in law enforcement. And what I said was is there’s no problem that research can’t help you solve and it’ll also help you solve the problems that arise from solving the original problem. So in brief, we’ve had tremendous strides in the reduction of crime in Prince George’s County over the last several years. That was founded on good research, really trying to fundamentally understand in detail — Commissioner Davis talked about some of this — what motivates the crime, what drives the crime, and then what are the strategies that are effectively in mitigating it. You constantly check that, you constantly test that. That’s the research.

How has your partnership with NIJ been beneficial?

STAWINSKI:  NIJ is the most valuable partner in these conversations and that’s because of the national voice they provide. Their scope and their a reach, and I believe that this, as another of a long series of engagements with the law enforcement community, is leading us to a place where broadly leadership and police agencies understands the real value of research. NIJ being the scientific arm puts us in a position to continue that conversation, but it comes back to people like myself, it’s a privilege to be here, and Commissioner Davis standing next to the academics and saying the reason we’re successful is because we’ve engaged with them, and, by the way, the reason that they are successful is because we have the data. We have the information and that partnership creates an opportunity for innovation, experienced together with academic rigor.

How has collaborating with researchers benefitted your jurisdiction?

STAWINSKI: We are five years into dramatic crime reductions in Prince George’s county and it comes back to stepping away from the “apprehend the criminal and make the charge” mindset, and we are now a prevention-oriented, strategy-based police department. Researchers come to the table and they inform us in terms of a broad range of social issues, economic issues, issues of infrastructure in our community, and bring that perspective — the academic perspective — and combining that with our own experiences, means we’re not making anecdotal decisions about where resources should go, but again, it’s the conversation in that room about evidence-based decision-making and when we make good decisions based on evidence, collaborative with people with different perspectives, and then, most importantly, continue to monitor those results and adjust them, then we can be successful.

What does the future of policing look like to you?

STAWINSKI:  The key to policing in the future and what we would like to see come out of this is that we introduce new models that are more effective, built on what we know, built on our strong traditions, but putting the patrol officer in a position to be successful in this ultimately human endeavor and, again, make a difference in people’s lives.

Date Created: August 5, 2016