We write today in the aftermath of significant tragedy and a widespread demand for police reform. For some, it feels like decades of calls to transform the police profession have finally been heard. For others, it feels like decades of work to advance the relationship between police and communities they serve have been undone or ignored. For most (if not for all) – from communities to the police that serve them – the pursuit of public safety feels anything but safe.
Our promise to you – whether you are a fellow police officer or a member of the communities that we serve – is that we will do everything in our power to develop and advance the safety, stability, resilience, and hope that every resident of this country deserves. The time for evidence-driven action is now.
The current national conversation in many ways has devolved into a false dichotomy – an Us vs. Them framework. If you think black lives matter, you must think blue lives don’t. If you are pro-police, you must be anti-community. Not only is this framework destructive, it overlooks the fundamental premise: the police are the public and the public are the police.
We do not know yet where this zeitgeist will lead. But we do know this: if we are to chart a path forward for fair, impartial, equal, and effective policing in this country, there is no better north star than data and scientific evidence.
Many statements from the police community have emphasized that the officer who killed George Floyd does not represent the police profession. We could not agree more. But the conversation cannot stop there. Existing data and evidence requires a deeper, honest, painful look not at individual officers, but at the system in which policing operates. From traffic stops, to stop and frisks, to routine uses of force, to officer involved shootings, policing in this country continues to disparately impact people of color.
We as a profession must proceed with the humility that our on-the-job experience is critical but is only part of what must be considered. There is a macro universe that exists beyond our individual reality, and we must be aware of the aggregate impacts of policing beyond what we personally understand. Scientific evidence is the best compass we have in directing our resources towards what works and what matters to advance fair and effective policing in America.
We as a profession must also proceed with the humility that we may not know what we don’t know. There is a dearth of data in policing, and absent national standardization and mandates we must take it upon ourselves to measure our impact on communities and develop objective metrics for what constitutes fair and effective policing.
And we as a profession must move beyond divisive frameworks and elevate scientific research to its rightful place in the national discourse.
As always, we are grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from you. We look forward to building a future on a foundation of evidence. Most importantly – we look forward to building it together.
Be well and stay safe.
The Board of the American Society of Evidence Based Policing