Evidence-Based Policing is a Movement

By Meme Styles

Left to Right: Paulette Blanc, Chris Vallejo, Meme Styles

A Different Kind of Movement

A person’s most admirable ability is their capacity to drive social change. Throughout history, world-wide movements that promote good and awareness have been driven by passionate leaders and fed-up loyalists to the cause. Whether it was Women’s Suffrage, The Civil Rights Movement, The Gay Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter, Resistance against Apartheid, or The Movement for Indigenous Rights, humanities unwillingness to accept the status quo and commitment to realizing a new-normal marked these efforts of advancement and positive reform.

As we acknowledge the results these world-changing social movements produced, I’d like to suggest that Evidence-Based (EB) Policing is also a movement.

The Evidence-Based Policing Movement, while not dripping in passion or heart-wrenching realities of mistreatment, systemic racism, or oppression, has taken on a life, philosophy and is quickly becoming a thing as it moves outside the ranks of the police department and into the minds and practice of community members, researchers, open databases, and activists. The EB Policing Movement is multifaceted, embracing a diverse culture of leadership to include Dr.

Renee Mitchell, Chief Jim Bueermann (ret), Lt. Chris Vallejo, Paulette Blanc (Measure), Eric Byrd (Measure), or Dr. Obed Magny.

What is Evidence-Based Policing and why is it important?

The College Of Policing says, “In an evidence-based policing approach, police officers and staff create, review and use the best available evidence to inform and challenge policies, practices and decisions.”[

A policing methodology controlled by proven testing is where we EB Activists want the system to go. Would you ever undergo a surgery that has never been proven to work, or allow a Doctor to do a procedure that has had no results of fixing a problem? Probably not. In this same way, a Law Enforcement Officer has the ability to take or preserve life in the matter of moments.

Testing and proving their actions and responses to people is the best way of ensuring professionalism in the practice of policing.

Rigorous testing and analysis may help officers too. We constantly hear reports of the mental toll that policing takes on those who choose the job, but what local evidence do we have that says this is true? Many believe that working long hours causes unnecessary pressure on police, but where is the data on this “fact?” Many agree that post-traumatic stress may set an officer on a lonely journey after responding from one traumatic event to another. What are police departments doing to address this, (and perhaps more importantly) and is it evidence-based?

For many agencies, officers are spending countless hours using Records Management Systems (RMS) that are archaic. Because of these old systems, officers have less time to be proactive in their daily shifts due to time and energy wasted in filtering through messy records. If there are software systems known to make police officers’ jobs easier (such as time saved writing reports), why wouldn’t most agencies take advantage of that? Through Evidence-Based Policing research, we are able to answer these questions and identify the most effective way to better serve all of the stakeholders.

Big Data & Community Policing.

Through the power of big data analysis, randomized control testing in the field, an increasingly robust body of experimentation, and our willingness to embrace it – the EB movement is quickly becoming a go-to solution for assessing best practices in policing.

My organization, MEASURE – A data-driven, public education nonprofit in Austin, Texas noticed a communication & networking gap between social justice advocates, local research institutions, law enforcement practitioners, technology experts, and the application of EB Policing. For better understanding as to how EB Policing can help them speak a common language and possibly spark innovative research design, we hold an annual conference and several workshops to bring all parties these together. So far we’ve held conferences and workshops in both Austin and Dallas, Texas with hopes of branching out to other cities in 2020.

The results of the Big Data & Community Policing conferences and workshops include:

  • A newly formed Evidence-Based Policing think-tank at the Austin Police Department.
  • Free training on mindfulness & de-escalation, performance measure development, EB Policing 101, Compstat360, records management and Community Policing for all participants.
  • The application of design-thinking to address community policing.
  • Relationship building between traditionally siloed groups.
  • Organizational connections for increased EB Policing studies.
  • The City of Austin’s mandate to create Evidence-Based Metrics to assess the local police department’s performance.

It’s Global.

 Australia & New Zealand:

Evidence-Based Policing unit trial may reduce the amount of prison time committed by a first-time offender by 62% over a year. Picture: Lincoln


 The UK:

The College of Policing funds a study to look to test “mindfulness” as a way to combat high stress and record numbers of sick days.

Making It Meaningful To Your Community.

Far too often biased data feeds the narrative about communities who are most impacted by potentially harmful and un-evaluated policies and procedures. MEASURE seeks to empower people impacted by substandard data and the related narrative by allowing the people to own the information gathered about them, and to tell their own story unabridged.

Evidence-Based Policing allows a unique space for community members to become an active partner in the process of community policing and science. By collecting data, applying research and rethinking old ways of doing things with your community, newly created insights may help rewrite the narrative.

Share Data

The collection and analysis of police data for social good has taken off in recent years. Organizations such as Data.World and the Texas Justice Initiative are demonstrating how open data can make a difference.

In 2016 President Obama launched the Police Data Initiative which urged department Chiefs across America to volunteer their data to an open portal. Several cities signed on allowing for data-driven community engagement.

Sharing data with your community is a best-practice as it relates to transparency and making information available to a broader audience. Be sure to show community members where the data is stored online, how to download it and allow opportunity for feedback about the collected and shared data points. Community members may suggest very useful data elements in which the department may have never thought of.

Partner With Non-Traditional Research Partners

Think outside the box when completing a grant for community policing. Instead of partnering with the local go-to researcher, choose to work alongside grassroots organizations, activists-led nonprofits, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s).

Data has a way of helping both police and community groups speak a common language. By reaching out to non-traditional research partners such as these, you have the opportunity to help provide financial resources to local under-resourced organizations and grow a pipeline of Black and Brown data collectors, interpreters, and community policing experts.

Connect with MEASURE.

MEASURE’s mission is to bridge divisions through data and public education in active partnership with local communities to address complex social problems.

MEASURE’s objective is to leverage quantitative and qualitative information, in the form of research and education, as a tool to bridge divisions and empower communities to address complex social problems. We ask impacted communities to become active participants in the process of changing the statistics.

MEASURE is available for research & public education partnerships, community surveys, facilitation, and consultation.

Contact us at: contact@measureaustin.com

About Me

Jameila “Meme” Styles is the founder and visionary behind MEASURE. As “chief volunteer,” Meme works with the board, leadership team, and community to further the MEASURE mission worldwide.

Ms. Styles holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Communications, completing a Masters of Public Administration at American Military University and is certified in Performance Measurement through George Washington University College of Professional Studies.

Follow MEASURE on Twitter: @MeasureAustin

Follow Meme on Twitter: @memeofaustin

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