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Department of Justice wants to know how policing strategies impact communities

Police departments across the nation use a variety of policing strategies: broken windows, hot spot, and something new called “intelligence-led” or “predictive” policing. Whether or not these policing methodologies result in lower crime rates and safer communities is a subject of debate. That’s in part because it’s hard to gauge whether a policing strategy is responsible for a drop in a city’s murder rate, or if the trend is actually the result of greater economic stability or something more difficult to measure, like a community’s general optimism.

Despite these problems, students and professors of criminal justice have long undertaken research projects and written papers trying to identify how a given policing strategy impacts crime. What’s largely gone understudied is the relationship among a policing strategy, the crime rate, and the policing strategy’s impact on individuals and communities. In a refreshing break from that tradition, the National Institute for Justice (NIJ)—a research funding arm of the Department of Justice—is trying to change that.

A newly announced, $3 million NIJ grant opportunity “seeks proposals for funding of rigorous research and/or evaluation projects that advance understanding of the impact of policing strategies and/or practices beyond crime reduction.” The grant advertisement explicitly names that policing strategies such as broken windows and predictive policing have come under criticism for their disparate impact and the harm they cause to affected (translation: Black and brown) communities. It’s not enough to know whether a crime reduction strategy “works” in the sense that it reduces a crime rate, the DOJ seems to be saying, if the policing practice is harmful to communities or individuals.

The solicitation wants researchers to address the following questions:

  • The collateral consequences associated with a strategy and/or practice for — dependent on the strategy — individuals, neighborhoods, communities, and police organizations.

  • The degree to which strategies and/or practices can be effective in reducing crime with minimal negative collateral consequences.

  • What measures should be used to assess a policing strategy and/or practice, taking into consideration both crime reduction and the impact of the broad spectrum of collateral consequences (both positive and negative), on the individual, the neighborhood, communities, and the policing organization. 

You can learn more about the grant by visiting the NIJ’s website.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.