Traffic stops, crashes, and crime

February 20, 2019

A recent analysis of traffic stop data in Nashville found an especially high level of traffic enforcement — as of 2017, the per-capita stop rate was nearly 4 times higher than for similar-sized cities, even after a substantial drop since 2012. Also, about half of all stops were for non-moving violations, which contributed to disproportionate impact. Analysis showed no effect on crime of the 40% decrease in stops from 2012 to 2017, but traffic crashes increased about 60%. The findings call into question whether intensive traffic enforcement is an effective approach to crime reduction, but also serve as a reminder that road safety is another outcome to be considered in regard to “what works” in policing.


Risk management vs. civil rights

February 14, 2019

This article discusses the impact of Lexipol, a California-based company that provides policies to 3,400 public safety agencies around the U.S. The company says that agencies using its policies experience a reduction in legal claims and payments to plaintiffs. Critics say the approach is focused more on minimizing lawsuits than on improving police services to the public — “They’re designed for maximum protection against civil liability. It’s not maximum protection of civil rights.”

Combating Facebook hate

February 13, 2019

Facebook’s news feed is often used to disseminate rumors, hate, and fake news. Police in Germany have learned that “Facebook is not just like a pinboard where people hang things and others read them. Facebook, with its algorithm, influences people.” This article describes how one police unit chases down the sources of inflammatory rumors, online and in-person, and often gets them to retract or correct their posts. Their aim is to “eradicate the rumor online and off, taking it as seriously as a pandemic or a new street drug.”

Walker meets Mr. Rogers

February 12, 2019

This article reports the experience of a Chicago couple who brought their autistic adult son to the emergency room when he was having a violent reaction to medication. As they entered, the son bit his mom’s hand, hard, causing her to scream, and then “suddenly there’s all these cops on him. I’m thinking, My God, they’re gonna kill him.” Instead, the cops (hospital public safety officers) figured out how to calm and amuse him, singing the Mr. Rogers theme song among other things. According to the mom, “He was kind of mystified and charmed and started smiling. They were men his size who considered him a real person. It’s scary when people don’t think you’re a real person. You have autism and you can’t talk — but you’re a person.”

FBI shooting data

February 12, 2019

FBI agents have been involved in 228 shooting incidents since 2011, including 113 accidental discharges, 34 animals, and 81 “intentional shootings involving people or objects” according to this NBC news segment and article. Agents were found at fault in 5 of the shootings, none of which resulted in fatalities. The bureau has not traditionally released information about its agent-involved shootings, and has not employed independent or external investigation. Looking ahead, the FBI will be administering the new national database of police shootings, announced last year — reportedly, “the bureau itself would also submit information to the database.”

Bike fatalities up

February 11, 2019

Bike fatalities in 2016 were the highest since 1990, with 835 deaths, according to this article. One contributing factor could be the 50% increase over time in the number of people commuting to work on bicycles. Interestingly, though, several cities with the highest rates of biking to work — Portland, Minneapolis, DC, San Francisco, Seattle — had among the lowest fatality rates. The highest bike fatality rates were in Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Jacksonville.

Resilience training

February 8, 2019

This new COPS Office publication describes resilience training being tested in the Milwaukee Police Department. Initial results indicate some positive early-career effects on new officers who get the training in the academy, but no significant impact on mid-career officers who get it later as in-service training. Final results are pending but will include “development of a model to guide effective delivery of resilience training at the academy and … validation of the effectiveness of this training for recruits.”

Calling 911 for unwanted persons

February 7, 2019

Portland 911 gets about 100 calls a day for some version of “unwanted person,” mostly homeless or street people acting strangely, blocking entrances, obstructing sidewalks, or camped out on somebody’s property. According to this article, “Oregon’s percentage of unsheltered people is second-highest in the nation. Much of the city is feeling fed up and freaked out.” Efforts are underway to develop alternative responses to relieve police (and 911) of the burden since few of the situations are emergencies or serious criminal matters.

Officer fatigue & citizen complaints

February 7, 2019

New analysis of over 15,000 shifts worked by 144 officers shows a pattern of more citizen complaints when officers are more tired, as summarized here and here. The combination of working consecutive night shifts interspersed with daytime court appearances seems most problematic and corresponds with previous fatigue studies. Some recommendations are offered, and the author mentions that “a highly regarded online educational program from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that helps nurses better manage shift work is currently being adapted for police.”

Police Foundation

February 6, 2019

You may know that the Police Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded back in 1970 for the purpose of improving policing through innovation and science. They recently changed their official name to the National Police Foundation to avoid confusion, since numerous local law enforcement agencies now have their own foundations. They have a very useful and informative website here. To sign up for their free newsletter and other publications and updates, go here.