Trashing the POP Center

 COPS DOJFeds Trash the Problem Oriented Policing Center:

Another Example of Anti-Intellectualism (among other things…)

One of the push-backs I occasionally receive from my former colleagues is about my position with regard to the existence of an “arrested development” within policing.

I maintain that an attitude of anti-intellectualism* pervades the field all the way into the federal government. To me, anti-intellectualism has been the major impediment to police professionalization and their ability to continuously improve. You can read more about this in my latest book. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt about what I am talking about:

“The problem of applying [academic findings**] to a police department is an old one. It is one I had often encountered during my career. It made little difference whether or not a case study was from the Harvard Business School or the International Chiefs of Police, police leaders have difficulty accepting findings from other areas of work. Even good practices from other police departments. Over the years, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard these responses from police leaders: ‘Yes, but it doesn’t apply to my department’ or ‘We tried that, but it didn’t work.’ The lack of a foundation of rigorous academic training makes it difficult for police leaders to digest any kind of research or case study. This is the continuing and oppressive effect of anti-intellectualism in the police field and why it remains a major obstacle.”

Now comes another anti-intellectual blow against policing. It is the decision of the Department of Justice and its Community Oriented Police Services to defund the Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) Center which is one of the hallmarks of police improvement and professionalization.

Until recently the Center has been led by Prof. Michael Scott who, until this decision, was at the University of Wisconsin.  Scott is a former chief of police who is well-versed in this successful method and committed to improving policing. The idea of this new method was first developed by Herman Goldstein in 1990 in his book of the same name. Scott had been assisted by Professors Ron V. Clarke at Rutgers and Graeme R. Newman at the University at Albany, both practical criminal justice academics.

Since that time, the Center’s nationally acclaimed website has provided curriculum guides, teaching aids, problem analysis tools, and an immense range of information to rank-and-file police officers world-wide. It is the best example I have yet to see of a library of the “best known methods” of policing. Something that is sorely needed in our field.

Since 2001, the Center’s efforts have resulted in over ONE MILLION copies of the POP guides being distributed to police practitioners throughout the world. There are over 60,000 visits to the site resulting in nearly TWO MILLION page views EACH MONTH. The materials at the Center are widely used in police training and college courses. The interest in the Center and its website remains high to this day.

In addition to the curriculum guides, teaching aids, and problem analysis tools are the Problem-Specific Guides that inform police about the best research and practice-tested methods for addressing the many specific crime and disorder problems that police are commonly called upon to deal with. This is what makes the POP Center so distinct from other police research enterprises: it focuses on the substance of policing, rather than on the administration of policing.

While the website remains up, thanks to the University of Albany, much is about to be lost. There will no longer be staffing to create new information, address newly-emerging problems, updating old information, or doing any maintenance to the website. This is a tremendous loss for our nation’s police.

So why would our government not fund this important source of effective policing practices? And still yet, why won’t our nation’s police leaders rise up and demand funding for this important effort be continued? (Incidentally, I have yet to receive a reply to this question from the Office of Community Police Services.) But I would also ask where is the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)? And where is the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)?

POPOur government needs to support good policing — it’s in all of our interests to do so. The government needs to look beyond providing low-priority hardware to police (like military surplus armored vehicles and other paraphernalia to our nation’s police because the problem with policing today is not the lack of hardware, it’s the lack of software — the intellectual stuff of what works in policing — a great deal of which can be found in the work of the Problem Oriented Policing Center’s.

You can visit the POP Center by CLICKING HERE. A short browse of the materials (free and downloadable) on the site will quickly demonstrate what I am talking about and why we need to maintain this important intellectual center of policing.

In the meantime, police leaders need to stand up and be heard and start supporting what’s right for the future of policing.

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* “Anti-intellectualism is hostility towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the derision of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as impractical and contemptible…”

** The example I used in my book was  Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. New York: Harper-Collins. 2001.