Category Archives: Policing

Free access to Sage journals gives you a chance to read all about science and pseudoscience in policing

Once again Sage Journals is throwing its archive open – you can get free access to all Sage journals until 31 October if you register first. A great opportunity to stock up on articles in journals that you or your library don’t subscribe to.

Can I, in particular, recommend you take a look at the latest issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior? It’s a special on “Pseudoscientific Policing Practices and Beliefs” pulled together by guest editor Brent Snook. Scott Lilienfeld and Kristin Landfield’s overview of science and pseudoscience is just ok (I don’t think it’s as good as it could be), but there are useful reviews (among others) of hypnosis in a legal setting (Graham Wagstaff), of detecting deception (Aldert Vrij), and of false confessions (Saul Kassin). These reviews will prove invaluable if you’re new to these areas of research or need a refresher.

Also in this issue, Snook and colleagues examine why criminal profiling is so seductive, when much of what passes for profiling is simply – according to the authors – “smoke and mirrors”. They conclude:

There is a growing belief that profilers can accurately and consistently predict a criminal’s characteristics based on crime scene evidence… We contend that this belief is illusory because a critical analysis of research on CP [criminal profiling] showed that the field lacks theoretical grounding and empirical support.

And there’s an extraordinary and provocative critique of the FBI’s programme to introduce Critical Incident Stress Debriefing for its agents, co-authored by a former agent who was involved in the programme. The authors bemoan the fact that although the business of “law enforcement is inextricably tied to facts, objectivity, organization, and high standards of proof” (p.1342), the FBI did not (according to the authors) apply the same standards when evaluating a stress debriefing programme for its agents. The evidence for the effectiveness of CISD is scant, argue the authors (and there is some evidence that CISD may even be harmful to people exposed to severe trauma). So, the authors explain: “We are thus compelled to consider how an idea so poorly grounded and so seriously discredited came to hold so tenacious a footing in the employee assistance practices of what is arguably the world’s most sophisticated law enforcement agency” (p.1342). Newbold, Lohr and Gist’s concluding comments could serve as an epitaph for the entire issue:

Pseudoscience finds its foothold where the blurring of boundaries allows the imperatives of evidentiary warrant shared by both domains to become compromised. It takes many years of training and experience to become competent as either a law enforcement agent or a psychologist, and either role requires strong focus and strict boundaries to be executed effectively. Police officers who want to play shrink and psychologists who want to play cop run a serious risk of blurring those boundaries.

Here are the contents in full:

  • Brent Snook – Introduction to the Special Issue: Pseudoscientific Policing Practices and Beliefs
  • Scott O. Lilienfeld and Kristin Landfield – Science and Pseudoscience in Law Enforcement: A User-Friendly Primer
  • Michael G. Aamodt – Reducing Misconceptions and False Beliefs in Police and Criminal Psychology
  • John Turtle and Stephen C. Want – Logic and Research Versus Intuition and Past Practice as Guides to Gathering and Evaluating Eyewitness Evidence
  • Brent Snook, Richard M. Cullen, Craig Bennell, Paul J. Taylor, and Paul Gendreau – The Criminal Profiling Illusion: What’s Behind the Smoke and Mirrors?
  • Graham F. Wagstaff – Hypnosis and the Law: Examining the Stereotypes
  • William G. Iacono – Effective Policing: Understanding How Polygraph Tests Work and Are Used
  • Saul M. Kassin – Confession Evidence: Commonsense Myths and Misconceptions
  • Aldert Vrij – Nonverbal Dominance Versus Verbal Accuracy in Lie Detection: A Plea to Change Police Practice
  • Katherine M. Newbold, Jeffrey M. Lohr, and Richard Gist – Apprehended Without Warrant: Issues of Evidentiary Warrant for Critical Incident Services and Related Trauma Interventions in a Federal Law Enforcement Agency
  • David C. Flagel and Paul Gendreau – Commentary: Sense, Common Sense, and Nonsense

Research reports round-up

ex libris gul law reports collectionSome of the criminal justice-related reports that have caught my eye in the last few weeks:

Communities

Crime and Communities Review (UK, published 18 June, Cabinet Office): A major review examining how to better engage communities in the fight against crime and raise public confidence in the Criminal Justice System – link to pdf downloads.

Gangs at the Grassroots: Community solutions to street violence (UK, published 17 July 2008, New Local Government Network) – pdf

Investigations

Witness and victim experience survey: early findings (UK, published 3 July 200, Ministry of Justice) – pdf

Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Victims: A 21st Century Strategy (US, International Association of Chiefs of Police) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

First Response to Victims of Crime (US, published April 2008, National Sheriffs Association) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Police Enforcement Strategies to Prevent Crime in Hot Spot Areas (US, Department of Justice) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators (US, FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Prisons

International profile of women’s prisons (UK, published April 2008, Kings College London for HM Prison Service) – pdf (Hat tip Intute)

Prosecuting Sexual Violence in Correctional Settings: Examining Prosecutors’ Perceptions (US, published May 2008, American University, WCL Research Paper, via SSRN)

Juveniles

Violence by Teenage Girls: Trends and Context (US, published May 2008, US Department of Justice) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect (US, published February 2008, Child Welfare Information Gateway) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Photo credit: ex_libris_gul, Creative Commons License

Policing 2(2): special edition on Crime Science

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The latest issue of Policing (vol 2 no 2) is a special edition on Crime Science featuring in particular the work of the Jill Dando Institute at University College London .

Contents include Ken Pease wondering How to Behave Like a Scientist? and articles on Mathematics, Physics, and Crime, Evolutionary Psychology and Fear of Crime, Crime Prevention Strategies, Forensic Geoscience, Vulnerable Localities, Mobile Phone Crime, Evaluating Crime Prevention and Technology and Policing.

Two articles not part of the special edition on whether Northern Ireland is a model for Post-conflict Police Reform and on the Policing of Fraud.

Abstracts and access to full text articles (subscription required) here.

Seminar series from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research

glasgowunicloistersThe Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research has announced an impressive series of seminars for January to March 2008.

Seminars take place at the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh. More details on the SCCJR website.

  • 24 January – Ms Helen Baillot, Scottish Refugee Council: ‘Asylum in Scotland – a Human Rights perspective?’
  • 29 January – Professor Nicola Lacey, LSE: ‘From Moll Flanders to Tess of D’Urbervilles: Gender, Identity and Criminalisation in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century England’.
  • 31 January – Professor Johannes Feest, University of Bremen: ‘The future of prisons and prison abolitionism’.
  • 4 February – Charles Woolfson, School of Law, University of Glasgow: ‘The conventionalisation of safety crime in the Baltic New EU Member States: Neo-liberalism and the tolerance of non-compliance’
  • 7 February – Professor Thomas Feltes: ‘Police Reform in Countries in Transition – Experiences from Bosnia, Kosovo and South Africa’ (jointly organgised by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research).
  • 12 February – Jonathan Jackson, Methodology Institute & Mannheim Centre for Criminology, London School of Economics: ‘New directions in research on public confidence in policing: Trust, legitimacy and consent’
  • 20 February – Alistair Fraser, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences, University of Glasgow: ‘Researching young people and violence in Glasgow’
  • 21 February – Professor Fiona Raitt, University of Dundee: ‘Re-Vulnerability in the Adversarial Process’
  • 28 February – Professor Linda Mulcahy, Birkbeck College, London: ‘An unbearable lightness of being? Movements towards the virtual trial’.
  • 6 March – Gavin Smith, Aberdeen University: ‘Re-thinking CCTV operation: interactions and ontologies’.
  • 13 March – Professor Tim Hope, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Edinburgh and Keele University: ‘A Political Economy of Community Safety’.

Understanding the Police Decision to Arrest People With Mental Illness

An interesting article in the latest issue of Psychiatric Services discusses police decision making when faced with people with mental illness. Here’s the abstract:

The criminalization hypothesis assumes that deinstitutionalization coupled with inadequate police training has led to the increased arrest of people with mental illness. Arrest is viewed as a means to manage the troublesome behavior that often results from mental illness. Supporting research has emphasized the contributing role that illness plays in the arrest decision. This assumption largely ignores an extant criminal justice literature on the factors that influence arrest. On the basis of a review of this criminal justice literature, beginning with Bittner’s 1967 seminal work, a framework is proposed that incorporates three contexts—manipulative, temporal, and scenic—surrounding the police encounter and the relationship of these contexts to mental illness. These three “horizons” incorporate the characteristics of the community, the offender, and the incident, all of which are recognized as influential in shaping police discretion. The scenic horizon is indicative of the features of the community. The temporal horizon includes police knowledge that stretches beyond the specific incident and officer characteristics. The manipulative horizon involves the current incident from the standpoint of the officer and includes considerations of safety for the community as well as the immediate concerns of the officer. Implications of this framework are then explored with respect to both police and mental health service mandates.

Reference:

Reports round-up: stop and search, persistent criminals, death penalty, judges and drugs

ex libris gul law reports collectionLatest criminal justice-related reports via Docuticker

Analysis of Racial Disparities in the New York Police Department’s Stop, Question, and Frisk Practices, published by RAND (full report and summary available via the link):

In 2006, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) stopped a half-million pedestrians for suspected criminal involvement. Raw statistics for these encounters suggest large racial disparities — 89 percent of the stops involved nonwhites…researchers analyzed data on all street encounters between NYPD officers and pedestrians in 2006. …They found small racial differences in these rates and make communication, recordkeeping, and training recommendations to the NYPD for improving police-pedestrian interactions.

Manuel Utset, in Hyperbolic Criminals and Repeated Time-Inconsistent Misconduct, (Houston Law Review via SSRN, full text available), uses economic models to try and understand why criminals become repeat offenders:

… even a relatively small preference for immediate gratification and over-optimism about their future self-control can lead hyperbolic criminals to repeatedly commit welfare-reducing crimes – i.e., those that (from a detached, long-term perspective) have negative expected returns. [The paper] develops a theory of repeated criminal misconduct that incorporates the findings of the growing behavioral economics literature on hyperbolic discounting and self-control problems; …identifies various deterrence implications of the theory; … explains a number of well-known empirical puzzles of neoclassical theory, including why policymakers punish repeat offenders more harshly and spend more on enforcement than the theory predicts…

Also via SSRN, The Heart Has its Reasons: Examining the Strange Persistence of the American Death Penalty by Susan Bandes (published in Studies in Law, Politics and Society, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2008, full text available):

The debate about the future of the death penalty often focuses on whether its supporters are animated by instrumental or expressive values, and if the latter, what values the penalty does in fact express, where those values originated, and how deeply entrenched they are. In this article I argue that a more explicit recognition of the emotional sources of support for and opposition to the death penalty will contribute to the clarity of the debate.

  • See also: a report from the American Bar Association which reported that “based on a detailed analysis of death penalty systems in eight sample states, the ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project identified key problems common to the states studied, including major racial disparities, inadequate indigent defense services and irregular clemency review processes – making their death penalty systems operate unfairly” (released 29 Oct; key findings available in Word format).

Frederick Schauer at the Harvard University John F Kennedy School of Government attempts to answer the question Is There a Psychology of Judging?
(Working Paper Number:RWP07-049, full text available):

Psychologists have recently begun to study the psychological dimensions of judging, but to date almost all of the research has been on lay experimental subjects. Implicit in the research, therefore, is that the judge’s attributes as a human bring are more important than the judge’s attribute’s as lawyer and/or as judge in explaining judicial behavior. This may possibly be true, and it is relatively consistent with a Legal Realist understanding of judges and judging, but there remains a need for research directed specifically to the question whether judges by virtue of legal training, self-selection to judging, or judicial experience think and reason and make decisions differently from lay people…

The review paper Disrupting Street-Level Drug Markets (published by U.S. Department of State, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, pdf) finds that programmes that

involve strategic crime-control partnerships with a range of third parties are better than community-wide policing approaches that rely on partnerships to reduce drug and disorder problems across neighborhoods plagued with drug problems. Our review also finds that either type of partnership approach (i.e., geographically focused or community-wide approaches that use partnerships) is likely to be more effective at disrupting drug problems than law enforcement-only approaches (e.g., crackdowns, raids, directed patrols) that target drug hot spots. Unfocused law enforcement-only approaches to dealing with drug problems are a distant last.

Photo credit: ex_libris_gul, Creative Commons License

Essays on social justice and criminal justice

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at Kings College London has published a set of essays based on contributions and papers from a two day conference held by the Centre earlier this year.

This collection of essays from more than 20 researchers and academics highlights how the government has failed to tackle deep-rooted social injustice. Published as part of our Harm and Society project, the collection explores themes such as the impact of historically high levels of inequality, endemic violence against women and the increasing reliance on criminal justice measures to manage social problems.

Table of contents below the fold.

Reference:

Continue reading Essays on social justice and criminal justice

Quick links

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Having neglected this blog somewhat in recent weeks I find myself now overwhelmed with interesting snippets from around the web and blogosphere. Here are just a few that caught my eye:

The Eyewitness Reform Blog reports on a conviction “overturned for failure to “seriously consider” expert testimony on eyewitness factors”: “The court didn’t go as far as to say that it was error to exclude the expert testimony, but citing Illinois case law, found that it was error to fail to provide a reasoned basis for its exclusion.”

The Eyewitness Reform Blog also highlights the recent publication of an article in the NIJ Journal on making eyewitness identification in police line-ups more reliable.

Convicted conman Frank Abnegale claims that a combination of technology and living in “an extremely unethical society” has made crime easier: “You can build all the security systems in the world; you can build the most sophisticated technology, and all it takes is one weak link — someone who operates that technology — to bring it all down” (hat tip to Slashdot).

Some great posts from Romeo Vitelli at Providentia recently, including the tale of a psychotic priest killer, an exorcism case in Singapore, the killer who boasted about how easy it was to lie to psychiatrists, Guy de Maupassant’s struggle with neurosyphilis and two articles on shell shock.

Scott Henson over at Grits for Breakfast has also had some interesting posts up in the last few weeks, including a critique of the “policy many police and probation departments have adopted of rounding up all the registered sex offenders in their community into custody on Halloween night to keep them from having children come to their door” (see also Karen Franklin’s post) and a comment on the fact that although Americans are less likely to be victims of crime, their fear of crime just keeps rising.

Forensic psych Karen Franklin highlights some interesting (and free) articles on sex offending in the journal Sexual Offender Treatment. Whilst I’m talking about Karen, I’ll point you to a great little piece she wrote in September in which she demolishes a few myths and provides some practical advice about what it takes to become a forensic psych.

Michael Connolly at Corrections Sentencing points us towards the impressive set of evaluation resources over at the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Carnival Against Sexual Violence 34 is up at Abyss2Hope.

Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

New issues: Journal of Criminal Justice

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Journal of Criminal Justice 35(4), July-August 2007 and Journal of Criminal Justice 35(5), September-October 2007 are now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents:

Journal of Criminal Justice 35(4):

  • Predicting crime story salience: A replication – Steven Chermak and Nicole M. Chapman
  • Duration of the time to reconviction: Evidence from UK prisoner discharge data – Roger Arthur Bowles and Chrisostomos Florackis
  • Convicting and incarcerating felony offenders of intimate assault and the odds of new assault charges – John Wooldredge
  • Roles of neighborhood race and status in the middle stages of juror selection – Ralph B. Taylor, Jerry H. Ratcliffe, Lillian Dote and Brian A. Lawton
  • Race and repeats: The impact of officer performance on racially biased policing – Lisa Growette Bostaph
  • Interpersonal violent crime in Ghana: The case of assault in Accra – Joseph Appiahene-Gyamfi
  • The long-term impact of restorative justice programming for juvenile offenders – Kathleen J. Bergseth and Jeffrey A. Bouffard
  • How does reactivity affect police behavior? Describing and quantifying the impact of reactivity as behavioral change in a large-scale observational study of police – Richard Spano

Journal of Criminal Justice 35(5):

  • Differentiating among racial/ethnic groups and its implications for understanding juvenile justice decision making – Michael J. Leiber, Joseph Johnson, Kristan Fox and Robyn Lacks
  • Prisonization and accounts of gun carrying – Paul B. Stretesky, Mark Pogrebin, N. Prabha Unnithan and Gerry Venor
  • Victims’ perceptions of police response to domestic violence incidents – Ida M. Johnson
  • Considering the efficacy of situational crime prevention in schools – Lauren O’Neill and Jean Marie McGloin
  • Citizen assessment of local criminal courts: Does fairness matter? – Kevin Buckler, Francis T. Cullen and James D. Unnever
  • Investigating the impact of extended bar closing times on police stops for DUI – Leana Allen Bouffard, Lindsey Ellen Bergeron and Jeffrey A. Bouffard
  • Operationalizing risk: The influence of measurement choice on the prevalence and correlates of prison violence among incarcerated murderers – Jon R. Sorensen and Mark D. Cunningham
  • Stalking acknowledgement and reporting among college women experiencing intrusive behaviors: Implications for the emergence of a “classic stalking case” – Carol E. Jordan, Pamela Wilcox and Adam J. Pritchard
  • A note on the status of discretion in police research – Ernest L. Nickels

New issue: European Journal of Criminology 4(4)

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European Journal of Criminology 4(4) , October 2007 is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Birds of Different Feathers: School Networks of Serious Delinquent, Minor Delinquent and Non-delinquent Boys and Girls – Frank M. Weerman and Catrien C. J. H. Bijleveld
  • The Victimization of Dependent Drug Users: Findings from a European Study, UK – Alex Stevens, Daniele Berto, Ulrich Frick, Viktoria Kerschl, Tim McSweeney, Susanne Schaaf, Morena Tartari, Paul Turnbull, Barbara Trinkl, Ambros Uchtenhagen, Gabriele Waidner, and Wolfgang Werdenich
  • Trust in the Police in 16 European Countries: A Multilevel Analysis – Juha Tapio Kaariainen
  • The Europeanization of Human Rights: An Obstacle to Authoritarian Policing in Ireland? – Barry Vaughan and Shane Kilcommins
  • Crime and Criminal Policy in Italy: Tradition and Modernity in a Troubled Country – Stefano Maffei and Isabella Merzagora Betsos