On Policing and Police Reform

With the horrific homicide of George Floyd, the nation’s conscience was shocked once again by the images of an unnecessary and unconscionable use of force by the police.  The outrage at this heinous act is shared across races, ethnicities, generations, and social classes.  Calls for police reform have also been widespread, but with no consensus about the best path forward.  The in-custody deaths of Mr. Floyd and other people of color implicate the social and economic inequities in many domains of American life, in the context of which police reform is a prominent component in a larger mosaic of policy reform.

The findings of research can and should guide reform measures, but the evidence base is all too thin.  Our grasp of the social, economic, psychological, political, and organizational forces that contribute to – or inhibit – police brutality and other forms of misconduct is tenuous, and our capacity to project the likely effects – intended and unintended – of various reform proposals is limited.  Our comprehension of how police agencies can best prepare, support and oversee their officers in performing their vital functions, with the most sparing and judicious use of police authority, is fragmentary.  Never has there been a more demonstrable and acute need for scientifically sound and actionable evidence about policing and police reform.

The Finn Institute remains dedicated to the development of criminal justice strategies, programs, and practices that are effective, lawful, and procedurally fair, through the application of social science findings and methods.  The Institute is committed to building the base of knowledge on which effective changes can be formulated and implemented – changes that better ensure justice, safety, and quality of life in all communities.

Discussions of Police Reform
The Power to Arrest