Blue Line

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Twenty-Five Years of Professionalizing Policing


November 4, 2013
By Brent Snook

581 words – MR

Science BEAT

Educating the Blue Line
25 years of professionalizing policing

The idea for “Science Beat” came from journalist Chris Mooney and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum. Their book, outlined a disturbing picture of how the general public is not knowledgeable about many basic scientific concepts (e.g., only 50 per cent of American adults know that the earth orbits the sun once a year).

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Among many of the key messages that I took was that scientists are, in part, to blame for the scientific literacy problem. The authors argued that scientists “talk far too much between themselves and far too little to everybody else”.

Mooney and Kirshenbaum criticized scientists for complaining that non-scientists do not listen to the advice they publish in academic journals. They argued that scientists should stop ‘snottin-and-bawling’ in their ivy towers about the lack of interest in their work and take it upon themselves to communicate their research findings to the general public in easy to understand language. I have always agreed with the authors’ message, but decided to take action.

How could I, in my own little way, contribute to educating police officers about the scientific findings from a wide range of policing research, ultimately improving their work and lives>.

Then it hit me – ! I immediately thought of this independent magazine and pitched the idea of a regular science column to Publisher Morley Lymburner and Senior Editor Mark Reesor. My idea was approved without hesitation. came to mind because it has always published, without fail, summaries of the scientific studies that my colleagues and I have conducted on various policing topics. The publication and, more generally, embracing of scientific findings by the staff are commendable. Indeed, the open acceptance and promotion of science is praiseworthy as it means the magazine recognizes the value in police officers being open-minded, curious and intellectual. Granted, the magazine is also about entertaining and connecting law enforcement officers, but it understands the inherent value that science holds for the policing profession.

also appreciates, more than most scientists, that the findings from policing research have little value if police officers do not understand or appreciate the research and, more importantly, are unaware that the research even exists. The magazine is also a very important outlet for researchers, like myself, to learn about the issues that matter most to police officers. More policing researchers need to subscribe and adjust their programs of research to match the issues that are at the forefront of policing.

is a vital Canadian educational forum for police officers and researchers. A scan of topics over the past few years shows the range of important scientific issues covered. For instance, contributors have published findings on the effect of shift work on performance, the use of stable isotope analysis to predict the origins of unidentified human remains, how it is possible to use the Internet to study gangs, the issues surrounding policing and PTSD, the challenges of moving into management and many more important topics.

It is abundantly clear that is contributing to the professionalization of policing and will continue to do so far into the future. Congratulations Morley, Mark and all of the staff for the remarkable contributions to policing over the past 25 years! Thank you for providing a forum for scientists to communicate their messages to those who matter the most. We all look forward to the 50th Anniversary!


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