Ms. Robinson, former assistant attorney general of the U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (OJP) from 2009 to 2012, and now professor of criminology, law and society at George Mason University, visited IACP headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, last week for the interview.
3. What research areas do you think the RAC may focus on in future years?
One of the key reasons I am so exciting about being the RAC co-chair is that the notion of linking research with law enforcement is one of my greatest interests. The mission of the RAC is to bring academics and chiefs together and that is right on point with one of my passions.
There is a great deal more we can do through the RAC to encourage law enforcement and research collaboration. For example, an average IACP annual conference attracts around 15,000 attendees, and yet recent conferences probably attracted fewer than 20 criminologists. One of my goals, through the RAC, is to encourage many more academics to start attending IACP and learning from police chiefs about the IACP and challenges facing law enforcement. This is crucial in order to foster closer partnerships.
Second, I have been concerned for some time that the vast majority of academic research focuses on large, urban police departments. Half of all departments in the United States employ fewer than 10 officers. I hope that the RAC can encourage criminologists to focus on smaller departments because there are a host of issues that merit attention. As an example, a smaller agency chief has to juggle so many responsibilities—this challenge could be examined through research.
A third area is training. There is so much that officers in a department of any size need to address. Relationships with their community, evidence based approaches, collaboration, new technology, and many more. Are we, as the criminal justice community, still focused on strictly traditional approaches or are we progressing towards matching our curriculum with current need? And after our officers leave the academy, are we following up as much as we need to and providing continuing education?
As RAC co-chair, I would also like to pay close attention to community relationships, confidence, broader trust in law enforcement, and how to continue to build stronger relationships. A great deal of research has been done, but we must continue to study this as new challenges come up and environments change. We need to ensure that law enforcement continues to work with its community partners to meet the needs of our towns, villages, cities and states.
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