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Toward a New Professionalism in Policing, National Institute of Justice, 2011

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New Perspectives in Policing

m a r c h 2 011
~ HARVARDKennedySchool


Program in Criminal Justice
Policy and Management


National Institute of Justice

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing 

Christopher Stone and Jeremy Travis


Executive Session on Policing and 

Public Safety

Across the United States, police organizations

This is one in a series of papers that will be pub­
lished as a result of the Executive Session on
Policing and Public Safety.

leaders are committing themselves to stricter

Harvard’s Executive Sessions are a convening
of individuals of independent standing who take
joint responsibility for rethinking and improving
society’s responses to an issue. Members are
selected based on their experiences, their repu­
tation for thoughtfulness and their potential for
helping to disseminate the work of the Session.
In the early 1980s, an Executive Session on Policing
helped resolve many law enforcement issues of
the day. It produced a number of papers and
concepts that revolutionized policing. Thirty years
later, law enforcement has changed and NIJ and
Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government are
again collaborating to help resolve law enforce­
ment issues of the day.
Learn more about the Executive Session on
Policing and Public Safety at:

are striving for a new professionalism. Their
accountability for both their effectiveness and
their conduct while they seek to increase their
legitimacy in the eyes of those they police and
to encourage continuous innovation in police
practices. The traffic in these ideas, policies and
practices is now so vigorous across the nation
that it suggests a fourth element of this new pro­
fessionalism: its national coherence. These four
principles — accountability, legitimacy, innova­
tion and coherence — are not new in themselves,
but together they provide an account of develop­
ments in policing during the last 20 years that
distinguishes the policing of the present era from
that of 30, 50 or 100 years ago.
Many U.S. police organizations have realized

NIJ’s website:

important aspects of the new professionalism

Harvard’s website:

values. The ambitions for accountability, legiti­

and many more have adopted its underlying
macy and innovation unite police organizations
in disparate contexts: urban, suburban and
rural, municipal, county, state and federal. With

2 | New Perspectives in Policing

approximately 20,000 public police organizations in

work in progress, the New Professionalism can help

the United States, national coherence in American

police chiefs and commissioners keep their orga­

policing would be a signal achievement.1 We do

nizations focused on why they are doing what they

not see this new professionalism fully realized in

do, what doing it better might look like, and how

any single department. We know how difficult it

they can prioritize the many competing demands

can be to narrow the gap between these ambitions

for their time and resources. On the front lines, the

and many deeply ingrained routines and prac­

New Professionalism can help police officers work

tices. Much policing in the United States remains,

together effectively, connect their daily work to the

in these terms, unprofessional, but professional

larger project of building a better society, and share

ambition is itself a powerful force and it is at work

their successes and frustrations with the commu­

almost everywhere.

nities they serve. In communities everywhere, the
New Professionalism can help citizens understand

We hear similar ambitions for accountability, legiti­

individual police actions as part of larger strategies,

macy, innovation and coherence in other countries,

and assess the demands and requests that police

from the state police organizations in Brazil and

make for more public money, more legal authority

India to the South African Police Service, the

and more public engagement in keeping communi­

French Gendarmerie and the Chilean Carabineros.

ties safe. From all of these vantage points, the New

A global police culture with these same four ele­

Professionalism helps all of us see what is hap­

ments increasingly defines the ambitions of police

pening in policing, how we got here and where we

leaders in most countries. In this paper, however,

are going.

we focus on the trend in the United States.
Each of the four elements of the New Professionalism
To describe and illustrate the elements of this new

—	 accountability, legitimacy, innovation and

professionalism, we draw on our own experiences

national coherence — has something to offer police

working in and studying police organizations and

and the communities in which they work.

on the deliberations of two Executive Sessions on
Policing, both convened by the National Institute

By a commitment to accountability we mean an

of Justice and Harvard University’s Kennedy School

acceptance of an obligation to account for police

of Government: the first from 1985 to 1992 and the

actions not only up the chain of command within

second commencing in 2008 and continuing today.

police departments but also to civilian review
boards, city councils and county commissioners,

Why a New Professionalism?

state legislatures, inspectors general, government

We offer the “New Professionalism” as a concep­

auditors and courts. The obligation extends beyond

tual framework that can help chiefs, frontline police

these government entities to citizens directly: to

officers and members of the public alike under­

journalists and editorial boards, resident associa­

stand and shape the work of police departments

tions, chambers of commerce — the whole range of

today and in the years ahead. Even as it remains a

community-based organizations.

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 3

By a commitment to legitimacy we mean a deter­

applicable in jurisdictions across the country. Not

mination to police with the consent, cooperation

long ago, it was common to hear police officers

and support of the people and communities being

insist that they could police effectively in their city,

policed. Police receive their authority from the

county or state only if they had come up through the

state and the law, but they also earn it from the

ranks there: good policing was inherently parochial.

public in each and every interaction. Although it is

Such a belief belies a true professionalism. Inherent

important to derive legitimacy from every part of

in the idea of the New Professionalism in policing

the public, those citizens and groups most disaf­

is that police officers, supervisors and executives

fected by past harms or present conditions have the

share a set of skills and follow a common set of pro­

greatest claims to attention on this score because

tocols that have been accepted by the profession

their trust and confidence in the police is often

because they have been proven to be effective or

weakest. Fortunately, research we discuss later in

legally required. That is not to say that local knowl­

this paper suggests that police departments can

edge and understanding are unimportant — they

strengthen their legitimacy among people of color

are vital. But they are not everything. There is vital

in the United States and among young people of all

knowledge, understanding and practice common

races and ethnicities without compromising their

to good policing everywhere, and this common skill

effectiveness.2 Indeed, effectiveness and legitimacy

set defines police professionalism.

can be advanced together.
There are many definitions of professionalism and
By a commitment to innovation we mean active

some debate about what it means for policing to

investment of personnel and resources both in

be a profession. We take these up at the end of this

adapting policies and practices proven effective

paper, after putting the New Professionalism in his­

in other departments and in experimenting with

torical context. For now, suffice it to say that for any

new ideas in cooperation with a department’s local

profession to be worthy of that name, its members

partners. Empirical evidence is important here.

must not only develop transportable skills but also

Departments with a commitment to innovation

commit themselves both to a set of ethical precepts

look for evidence showing that practices developed

and to a discipline of continuous learning. A look

elsewhere work, just as they embrace evaluation of

back in history reveals how this meaning of “pro­

the yet unproven practices they are testing.

fessional” contrasts with another use of the word
employed in the early debates over community

By national coherence we mean that the depart­

policing. The New Professionalism embraces and

ments exemplifying the New Professionalism are

extends the best of community policing, whereas

participating in national conversations about pro­

the “old professionalism” said to characterize polic­

fessional policing. They are training their officers,

ing in the 1960s and 1970s was seen as antithetical

supervisors and leaders in practices and theories

to community policing.

4 | New Perspectives in Policing

Community Policing and the New

… . Although it is an operating style, com­

Twenty-five years ago, when the elements of the

policing … (emphasis in original).3

New Professionalism began to emerge in urban
American police departments, “community polic­
ing” was the organizing framework advanced to
describe the new approach and new priorities. To
most Americans who heard of the idea, community
policing summoned up images of police walking
the beat, riding on bicycles, or talking to groups of
senior citizens and to young children in classrooms.
These images adorn countless posters and bro­
chures produced by individual police departments
to explain community policing to local residents.
They picture community policing as a specialized
program: a few carefully selected officers taking
pains to interact with “good” citizens while the rest
of the police department does something else.
Inside police departments, however, and at the first
Executive Session on Policing, community polic­
ing was being described as far more than the next
new program. It was promoted as the organizing
framework around which police departments were
going to change everything they did. Community
policing might look like a specialized program
when a police department first adopts it, but that is

munity policing also is a philosophy of

Brown went on to explain how, in Phase Two, com­
munity policing requires changes to every part
of policing, including its supervision and man­
agement, training, investigations, performance
evaluation, accountability and even its values.
True community policing, Brown wrote, requires
a focus on results rather than process; it forces
decentralization, power sharing with community
residents, the redesign of police beats, and giv­
ing a lower priority to calls for service. Malcolm
Sparrow, a former Detective Chief Inspector in the
English police service on the faculty of the Harvard
Kennedy School, made the same point in even more
dramatic language:
Implementing community policing is not a
simple policy change that can be effected
by issuing a directive through the normal
channels. It is not a mere restructuring of
the force to provide the same service more
efficiently. Nor is it a cosmetic decoration
designed to impress the public and pro­
mote greater cooperation.

“Phase One,” as Lee Brown, who led police depart­

For the police it is an entirely different way

ments in Atlanta, Houston and New York City before

of life. It is a new way for police officers to

becoming mayor of Houston, wrote in a 1989 paper

see themselves and to understand their

for the first Executive Session. Brown explained that

role in society. The task facing the police

“Phase Two”:

chief is nothing less than to change the

… involves more sweeping and more

fundamental culture of the organization.4

comprehensive changes … . It is the

In this grand vision, the advent of community polic­

department’s style that is being revamped

ing marked an epochal shift, replacing an earlier

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 5

organizing framework: professional crime-fighting.

where policing was still entirely a matter of politi­

And this, finally, is why the field today needs a

cal patronage and a blunt instrument of political

“new” professionalism, for the original profes­

power began to ask if they could skip the pro­

sionalism was — as an organizing framework at

fessional stage of police evolution and proceed

least — discarded in favor of community policing.

directly to community policing.8

In their promotion of community policing and

Community policing was an important improve­

a focus on problem solving, the proponents of

ment on the style of policing it challenged in

reform roundly criticized what they saw as the

American cities, but it is time to correct two dis­

professional crime-fighting model, or simply the

tortions inherited from that earlier debate. First,

“professional model” of policing. They saw the

what community policing challenged in the 1980s

professional model as hidebound: too hierarchi­

was not a truly professional model of policing, but

cal in its management, too narrow in its response

rather a technocratic, rigid, often cynical model

to crime and too much at odds with what police

of policing. Moreover, it reinforced pernicious

did. Led during the first Executive Session

biases deeply entrenched in the wider society.

on Policing by the scholarship of three academics

Both good and bad police work was performed

— Professors Mark Moore of the Harvard Kennedy

in that mode, but it was hardly professional.

School, George Kelling of Northeastern University

Second, community policing was only part of

and Robert Trojanowicz of Michigan State

the new model of policing emerging in the 1980s,

University — the champions of community polic­

with contemporaneous innovations occurring

ing contrasted their principles and methods to

in technology, investigation and the disruption

this “traditional,” “classical,” “reform” or, most

of organized crime. By reinterpreting the rise of

commonly, “professional” style of policing.

community policing as part of a larger shift to a



New Professionalism, we hope simultaneously to
The criticisms made by Moore, Kelling and

rescue the idea of professional policing from its

Trojanowicz of the then-dominant form of polic­

frequently distorted form in the mid-20th cen­

ing in U.S. cities were right on the mark, but

tury and to show how the elements of this New

by labeling this dominant form “professional”

Professionalism might anchor a safer and more

crime-fighting, they needlessly tarnished the

just society in the decades ahead.


concept of professionalism itself. Looking back
called professional model of policing was at best

The So-Called Professionalism of
Mid-20th-Century Policing

a quasi-professionalism and at worst an entirely

Proponents of community policing in the 1980s

false professionalism. At the time, however, the

labeled its mid-century predecessor as “pro­

critique from Moore, Kelling, Trojanowicz and

fessional crime-fighting,” but what sort of

others succeeded in giving professional policing a

policing were they describing? What were the

on these debates, it is easy to see that this so-

bad name, so much so that reformers in countries

6 | New Perspectives in Policing

characteristics of the mid-century policing they

internal organizational controls.”13 And as another

hoped to replace?

paper explained in more detail:

First, in its relationship to citizens, the previous

In many respects, police organizations

mode of policing was deliberately removed from

have typified the classical command-and­

communities, insisting that police understood

control organization that emphasized

better than local residents how their communities

top-level decisionmaking: flow of orders

should be policed. As George Kelling described it in

from top-level executives down to line

the first paper in the Perspectives on Policing series,

personnel, flow of information up from line

the police had long been seen as “a community’s

personnel to executives, layers of dense

professional defense against crime and disorder:

supervision, unity of command, elaborate

Citizens should leave control of crime and main­

rules and regulations, elimination of dis­

tenance of order to police (emphasis added).” Or,

cretion, and simplification of work tasks.14


as a separate paper explained, “The proper role of
citizens in crime control was to be relatively passive

This mid-century model of policing can be criti­

recipients of professional crime control services.”10

cized as technocratic and rigid, but it was not all

In contrast, explained Kelling, under community

bad. The elevation of technical policing skills, the

policing, “the police are to stimulate and buttress

introduction of hiring standards, and the stricter

a community’s ability to produce attractive neigh­

supervision and discipline of police officers

borhoods and protect them against predators.”11

improved some police services and helped some
police chiefs put distance between themselves and

Second, in terms of tactics, the previous mode of

political ward bosses, corrupt mayors and local

policing relied on a limited set of routine activi­

elites demanding special attention. Prioritizing

ties. As another 1988 paper in the series explained,

911 calls at least allocated police services to anyone

“Professional crime-fighting now relies predomi­

with access to a telephone rather than only to those

nantly on three tactics: (1) motorized patrol;

with political connections or in favor with the local

(2) rapid response to calls for service; and (3) retro­

police. But these were incremental gains, and polic­

spective investigation of crimes.”12

ing remained (and remains) closely tied to politics.15

Third, the management structure of professional

Moreover, each of the three elements of so-called

crime-fighting was centralized and top-down. Its

professional policing described here — its claim to

management technique was command and control,

technical expertise, its tactics and its management

aiming principally to keep police officers in line

strategy — failed to produce adequate public safety.

and out of trouble. As one paper described it, “the

Rising crime and disorder in the 1960s and 1970s

more traditional perspective of professional crime-

belied the technical expertise of the police, as did

fighting policing … emphasizes the maintenance of

the repressive response to the civil rights and peace

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 7

movements and the persistence of brutality on

… the classical theory [of command-and­

the street and during interrogations. A growing

control management] … denies too much

body of research evidence demonstrated the inef­

of the real nature of police work, promul­

fectiveness of random patrol, the irrelevance of

gates unsustainable myths about the

shortened response times to the vast majority of

nature and quality of police supervision,

calls for service, and the inability of retrospec­

and creates too much cynicism in officers

tive investigation to solve most crimes. As for

attempting to do creative problem solv­

command-and-control management, the work

ing. Its assumptions about workers are

of frontline police officers, operating outside of

simply wrong.16

line-of-sight supervision, proved ill-suited to this
form of supervision.

Of all the problems created by terming midcentury policing “professional,” none was more

Ironically, the command-and-control manage­

glaring than its dissonance with the experience

ment techniques identified with “professional

of African-Americans and other racial and eth­

crime-fighting” were the antithesis of the prac­

nic minorities. Former New York City Police

tices generally used to manage professionals.

Commissioner Patrick Murphy and former

Instead of depending on continuous training,

Newark (NJ) Police Director Hubert Williams

ethical standards and professional pride to

coauthored a 1990 essay in which they argued

guide behavior, command-and-control struc­

that for black Americans, the so-called profes­

tures treated frontline police officers like soldiers

sional model was infused with the racism that

or factory workers, yet most of the time the job

had biased policing since the organization of the

of policing looked nothing like soldiering or

police during slavery:

assembly-line production.
The fact that the legal order not only
Even then, the advocates for community policing

countenanced but sustained slavery, seg­

recognized that mid-century policing was hardly

regation, and discrimination for most of

professional in its treatment of the officers on the

our Nation’s history — and the fact that

street. They minced no words here, explaining

the police were bound to uphold that

that by the 1960s and 1970s, line officers were still

order — set a pattern for police behavior
and attitudes toward minority communi­

managed in ways that were antithetical

ties that has persisted until the present

to professionalization … patrol officers

day. That pattern includes the idea that

continued to have low status; their work

minorities have fewer civil rights, that

was treated as if it were routinized and

the task of the police is to keep them

standardized; and petty rules governed

under control, and that the police have

issues such as hair length and off-duty

little responsibility for protecting them


from crime within their communities.17

8 | New Perspectives in Policing

Indeed, as Williams and Murphy pointed out,

began to emerge in the 1980s was a new, truer,

blacks were largely excluded from urban police

more robust professionalism of which community

departments in the same years that “professional”

policing was and remains a part. The proponents of

policing was taking hold, and those African-

the term “community policing” were, in the 1980s,

Americans who were hired as police officers were

already aware of this problem with their language.

often given lesser powers than white officers. In

They knew their “community policing” framework

New Orleans, the police department included 177

was merely a partial replacement for mid-century

black officers in 1870, but this number fell to 27 by

policing. Yet they resisted the broader labels sug­

1880, further fell to five by 1900, and to zero by 1910.

gested by their colleagues, clinging to their banner

New Orleans did not hire another black officer until

of community policing. Why?

1950. Even by 1961, a third of U.S. police depart­
ments surveyed still limited the authority of black

The Attorney General and the Professors

police officers to make felony arrests. By the end

Among the participants in the first Executive

of that decade, anger at racial injustice had fueled

Session on Policing was Edwin Meese, then-

riots in more than a dozen cities, and a Presidential

Attorney General of the United States. Two years

commission had concluded that many of these riots,

into the session, during the discussion of a paper

as Williams and Murphy underscored, “had been

by Professors Moore and Kelling tracing the evo­

precipitated by police actions, often cases of insen­

lution of policing strategies over the previous 100

sitivity, sometimes incidents of outright brutality.”18

years, an exchange between the Attorney General

Today it is clear that the rise of community polic­
ing did not mark the end of professional policing,
but rather its beginning. Little about policing in the
mid-20th century was “professional.” Its expertise
was flawed, its techniques crude, its management

and Professor Moore captured not only the state of
the debate in the policing field, but the reason that
Moore and his academic colleagues adopted the
phrase “community policing” to describe the broad
changes they were both charting and championing.

techniques more military than professional, and

Emphasizing the historical significance of these

it reinforced rather than challenged the racism of

changes, Kelling and Moore had argued in their

the wider society. Community policing, with its

paper that American policing since the 1840s had

emphases on quality of service, decentralization

begun in a “political” era in which policing and

of authority and community partnership, was more

local politics had been intimately connected and

professional than the style of policing it attempted

in which police carried out a wide range of social

to displace.

and political functions, only some of which related

The phrase “community policing” does not, however,
adequately describe what replaced mid-century law
enforcement and what continues to propel the most
promising developments in policing today. What

to law enforcement. Policing had then passed
through a “reform” era, reaching its zenith in the
1950s, in which professional crime-fighting became
the dominant organizational strategy. Then, just as

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 9

the many failures of professional crime-fighting

shade grandiose,” he told its authors. “Suggesting

became apparent in the 1960s and 1970s, police

that we have ‘a whole new era’ to be compared

departments, according to Kelling and Moore,

with the reform era is too grand an approach.”

were achieving new successes with the rein­

Community policing, the Attorney General

troduction of foot patrol and with experiments

insisted, is “only one component of the whole pic­

in “problem solving.” Foot patrol proved both

ture.”21 The then-director of the National Institute

effective at reducing fear of crime and politi­

of Justice, James K. “Chips” Stewart, suggested

cally popular with residents, merchants and

a different term, “problem-oriented” policing,

politicians, so much so that voters were will­

because police were taking many initiatives, not

ing to increase taxes to pay for it. At the same

merely creating community partnerships, to

time, problem solving appeared to capture the

affirmatively identify and solve problems rather

imagination and enthusiasm of patrol officers,

than waiting to respond to reports of crime. 22

who liked working more holistically in part­

Attorney General Meese suggested “strategic

nership with residents to resolve neighborhood

policing” because the term embraced not only

concerns. This led Kelling and Moore to the prin­

the work in communities but also the support

cipal claim in their historical account: foot patrol,

that community work was going to require (espe­

fear reduction, problem solving and partner­

cially the intelligence, surveillance and analysis

ships with local residents were “not merely new

functions) and the “specialist services that are

police tactics.” Instead, they constituted “a new

going to focus on homicide, citywide burglary

organizational approach, properly called a com­

rings, car theft rings, and organized crime and

munity strategy.”19 Although some departments

terrorism.” The Attorney General said that his

were introducing foot patrol or problem solving

concerns would disappear if the professors talked

as mere add-ons to professional crime-fighting,

about community policing as a part of a new era

their implications were far broader:

of policing, rather than defining the era itself. If
they did that, he concluded:

We are arguing that policing is in a period
of transition from a reform strategy to

Everybody would realize that this [com­

what we call a community strategy. The

munity policing] is a very important

change involves more than making tac­

contribution which, along with other

tical or organizational adjustments and

things happening in the police field,

accommodations. Just as policing went

marks a new era of strategic policing in

through a basic change when it moved

which people are thinking about what

from the political to the reform strategy, it

they are doing.23

is going through a similar change now.20
Not only did the professors continue to insist on
Attorney General Meese was sympathetic but

using “community policing” to define the new era

skeptical. “I think the paper is good, but perhaps a

and its strategy, but they soon persuaded the field

10 | New Perspectives in Policing

to do the same. Community policing became the

In many respects it is a continuation of an

slogan around which reformers rallied, eventually

increasingly thoughtful, professionalized,

including President Bill Clinton, who put “commu­

forensic, tactical-minded police depart­

nity policing” at the heart of his national strategy

ment. The other front is … how to strike

to deal with crime and to provide unprecedented

up a relationship with the community so

federal assistance to local police.

that we can enlist their aid, focus on the
problems that turn out to be important, and

In response to Attorney General Meese’s suggestion

figure out a way to be accountable … . The

that the professors substitute the term “strategic

first strand is captured by notions of stra­

policing,” Professor Moore responded with a four-

tegic and problem-solving policing. The

part argument. First, he agreed that the many

second strand is captured by the concept

elements of strategic policing and problem solving

of community policing. … My judgment is

were an important part of the new era. Second, he

that the problem solving, strategic thing

predicted that most of these new strategies would

will take care of itself because it is much

take hold even without encouragement from lead­

more of a natural development in policing.

ers in the field or academics. Third, he predicted

If you are going to make a difference, you

that police would find most uncomfortable the

ought to describe a strategy that challenges

building of true partnerships with communities.

the police in the areas in which they are

He concluded, therefore, that labeling the entire

least likely to make investments in repo­

package of innovations as community policing

sitioning themselves. That is this far more

would give special prominence to the very aspect

problematic area of fashioning a relation­

that would be most difficult for the police to adopt.

ship with the community.24

In short, the name was a dare. As Moore said to the
Attorney General:

The dare worked. Not everywhere, and not com­
pletely, but many American police departments

Let me say why we keep talking about this

took up the banner of community policing and

phrase “community policing.” Let us imag­

found it possible to varying degrees to create part­

ine … that there are two different fronts on

nerships with the communities they policed.25 The

which new investments in policing are

successful marketing of community policing was

likely to be made. One lies in the direction

solidified in the first presidential campaign and

of more thoughtful, more information-

then the presidency of Bill Clinton, whose signature

guided, more active attacks on particular

policing initiative — federal funding to add 100,000

crime problems. Some are local crime

cops to U.S. police departments — was managed by

problems like robbery and burglary, and

the newly created Office of Community Oriented

some turn out to be much bigger … [includ­

Policing Services (COPS Office). With those funds,

ing] organized crime, terrorism, and

local police departments pursued hundreds of

sophisticated frauds. That is one frontier.

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 11

varieties of community partnerships, and the

from community engagement and participation.

public came to understand that modern policing

Community policing, in short, lost its power as

was community policing.

a comprehensive, organizing concept and again
became a single element in the complex and con­

But At tor ney Genera l Meese was r ig ht.

tentious field of policing.

Community policing was only one part of the
new era in American policing, and police depart­

Moreover, even in the Clinton years, commu­

ments did not, indeed could not, transform their

nity policing succeeded as a political slogan and

entire organizations in service of local commu­

provided a framework for important changes in

nity priorities. There were too many things to do

police practice, but did not serve as the transfor­

that did not fit neatly within that frame. Instead,

mative paradigm that Moore and others thought

departments began to change on many fronts at

was needed. Police leaders remain uncertain even

once: incorporating new forensic science technol­

to this day what they should ask of their commu­

ogy and new surveillance capabilities, building

nities. Despite books, trainings, conferences and

new information systems that allowed chiefs

countless new community policing initiatives,

to hold local commanders accountable almost

police departments became only marginally

in real time for levels of crime in their districts,

better at building broad, trusting, active part­

expanding the use of stop-and-search tactics,

nerships with community residents, especially in

responding to criticisms of racial profiling, and

high-crime neighborhoods. By the time of Barack

managing heightened concern about terrorism.

Obama’s election in 2008, community policing

And every one of these innovations raised prob­

had not only lost most of the federal funding and

lems, at least in some departments, beyond the

priority it had enjoyed in the 1990s, but the power

guidance that community policing principles

of the slogan to focus police attention, catalyze


public support for police reform, and serve as an
overarching philosophy was exhausted as well.

As federal funding for community policing
diminished after 2001, police leaders found

The New Professionalism can restore to the field

themselves without a single organizing frame­

an overarching, organizing framework. It brings

work that could allow them to make sense of

together the strategic, problem-oriented, com­

all of these developments. Soon the labels were

munity partnership strands from the 1980s and

proliferating: intelligence-led policing, evidence-

1990s, and incorporates many additional devel­

based policing, pulling levers, hot-spot policing

opments in policing in the new century. Still, the

and predictive policing. Some still argued that

exchange between Attorney General Meese and

community policing, rightly understood, was a

Professor Moore is worth recalling, for it reminds

vessel capacious enough to contain all of these

us that some elements of reform are easier than

developments, but others believed that many of

others for police to integrate into their tradition-

these tactics and strategies had become divorced

bound organizations. As the New Professionalism


12 | New Perspectives in Policing

advances, reformers inside and outside police

CompStat accountability process, in which chiefs

departments should focus on those aspects that will

in headquarters hold precinct and other area

be most difficult for those departments to embrace.

commanders accountable for continuing reduc­
tions in crime and achievement of other goals, is

The New Professionalism in the
21st Century

now a staple of police management in most large

All four elements of the New Professionalism are

intensely on “index crimes”: homicide, rape, rob­

already apparent in the values espoused by many

bery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and

police leaders in the United States and in the opera­

motor vehicle theft. At the same time, neighbor­

tions of several of their departments: accountability,

hood residents in local community meetings

legitimacy, innovation and national coherence.

question police commanders most commonly

Indeed, the fourth is why the first three define a

about other problems, such as open-air drug mar­

true professionalism: a collection of expertise, prin­

kets, disorderly youth, vehicle traffic and noise. In

ciples and practices that members of the profession

still other forums with more specialized advocates,

recognize and honor.

police executives are expected to account for their

departments. The CompStat process focuses most

responses to domestic violence complaints and

Increased Accountability

hate crimes. In these and other ways, police agen­

Police departments used to resist accountability;

cies are now routinely accountable for their ability

today, the best of them embrace it. Twenty years ago,

— or inability — to reduce the volume of crime.

the term “police accountability” generally referred
to accountability for misconduct. To speak of police
accountability was to ask who investigated civil­
ian complaints, how chiefs disciplined officers for
using excessive force, and so on — sensitive top­
ics in policing. Police chiefs did not generally feel
accountable for levels of crime.27 The change today
is dramatic, with increasing numbers of police
chiefs feeling strong political pressure to reduce
crime even as they contain costs. The best chiefs
speak confidently about “the three C’s”: crime,
cost and conduct. Police departments today are
accountable for all three.

Accountability for cost is hardly new, but the costs
of policing are receiving intense scrutiny across the
United States as state and local governments cut
their budgets. Although some police departments
are resorting to familiar cost-cutting strategies —
reducing civilian staff, slowing officer recruitment,
limiting opportunities for officers to earn over­
time and eliminating special programs — others
are urging a more fundamental re-examination of
how police departments are staffed and what work
they do.28 In Los Angeles, Chief of Police Charles
Beck eliminated an entire citywide unit of 130 offi­
cers known as Crime Reduction and Enforcement

Consider accountability for crime. Originating

of Warrants (CREW), used for tactical crime sup­

in the New York Police Department (NYPD), the

pression. This allowed the department to maintain

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 13

patrol officer levels in local police districts during

The embrace and expansion of accountabil­

a time of budget cuts, even though it deprived his

ity is likely to continue as part of the New

executive team of a flexible resource for respond­

Professionalism in policing, as it is in most pro­

ing quickly to new crime hot spots. More than

fessions. On crime, for example, we expect to

cost cutting, this is a serious bet on the value

see more police agencies conducting their own

of district-level leadership, entailing a public

routine public surveys, as many do now, holding

accounting of how the department is managing

themselves accountable not only for reducing

costs in a tight fiscal environment.29

reported crime, but also for reducing fear and
the perception that crime is a problem in partic­

Finally, police leaders are taking responsibility for

ular neighborhoods or for especially vulnerable

the conduct of their personnel: not only apologiz­

residents. The police department in Nashville has

ing promptly for clear cases of misconduct, but

engaged a research firm to conduct surveys of

also taking the initiative to explain controversial

residents and businesses every six months since

conduct that they consider legal and appropri­

2005, tracking victimization as well as the per­

ate. For example, when the Los Angeles Police

centage of respondents who consider crime their

Department employed excessive force on a large

most serious problem, and sharing the results

scale at an immigrants-rights rally in MacArthur


Park in May 2007, then-Police Chief William
Bratton publicly confessed error within days, and

To decrease costs, police departments will likely

followed up with strict discipline and reassign­

accelerate the shifting of work to nonsworn, and

ment of the top commander at the scene, who

therefore less expensive, specialist personnel,

later resigned. 30 Perhaps a less obvious exam­

especially in crime investigation units that are

ple is the NYPD’s annual report on all firearms

currently staffed mostly with detectives. A range

discharges, in which the department reports

of new specialists, including civilian crime scene

the facts and patterns in every discharge of a

technicians, data analysts and victim liaisons,

firearm by any of its officers. In the 2008 report,

might well replace one-half or more of today’s

for example, the NYPD reported on 105 firearm

detectives. A wide range of new civilian roles

discharges, the fewest in at least a decade. These

could emerge, boosting the prominence of civil­

included 49 discharges in “adversarial conflict” in

ian police careers in much the same way that

which 12 subjects were killed and 18 injured. The

nurses and technicians have taken on many of

report takes pains to put these police shootings

the roles traditionally played by doctors within

in context, providing accounts of the incidents,

the medical profession. This move is already

information on the backgrounds of the officers

under way, but it proceeds haltingly and with fre­

and the subjects shot, and comparisons with

quent reversals because of the politics of police

earlier years.

budgets in periods of fiscal constraint, when


14 | New Perspectives in Policing

retaining sworn officers becomes an especially high

throughout policing and are grounded in a partici­

priority for elected officials.

patory process.

On issues of conduct, the New Professionalism


may bring substantial reductions in the use of
force — already apparent in several jurisdictions
— as police departments become more proficient
in analyzing the tactical precursors to use-of-force
incidents. Already, some departments are review­
ing uses of force not only to determine if the officers
were justified in the moment that they pulled their
triggers or struck a blow, but also to discern ear­
lier tactical missteps that may have unnecessarily
escalated a situation to the point where force was
legitimately used. By moving beyond a focus on
culpability and discipline to smarter policing that
relies less on physical force, more departments
can demonstrate their professionalism and better
account for the force that they deploy.
Finally, we see a growing appreciation among police
executives for their own accountability to frontline
officers and other members of the organization.
This is the least developed form of accountability,
with too many police managers still speaking about
doing battle with their unions and too many unions
bragging about their control over chiefs. This famil­
iar, bruising fight between labor and management
obscures the beginnings of a more professional,
constructive engagement between police unions
and police executives, where leaders at every level
are committed to disciplinary systems that are
fair and perceived as fair, the development of rules
with robust participation of frontline officers and

Every public-sector department makes some
claim to legitimacy, and policing is no exception.
In their account of professional crime-fighting of
the mid-20th century, Professors Kelling and Moore
identified the sources of legitimacy for policing as
“the law” and the “professionalism” of the police.
They contrasted these sources of legitimacy with
early sources of legitimacy in urban politics. To
free themselves from the corruptions of political
manipulation, the police of mid-century America,
the professors explained, claimed their legitimacy
from enforcing the law in ways that were prop­
erly entrusted to their professional expertise. By
contrast, community policing emphasized the
legitimacy that could be derived from community
approval and engagement.
The legitimacy of policing under the New
Professionalism embraces all of these, recogniz­
ing that legitimacy is both conferred by law and
democratic politics and earned by adhering to
professional standards and winning the trust
and confidence of the people policed. The New
Professionalism, however, puts a special emphasis
on the sources of earned legitimacy: professional
integrity and public trust. The last of these — public
legitimacy — extends a long-established principle
of democratic policing and a tenet of community
policing: policing by consent of the governed.

staff, and codes of ethics and statements of values

In recent decades, police have had only the weak­

that speak to the aspirations of men and women

est means to measure erosion of public legitimacy,

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 15

mostly derived from the numbers of civilian com­

forceful tactics such as stop-and-frisk in ways that

plaints against the police. As every police officer

leave those subject to these tactics feeling that

and police scholar can agree, counting formal

the police acted fairly and appropriately.33 It is

civilian complaints produces highly problem­

through the pursuit of public legitimacy, guided

atic statistics. Relatively few people who feel

by repeated surveys that disaggregate results for

aggrieved in their encounters with the police

specific racial, ethnic and age groups, that the

make a formal complaint, so the complaints

New Professionalism can directly address the

received are unlikely to be representative of

persistent distrust between ethnic and racial

wider patterns. Moreover, the police discount

minorities and the police in the United States.

complaints from at least two categories of civil­
ians: persistent offenders who use the complaint

As the New Professionalism develops further,

process to deter police from stopping them, and

police departments will be able to use better sur­

persistent complainers who file literally dozens

veys than are common today to measure public

of complaints annually. These complainants may

legitimacy, allowing them to make more appro­

be relatively few, but the stories about them cir­

priate and modest use of civilian complaints

culate so widely among police officers that they

statistics. In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama

undermine the ability of police commanders or

underscored the importance of this pillar of the

outside oversight bodies to use numbers of civil­

New Professionalism when he promised that, as

ian complaints as a credible measure of public

President, he would work for a criminal justice

dissatisfaction. Finally, adjudicating civilian

system that enjoyed the trust and confidence

complaints is so difficult that most complaints

of citizens of every race, ethnicity and age. 34

remain formally unsubstantiated, further under­

Public surveys that capture the satisfaction of

mining the process.

people in these discrete groups in their encoun­
ters with police and in their broader confidence

The problem is with the use of civilian complaints

in the police can help measure progress toward

as the leading measure of public legitimacy, not

that goal.35

with the goal of public legitimacy itself. Research
conducted by New York University Professor

Continuous Innovation

Tom Tyler and others over the last two decades

One complaint about the old professionalism of

demonstrates that rigorous surveys can reli­

mid-century policing is that it stifled innovation

ably measure legitimacy, and that doing so

at the front lines of policing. Police managers

allows police departments to identify practices

were so concerned about the dangers of corrup­

that can increase their legitimacy among those

tion and a loss of discipline that they suppressed

most disaffected: young people and members

the creative impulses of frontline officers who

of ethnic and racial minority groups. Tyler and

wanted to try new ways of solving crime problems

others demonstrate that police can employ even

and eliminating other conditions that caused

16 | New Perspectives in Policing

people grief. Conversely, a complaint about com­

The challenge of the New Professionalism is to

munity policing in the 1990s was that it left problem

encourage innovation within the bounds not only

solving to the variable skills of frontline officers,

of the law but also of ethical values. The use of value

with only rare examples of senior management

statements to guide police behavior in place of the

investing in departmentwide problem solving or

strict enforcement of detailed regulations con­

developing responses beyond the “generic” solu­

tinues to gain acceptance in the field, driven first

tions of “patrolling, investigating, arresting, and

by community policing and problem solving and

prosecuting … without benefit of rigorously derived

more recently by reforms to disciplinary processes

knowledge about the effectiveness of what they

and closer collaborations between union leader­


ship and police executives. As police departments
reward innovators with recognition, resources and

Today, innovation at every level is essential for

promotion, that trend will continue.

police agencies charged with preventing crimes
and solving problems from terrorism to youth

As part of the New Professionalism, departments

violence, vandalism, mortgage fraud, Internet

can expand the range of incentives for innovation

gambling, drug dealing, extortion, drunk driv­

and build structures that encourage innovation as

ing, intimate partner violence and so on. The last

part of the routine work of police officers and senior

decade has seen innovation in the strategies, tactics

management teams. These might include commu­

and technologies that police employ against all of

nity partnerships that go beyond the neighborhood

these, and in ways that police develop relationships

activities of community policing, and joint ventures

within departments and with the public. Films and

with other government departments, national and

television series popularize innovations in foren­

international nonprofit organizations, and private-

sic sciences, but equally dramatic are innovations

sector companies. Such partnerships encourage

in less-lethal weaponry, the use of “verbal judo” to

police to see crime and crime problems in new

control unruly people without physical force, direct

forms and new places, well beyond the narrow con­

engagement with neighborhood gangs and drug

fines of those reported to the police and recorded

dealers to reduce crime, and recruiting techniques

in the Uniform Crime Reports.

that can rapidly diversify the pool of applicants for
police jobs. Other innovations boost attention to

But innovation alone will not prove valuable

customer service at police stations, help supervi­

without a way to learn from the process. All pro­

sors identify officers at greater risk of engaging in

fessions are distinguished from mere trades by

misconduct, improve the outcomes of confronta­

their commitment to continuous learning through

tions with mentally disturbed individuals, and

innovation, whether it is experimentation in medi­

provide more effective service to victims of per­

cine, the development of the common law, or the

sistent domestic violence and spousal abuse. It is

application of engineering breakthroughs in archi­

a dizzying array.

tecture. As Herman Goldstein wrote a few years ago
in urging the importance of developing knowledge

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 17

as part of police reform, “The building of a body

example: frontline officers and rising managers

of knowledge, on which good practice is based

should be rewarded for the professional habits of

and with which practitioners are expected to be

reading, learning and actively contributing to the

familiar, may be the most important element for

expansion of knowledge in the field.38

acquiring truly professional status.”37

National Coherence
Knowledge — its creation, dissemination and
practical application — is essential to genuine
professionalism. Police organizations need not
only to encourage innovation but also to mea­
sure their outcomes, and reward and sustain
innovations that succeed. They should encour­
age independent evaluations of their policies and
tactics. Working with researchers, they should
design experiments that rigorously test new ideas.
Police organizations must then communicate the
reasons for their successes widely and quickly
throughout the profession. Formal partnerships
with universities and nonprofit think tanks can
help, and many departments have already built
such partnerships.
All this suggests a new way of learning within
policing. The pace of innovation and knowledge
development today is simply too fast for police
organizations to rely on recruit training and
occasional specialized courses. Rather, police
departments need to become learning organiza­
tions of professionals. For example, analysts in
police agencies should not only be studying crime
patterns but also analyzing what the police are
doing about them and to what effect, informing
the development of tailor-made strategies to deal
with the underlying problems, and then sharing
their analyses widely within the department in
forms that busy frontline officers and supervi­
sors can easily digest, retain and apply. Another

Achieving accountability for crime, cost and
conduct; public legitimacy across social divi­
sions; and continuous innovation and learning
at every rank would mark a watershed in polic­
ing. These first three elements build on efforts
begun with community policing, elevating
them to a New Professionalism that infuses all
of what police organizations do. To make that
New Professionalism worthy of the name, how­
ever, requires one more step: achieving national
coherence in this radically decentralized busi­
ness. This element has not yet developed as far as
the first three, but it has begun to grow.
Policing in the United States is notoriously
parochial, entrusted to something close to
20,000 police departments — the precise num­
ber changes so quickly that there is no reliable
count. Yet in the last three decades, policing has
begun to develop features of a coherent field of
professional work. The Police Foundation and
Police Executive Research Forum have helped
by nurturing national conversations among
practitioners and researchers. These conver­
sations took on greater intensity in the first
Executive Session on Policing, and they became
far more public when Bill Clinton, campaign­
ing for the presidency in 1992, argued for using
federal resources to spread community policing
to every state. Since then, national discussions

18 | New Perspectives in Policing

and debates about police practices and strate­

that to change. Some consolidation among the 80

gies have become commonplace, thanks in large

percent of police agencies with fewer than 25 police

part to the efforts of the COPS Office, the Office on

officers could help residents of those communities

Violence Against Women and the Office of Justice

receive more professional police services, but such

Programs — all within the Department of Justice

consolidation will not do much for national coher­

— and the conversations hosted by the Major Cities

ence. Indeed, further progress toward national

Chiefs Association and other professional associa­

coherence through the New Professionalism may

tions.39 Many of the best-known brands in policing

be necessary for this consolidation to be attractive.

practices — “CompStat Meetings,” “Fusion Centers”
and even older brands like “Weed and Seed” pro­

Greater mobility among police departments for

grams — are national in name only, with each

officers and professional staff could do more than

manifestation so different from the others that

consolidation to advance national coherence. True

they contribute little to national coherence. Still,

professionals are mobile across jurisdictions, even

even these widely differing practices can create

across national boundaries. Engineers, doctors and

an appetite for more truly coherent practices in an

even lawyers can practice their professions and

extremely decentralized field.

apply their skills and training almost anywhere.
Many professions have local testing and licensing

Most other countries achieve at least some national

requirements, but reciprocity arrangements recog­

coherence through a national police agency or a

nize that the training and skills of these licensed

limited number of state police services. England,

professionals are portable, and both individuals

with only 43 local police services, has recently cre­

and organizations take advantage of this portability.

ated the National Police Improvement Agency to

Local experience has value in every profession, but

assume a variety of shared functions and bring a

local expertise can be balanced with wider knowl­

greater degree of national coherence to policing.

edge and experience.

Canada uses a mixed model, in which munici­
palities and provinces contract with the Royal

Only in the last few decades has it become common

Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to provide local

for big-city police chiefs to be recruited from out­

or provincial police services according to local

side of their departments and states, though even

specifications aiming to achieve locally negotiated

today most chiefs have spent their entire careers

goals. Large jurisdictions, such as the provinces

in the departments they lead. That trend needs to

of Ontario and Quebec and the cities of Toronto,

deepen, and the profession needs to find ways to

Montreal and Vancouver, still choose to field their

encourage greater movement from place to place

own police services, but the other provinces and

and across state lines at every stage of police careers.

many smaller cities contract with the RCMP.

The obstacles are substantial. Police pension rules
can create powerful disincentives for officers to

Local control over local policing is deeply ingrained

move. In some states, such as California, the pen­

in American political culture, and we do not expect

sion system does not block movement within the

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 19

state, but creates disincentives for wider moves.

drivers. A common protocol for how the police

In Massachusetts, state laws and contracts make

approach the vehicle, what they require of the

it difficult for veteran officers and supervisors to

driver, and how they respond as the encounter

move even within the state without loss in rank.

proceeds could not only save the lives of officers,
but could help motorists as they drive from state

If the values of policing are really professional,

to state avoid inadvertently alarming any offi­

not local, then departments need not worry that

cers who stop them. Such protocols have already

a workforce enjoying geographic mobility will

begun to spread, but they could usefully be devel­

become unskilled or undisciplined. Officers who

oped for a much wider range of situations.

have worked in the same community for a decade
or more and who know the local people and their

The concept of a “protocol,” familiar in the medi­

customs will be invaluable members of any police

cal field, could prove useful in professional

service, but that is true in many professions.

policing. Some may become standard because

What is needed is a genuine national coherence

of research findings, others because of judicial

in the skills, training and accreditation of police

decisions, still others because of advances in


forensic science. As in medicine, the danger is
that protocols will, in the hands of busy police

At stake here is much more than the ability for

professionals, replace nuanced diagnosis and a

some police officers to move from one depart­

plan to address the problems at hand. Careful

ment to another. Citizens should be entitled to

analysis of local problems and the custom craft­

professional performance from U.S. police offi­

ing of solutions continue to be necessary. Still,

cers wherever they find them. Not only should the

once a tool becomes part of that solution, its use

definition of professional performance be con­

according to standard protocols can save lives,

stantly evolving, but the public — itself mobile

improve effectiveness, reduce costs and let every­

across the country — should expect police officers

one benefit from the accumulation of professional

everywhere to keep up with these developments.

knowledge. Just as systematic evaluation and rig­

This kind of coherence implies the development
of national norms of how the police respond to

orous research can discipline innovation, they
can strengthen national protocols.41

situations, particularly to criminal activity, pub­

Increased mobility and stronger protocols are

lic disorder, political dissent or even a traffic

only two ways in which national coherence can

infraction. Consider, for example, a routine traf­

advance. The attraction of the new profession­

fic stop. This can be a tense moment for a police

alism is likely to feed a flowering of specialist

officer who does not know if the car’s occupants

professional associations, bachelor’s and master’s

were merely speeding or escaping the scene of a

degree programs, professional journals and other

crime, just as it is an anxious moment for most

features of professional infrastructure.

20 | New Perspectives in Policing

Is the New Professionalism Really New?
We return, finally, to the definitional question: What
is professionalism? When an earlier generation of
reformers described the police strategy of the mid­
20th century as professional crime-fighting, they
may have been using the term “professional” merely
as the opposite of “amateur.” Perhaps they thought
of professional police much as people think of pro­
fessional athletes or professional actors. Through
more rigorous selection, better training and tighter
command, they had left the ranks of mere amateurs.

and distant from the patients whom they treated. A
wave of reformers in medicine developed new spe­
cialties in family practice and championed medical
education that trained doctors to communicate
with patients respectfully, engaging patients more
meaningfully in their own treatment. New roles
for nurse practitioners and other health work­
ers made the practice of medicine more humane.
Family practice and other reforms aimed to build
good relationships between medical practitioners
and patients, just as community policing aimed
to build good relationships between police and

It is also likely that this earlier generation wanted

the people they served. But no one seriously sug­

to put distance between the police and partisan

gests that doctors and nurses should abandon their

elected officials. Police departments live with a

identity as professionals. Instead, professionalism

constant tension between serving the government

in medicine has come to embrace the respect for

leaders of the day, whether mayor, county executive

patients, accountability and innovations that are

or governor, and remaining independent of parti­

improving practice. Medicine has discovered its

san politics. In the mid-20th century, reformers

own new professionalism. So, too, has legal prac­

deployed the language of professionalism to help

tice, in part through law school clinics that teach

manage that tension, hoping to hold the local politi­

the importance of respectful client relationships

cal machine at arm’s length. That aim was laudable,

alongside legal doctrine.

but the claim was false. These departments were
not professional.

Si m i la rly, i n law en forcement, t he Ne w
Professionalism embraces the respectful engage­

We describe today’s genuine police professionalism

ment of citizens and communities that lies at the

as “new” to distinguish it from the earlier rheto­

core of community policing. Those who continue

ric that mistakenly equated professionalism with

to champion the aspirations of community polic­

an overreliance on technology, centralization of

ing should understand the New Professionalism

authority and insulation from the public. These fea­

as aligned with their ambitions.42 Moreover, the

tures, found in much policing in the second half of

New Professionalism is clear about its expecta­

the 20th century, do not define true professionalism.

tions, whereas community policing has become
so vague a term that it has lost its operational

Consider the parallel with the practice of medicine

meaning. As Moore advised two decades ago, the

as a profession. In the 1960s and 1970s, U.S. doctors

New Professionalism focuses police attention on

were often criticized as overly reliant on technology

the very things that are most difficult to achieve:

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 21

accountability, legitimacy, innovation and

2. See the discussion on pp. 14-15 and note 33 and

national coherence. Community engagement

the sources referenced therein.

is essential at least to the first two of those and
perhaps all four.

3. Brown, Lee P., Community Policing: A Practical
Guide for Police Officials, Perspectives on Policing,

Much can be gained from a truer police profes­

no. 12 (Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass.:

sionalism. For the public, policing promises

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice

to become more effective, more responsive to

Programs, National Institute of Justice, and

the opinions of residents and less forceful, less

Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of

brusque. For members of the police profession

Government, Program in Criminal Justice Policy

themselves, the work promises to become more

and Management, September 1989). Hereinafter,

stimulating with a greater emphasis on learning,

publications in this series are identified by their

innovation, ethics and professional mobility.

number in the series, Perspectives on Policing. The

But the greatest gains are for democratic societ­

entire set is available at:

ies generally and the American experiment in


democracy more specifically.
4. Spa r row, Ma lcol m K ., Implement ing
A certain amount of force will always be a part of

Community Policing, Perspectives on Policing,

police work; a degree of coercion is necessary to

no. 9 (Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass.:

keep order and enforce the law. What matters is

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice

whether policing — when it forcefully asserts its

Programs, National Institute of Justice, and

authority — makes democratic progress possible

Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of

or impedes it. Professional policing enhances

Government, Program in Criminal Justice Policy

democratic progress when it accounts for what

and Management, November 1988), p. 2.

it does, achieves public support, learns through
innovation and transcends parochialism. That is

5. See, for example, Kelling, George L., and

the promise of the New Professionalism.

Mark H. Moore, The Evolving Strategy of Policing,
Perspectives on Policing, no. 4 (Washington, D.C.,

1. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics,
as of September 2004, 17,876 state and local law
enforcement agencies with the equivalent of at
least one full-time officer were operating in the
United States. Reaves, Brian A., Census of Law
Enforcement Agencies, 2004 (Washington, D.C.:
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice
Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007), p. 1.

and Cambridge, Mass.: U.S. Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of
Justice, and Harvard University, John F. Kennedy
School of Government, Program in Criminal
Justice Policy and Management, November 1988),
p. 6 (where the authors write specifically of “the
professional model”).

22 | New Perspectives in Policing

6. The first Executive Session on Policing convened

model of policing, dominant since the end of World

31 officials and scholars, but its 16 published papers

War II … .”)

were authored by only 13 participants. Mark Moore
and George Kelling were authors or co-authors on

8. Police officials in Kenya, eager to implement a ver­

six papers each; Robert Trojanowicz was co-author

sion of community policing, put this question to one

on three; Malcolm Sparrow, Robert Wasserman and

of the authors of this paper in 2000, as did a leader in

Hubert Williams were authors or co-authors on two

the military police of Rio de Janeiro in 2001.

each. No one else appeared on more than one. Of
the first six papers issued, all were authored or co­
authored by Moore, Kelling and Trojanowicz, with
no other co-authors; and through the end of 1992,
the Executive Session published only three papers
that were not authored or co-authored by Moore,
Kelling or Trojanowicz. Other scholars played at
least as great a role in the formulation of commu­
nity policing during these years, including Herman

9. Kelling, George L., Police and Communities: The
Quiet Revolution, Perspectives on Policing, no. 1
(Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass.: U.S.
Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
National Institute of Justice, and Harvard University,
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Program
in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, June
1988), pp. 2-3.

Goldstein (who was a member of the first Executive

10. Kelling and Moore, The Evolving Strategy of

Session) and David Bayley (who is a member of the

Policing (note 5).

second Executive Session), but neither wrote for the
first Executive Session on Policing.

11. Kelling, Police and Communities: The Quiet
Revolution (note 9), pp. 2-3.

7. More recently, the Committee to Review
Research on Police Policy and Practices convened

12. Moore, Mark H., Robert C. Trojanowicz and

by the National Research Council of the National

George L. Kelling, Crime and Policing, Perspectives

Academies recounted the story in the same way,

on Policing, no. 2 (Washington, D.C., and

although choosing in its own analysis to refer to

Cambridge, Mass.: U.S. Department of Justice,

the professional model of policing as the “stan­

Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of

dard” model. See National Research Council,

Justice, and Harvard University, John F. Kennedy

Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence,

School of Government, Program in Criminal Justice

Committee to Review Research on Police Policy

Policy and Management, June 1988).

and Practices, Wesley Skogan and Kathleen Frydl,
editors, Committee on Law and Justice, Division

13. Wasserman, Robert, and Mark H. Moore,

of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Values in Policing, Perspectives on Policing, no. 8

(Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press,

(Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass.: U.S.

2004), p. 85. (Community policing “is character­

Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,

ized as something that transforms the ‘professional’

National Institute of Justice, and Harvard University,
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Program

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 23

in Criminal Justice Policy and Management,

Perspectives on Policing, no. 13 (Washington, D.C.,

November 1988), p. 5.

and Cambridge, Mass.: U.S. Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of

14. Kelling, George L., Robert Wasserman and

Justice, and Harvard University, John F. Kennedy

Hubert Williams, Police Accountability and

School of Government, Program in Criminal

Community Policing, Perspectives on Policing,

Justice Policy and Management, January 1990), p.

no. 7 (Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass.:

2. The significance of this particular publication is

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice

especially great as Murphy had served as president

Programs, National Institute of Justice, and

of the Police Foundation from 1973 to 1985, suc­

Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of

ceeded by Hubert Williams, who continues in that

Government, Program in Criminal Justice Policy

position today.

and Management, November 1988), p. 2.
18. Ibid., pp. 9, 11.
15. Daryl Gates, then-Police Chief in Los Angeles,
explained more fully: “Chiefs today are unfortu­

19. Kelling and Moore, The Evolving Strategy of

nately deeply tied to politics and politicians. It’s

Policing (note 5), p. 13.

a very sad commentary on local policing. How do
chiefs refer to their mayor? ‘My mayor.’ ‘Is your
mayor going to win this election?’ … And if they do
not, that is the last time we see that commissioner
or chief. Gone, because of political whim, not his

20. Ibid., p. 14.
21. Quoted in Hartmann, Debating the Evolution
of American Policing (note 15), p. 3.

or her performance as a chief. So, if you do not

22. Problem solving was discussed frequently at

think politics are tied into policing today, you are

the Executive Session, often as a component of

being very, very foolish.” See Hartmann, Francis

community policing, but its importance as an

X. ed., Debating the Evolution of American Policing,

independent thrust in police reform has been

Perspectives on Policing, no. 5 (Washington, D.C.,

more widely recognized since then. Herman

and Cambridge, Mass.: U.S. Department of Justice,

Goldstein, who coined the term “problem­

Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of

oriented policing,” was careful to write at the

Justice, and Harvard University, John F. Kennedy

time of the Executive Session that it “connects

School of Government, Program in Criminal Justice

with the current move to redefine relationships

Policy and Management, November 1988), p. 6.

between the police and community.” Goldstein,

16. Kelling and Moore, The Evolving Strategy of
Policing (note 5), pp. 9, 14.

Herman, Problem-Oriented Policing (New York:
McGraw Hill, 1990), p. 3. Looking back on these
discussions in 2003, Goldstein explained that in

17. Williams, Hubert, and Patrick V. Murphy, The

the years of the Executive Session, “the commu­

Evolving Strategy of Policing: A Minority View,

nity policing movement grew rapidly in policing.

24 | New Perspectives in Policing

One element of that movement supported the

26. See, for example, Weisburd, David L., and

police becoming less legalistically-oriented: that

Anthony A. Braga, eds., Police Innovation:

police should redefine their role in ways that sought

Contrasting Perspectives (New York: Cambridge

to achieve broader outcomes for those, especially

University Press, 2006).

victims, who turned to the police for help. Beatlevel ‘problem solving’ was seen as supporting

27. See Kelling, Wasserman, and Williams, Police

these efforts and therefore often incorporated

Accountability and Community Policing (note 14),

into the community policing movement. As com­

p. 1. (“Rising crime or fear of crime may be prob­

munity policing and problem-oriented policing

lematic for police administrators, but rarely does

evolved alongside each other, the two concepts

either threaten their survival.”)

were intermingled. I contributed to some of the
resulting confusion.” Goldstein, Herman, “On
Further Developing Problem-Oriented Policing:
The Most Critical Need, The Major Impediments,
and a Proposal,” Crime Prevention Studies 15 (2003):
13-47, at p. 45, note 2 (citat ion om it ted),
available at
23. Quoted in Hartmann, Debating the Evolution of
American Policing (note 15), p. 3.

28. See Gascón, George, and Todd Foglesong,
Making Policing More Affordable: Managing Costs
and Measuring Value in Policing (Washington, D.C.,
and Cambridge, Mass.: U.S. Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice,
and Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of
Government, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and
Management, December 2010), NCJ 231096.
29. Beck disbanded the Crime Reduction and
Enforcement of Warrants task force (CREW),

24. Ibid., p. 5. In a later paper, Moore suggested,

weathering criticism that this vital unit “com­

likely in jest, that one could term the new strategy

prised quick-strike troops that former Chief

“professional, strategic, community, problem-

William Bratton used to focus on problem gangs

solving policing.” Moore, Mark H., and Robert

and neighborhoods.” Beck also reduced the size of

C. Trojanowicz, Corporate Strategies for Policing,

other specialized, central units focused on gangs

Perspectives on Policing, no. 6 (Washington, D.C.,

and drugs by 170 officers to maintain patrol levels

and Cambridge, Mass.: U.S. Department of Justice,

in the districts. See Romero, Dennis, “LAPD’s Beck

Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of

Shuffles Cops To Deal With Budget Crisis: No New

Justice, and Harvard University, John F. Kennedy

Cars, No Unused Vacation Pay Possible,” LA Weekly,

School of Government, Program in Criminal Justice

February 17, 2010, available at: http://blogs.laweekly.

Policy and Management, November 1988), p. 14.


25. See, for example, Skogan, Wesley G., Police and

30. See Los Angeles Police Department, “An

Community in Chicago: A Tale of Three Cities (New

Examination of May Day 2007,” Report to the Board

York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

of Police Commissioners, October 7, 2007.

Toward a New Professionalism in Policing | 25

31. Three police officers were injured by subject

Justice Statistics, Table 2.12.2009 [Online], avail­

gunfire, and none were killed in those incidents.

able at

See New York Police Department, “2008 Annual

t2122009.pdf. Accessed August 2, 2010.

Firearms Discharge Report,” 2009.
36. Goldstein, “On Further Developing Problem32. Personal communication from then-Police

Oriented Policing” (note 22), p. 21.

Chief Ronald Serpas, November 2009. A copy
of the June 2009 survey report is on file with

37. Ibid., p. 46, note 3. Goldstein here describes

the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and

it as “especially troubling” that the 20th century

Management at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“professionalization” of policing had not included
this element.

33. See, for example, Tyler, Tom R., “Enhancing
Police Legitimacy,” Annals of the American

38. The idea of a “learning organization” goes well

Academy of Political and Social Science 593

beyond what we expect of all professional orga­

(10) (2004): 84-99. See also Tyler, Tom R., ed.,

nizations. For more about learning organizations,

Legitimacy and Criminal Justice: International

see Garvin, David A., Learning in Action: Putting

Perspectives (New York: Russell Sage Foundation,

the Learning Organization to Work (Cambridge,


Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2000).

34. See Obama, Barack, Remarks at Howard

39. The Major Cities Chiefs Association comprises

Un iversit y Convocat ion, September 2 8,

the chiefs of the 63 largest police departments in

2007, available at http://www.barackobama.

the United States and Canada (56 of the depart­


ments are in the United States; seven more are

obam_26.php. Accessed October 14, 2010.

in Canada). Members include the chief execu­
tive officers of law enforcement agencies in U.S.

35. At a national level, the Sourcebook of Criminal

cities with populations greater than 500,000, the

Justice Statistics annually reports levels of “con­

chief executive officer of the largest law enforce­

fidence” in the police as an institution by age,

ment agency in each U.S. Standard Metropolitan

income, racial and ethnic group, and political

Statistical Area with a population greater than 1.5

affiliation. The results in 2009 showed that 63 per­

million, and the chiefs of police in the seven larg­

cent of white adults had “a great deal” or “quite

est Canadian cities. For more information about

a lot” of confidence in the police, in contrast to

the association, see the association’s website,

38 percent of black adults. If individual depart­

ments track the exact language of these national
surveys, they can compare themselves with these

40. The issues of national coherence and profes­

national benchmarks. See Pastore, Ann L., and

sionalism can raise questions about minimum

Kathleen Maguire, eds., Sourcebook of Criminal

standards for police, especially educational

26 | New Perspectives in Policing

standards. Should police officers be required to

police agencies to expand understanding of

have a college degree? Should there be educational

the career paths of police professionals and of

qualifications for promotion? In light of racial and

quality policing. See

ethnic differences in formal educational attain­

t op ic s/ l a w- e n f or c e me nt /ad m i n i s t r a t ion /

ment, standards might be more appropriately


focused on knowledge rather than years of school­
ing or formal degrees. Many professions allow

42. See, for example, Sklansky, David, The Persistent

apprenticeships to substitute for formal classroom

Pull of Police Professionalism, to be published in

education. The issues also raise questions of pen­

this series. Sklansky continues to identify “profes­

sion portability for line officers, which some states

sionalism” in policing with the desire to centralize

are beginning to address with the support of police

police authority, make use of the latest technol­

unions. In general, we have been impressed that

ogy, and keep the public at a distance. He decries

many police unions share the ambitions of the New

such professionalism and longs to engage police in


questions of genuine partnership with communi­
ties. We agree with his ambition but disagree that

41. The recently created National Network for

he needs to strip police of their professional identity

Safe Communities, which links more than 50

to achieve it. We believe the New Professionalism

jurisdictions that are implementing a gang vio­

is a more accurate and more attractive banner for

lence reduction strategy piloted in Boston and a

this effort than his “advanced community policing.”

drug market reduction strategy piloted in High
Point, N.C., represents one such effort to move

About the Authors

police practice from experimentation to appli­

Christopher Stone is Daniel and Florence

cation and adaptation of common, national

Guggen heim Professor of t he Pract ice of

protocols. See

Criminal Justice at the John F. Kennedy School of

A similar national effort, the Policing Research

Government, Harvard University. Jeremy Travis is

Platform Project, is collecting comprehensive

President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice,

data from new recruits, supervisors and entire

City University of New York.

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Official Business
Penalty for Private Use $300


presorted standard
postage & fees paid
permit no. g–91

Members of the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety
Chief Anthony Batts, Oakland Police

Chief George Gascón, San Francisco


Police Department

Professor David Bayley, Distinguished
Professor, School of Criminal Justice,
State University of New York at Albany

Mr. Gil Kerlikowske, Director, Office of
National Drug Control Policy

Dr. Anthony Braga, Senior Research

Associate, Lecturer in Public Policy,
Program in Criminal Justice Policy and
Management, Kennedy School of
Government, Harvard University
Chief William J. Bratton, Los Angeles

Police Department

Chief Ella Bully-Cummings, Detroit Police

Department (retired)

Ms. Christine Cole (Facilitator), Executive
Director, Program in Criminal Justice Policy
and Management, Kennedy School of
Government, Harvard University
Commissioner Edward Davis, Boston

Police Department

Chief Ronald Davis, East Palo Alto

Chief Cathy Lanier, Washington, D.C.
Metropolitan Police Department
Dr. John H. Laub, Director, National

Institute of Justice

Ms. Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Visiting

Scholar, New York University

Professor Tracey Meares, Walton Hale
Hamilton Professor of Law, Yale Law School
Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, Chief

Executive, National Policing Improvement
Agency (U.K.)
Ms. Christine Nixon, Chair, Victorian
Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery
Authority (Australia)
Chief Richard Pennington, Atlanta Police


Police Department

Mayor Jerry Sanders, City of San Diego

Chief Edward Flynn, Milwaukee

Professor David Sklansky, Professor of
Law, Faculty Co-Chair of the Berkeley Center
for Criminal Justice, University of California,
Berkeley, School of Law

Police Department

Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent,
New Jersey State Police

Mr. Sean Smoot, Director and Chief Legal
Counsel, Police Benevolent and Protective
Association of Illinois
Professor Malcolm Sparrow, Professor of
Practice of Public Management, Kennedy
School of Government, Harvard University
Chief Darrel Stephens, CharlotteMecklenburg Police Department (retired)
Professor Christopher Stone, Guggenheim
Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice,
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard
Mr. Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay
College of Criminal Justice
Mr. Rick VanHouten, President, Fort Worth

Police Association

Professor David Weisburd, Walter E. Meyer
Professor of Law and Criminal Justice;
Director, Institute of Criminology, Faculty
of Law, The Hebrew University; and
Distinguished Professor, Department of
Criminology, Law and Society, George
Mason University
Dr. Chuck Wexler, Executive Director,
Police Executive Research Forum

Learn more about the Executive Session at:
NIJ’s website:
Harvard’s website:

NCJ 232359