The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership

TCD: Mike Scott, Arizona State University, Ep 96, Director Center for Problem Oriented Policing,

February 28, 2023 Season 4 Episode 96
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
TCD: Mike Scott, Arizona State University, Ep 96, Director Center for Problem Oriented Policing,
Show Notes Transcript

Mike Scott is a lawyer, former police chief, researcher and professor, and training facilitator.  

Michael S. Scott is the director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing and a clinical professor in the School of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. He chairs the judging committee for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing.  He leads the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) at ASU. 

Scott was formerly a clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School.  He served as the first chief of police in Lauderhill, Florida; special assistant to the chief of St. Louis, Missouri Metropolitan Police Department; director of administration of the Fort Pierce, Florida, Police Department; legal assistant to the police commissioner of the New York City Police Department; and a police officer in the Madison, Wisconsin, Police Department. 

He was a senior researcher at the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in Washington, D.C. In 1996, he received PERF's Gary P. Hayes Award for innovation and leadership in policing. 

Scott holds a law degree from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.   

We talked about the history of POP, the evolution of problem-oriented policing, and the state of policing today.  A wide-ranging and illuminating chat with Mike Scott on The CopDoc Podcast.   

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If you'd like to arrange for facilitated training, or consulting, or talk about steps you might take to improve your leadership and help in your quest for promotion, contact Steve at

[00:00:02.650] - Intro

Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The CopDoc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing communities, academia, and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.


[00:00:33.130] - Mike Scott

Hello everybody, again Steve Morreale coming to you from Boston. A little bit of cold up here, 20 to 30 degrees. And we're talking to someone who's in the desert today, Mike Scott from Arizona State University. Hello to you, Mike.


[00:00:45.430] - Mike Scott

Morning, Steve.


[00:00:46.100] - Steve Morreale

Thanks for coming today. I really appreciate it. Before we started, I was asking you what your background is. And as we read about you, you have been around the block, you've been in Wisconsin, started a police office. You were a police chief in Florida. You run the center for a Problem Oriented Policing at ASU. But I want you to tell the listeners about your background and how you ended up going from policing into other areas and then came back, you went to law school. Tell us about yourself.


[00:01:14.070] - Mike Scott

Yeah, I actually, the way I look at it, although I've lived and worked in seven different states and for seven different police departments and two or three universities, I always consider myself to basically have the same job for over 40 years now. And that basic job, the way I see it, is improving policing. And so that I actually got my start as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. Sort of a typical adolescent fantasy of becoming a cop someday, like a drive around and fast squad cars,


[00:01:46.080] - Steve Morreale

 Hit the button, stop cars and stuff. Yeah.


[00:01:49.090] - Mike Scott

So almost every cop understands that. And then enrolled in a degree program at Wisconsin. It was called Behavioral Science and Law, and it drew from a number of different academic departments. And so I wrote was writing a thesis and undergraduate thesis on the way in which police officers see the world. That allowed me to actually do a uniform police internship with a suburban police department for a summer. I had to wear a uniform, everything but the gun. So it was part of my research, but it also gave me real insights into the work of police. I then got special permission to take a course at the University of Wisconsin Law School from Herman Goldstein, who was a renowned professor, was one of the biggest names in police academic work in the world, really. And taking his course, The Role of the Police in a Free Society, really opened my eyes to the challenges, the complexity of policing, and was right about the time that I took that course that he published his first article on this new approach to policing that he called a Problem Oriented Approach to Policing. And so that kind of got me hooked.


[00:02:50.080] - Mike Scott

Still was interested in the adventure and the excitement of policing. And so, I did after I graduated, I was hired by my hometown police department, the Madison, Wisconsin PD worked there for several years. And I always wanted to become a police executive. So for want of a better idea, I applied to go to law schools. Maybe dumb luck or good fortune, I ended up at the Harvard Law School. And what was unique about that was that in itself is special. But at that time, not the law school, but the Harvard Kennedy School of Government was immersed and got interested in policing. And they were running these so called executive sessions on community policing.


[00:03:29.150] - Steve Morreale

Yeah, Fran was running those, right?


[00:03:30.740] - Mike Scott

Yeah, Frank Hartman was involved in that and Mark Moore and George Kelling and some big names in policing. I sort of got myself invited as a fly on the wall. And the nature of these sessions were to bring big names in policing who were police chiefs, mayors, academics, to Harvard to have these sort of behind closed doors deliberations over a period of years about the future of policing in America and in democratic societies. So that introduced me to a number of big names in American policing. One of whom, the Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, then offered me a job after I got out of law school to work for him as a legal assistant to the Police Commissioner, but mainly there to help him with the introduction of community policing in the NYPD and to help guide that initiative. And so everything I've done since then has really been different assignments in different departments, universities, cities, but all focus on the same objective, improving policing.


[00:04:31.810] - Steve Morreale

That's great because you've got a long and storied history and both inside and outside of the organizations, big and small and obviously, having Herman Goldstein as a mentor and being there not too long after the ground floor of the building of the pop what we call as pop problem oriented policing you also went to Perfume, told me. So, what were you doing there? Police Executive Research Forum.


[00:04:54.340] - Mike Scott

Yeah, that was a great experience. It allowed me and one of the reasons I wanted to go there, I had known about the organization because another person who was a mentee of Herman Goldstein is a former Wisconsin law student, was the founding director of Perth. His name was Gary Hayes. And so, I had known Gary and known of the work and knew that Perth was essentially doing and trying to build upon the vision of policing that the Goldstein had articulated. And so that was a draw. And I knew it would give me an opportunity to connect with police agencies all over the country. It was an experience enough to be working for the biggest agency in the country. And there was an enormous amount to learn there. I came to learn that policing can be very different across the country. So when I went there, I had already, as a summer project that I did during law school. I wrote a guidebook for police chiefs and aspiring police chiefs called a Police Chief Survival Guide. And so I spent a summer flying around the country meeting with and interviewing police chiefs, and I ended up interviewing about 45 major chiefs and published this book.


[00:05:58.850] - Mike Scott

When I went to Perth, it was fairly open as to what I could get involved in. I pitched an idea to them, and unfortunately, Gary Hayes had passed away. He was replaced by Darryl Stevens. Another big name in American police.


[00:06:11.790] - Steve Morreale

Great guy. I've interviewed him myself, actually. I'll be with it. He's he lives on Hilton Head now, and I'll be with him in a couple of weeks. I'm going to go and have breakfast.


[00:06:18.790] - Mike Scott

Very good. Darrell had been the police chief in Newport News and had really pioneered some of the early tests of the problem oriented policing approach. And so, Darryl gave me some. I asked him if I could develop a training program for that I could offer to police agencies around the country in problem oriented police. And he said, so long as you can raise the funds to do it and knock yourself out, he let me do that. So that was one major project I worked on, a major compilation of research related to deadly force as used by the police and against the police and had culminated in a co-authored book on about a 600 page tome summarizing all the research at that time. I worked on management studies, other research projects, but also on some of the early technical assistance projects related to prob more in policing. And it was during my time there that we actually launched the first Problem Oriented Policing conference back in 1990, which then spun off and led to the development of the Herman Goldstein Awards for Excellence in Problem Oriented Policing. It was a very enriching experience working at Perth.


[00:07:24.020] - Mike Scott

It allowed me to extend my knowledge into different aspects of policing, including in the police administration, and at the same time maintain a focus on this problem-oriented approach.


[00:07:33.830] - Steve Morreale

So that carries on today. How did you end up at ASU? What drew the center to ASU. Was it you? Was it a pitch that you made to them?


[00:07:43.910] - Mike Scott

Well, actually, the origins of the center for Problem Oriented Policing predate my time here considerably. After I had left being a police chief in Lauderhill, Florida, I had moved to Savannah, Georgia, one of my favorite places.


[00:07:57.700] - Steve Morreale

Yeah, I'm in Hilton Head, so I'm very close to that. Yes.


[00:08:01.290] - Mike Scott

And I knew people at this newly created COPS Office in DC. Actually, coincidentally, the COPS Office in my police department in South Florida started on the very same day, on October 1 of 1994, I think it was. And so I knew some people up there, and I pitched to them this idea of doing a visiting fellowship with the cops office that I could do for my home in Savannah. Occasion going up to DC to visit. But it was going to be to take stock of where the concept of problem-oriented policing had come and how it had evolved in its 1st 20 years. And so that was funded and allowed me again to travel not only the country, but to go to the UK, to go to Canada, to go to visit police agencies that had made a deep commitment to the problem-oriented approach. And so I published a report on that titled Problem Oriented Policing Reflections on the first 20 Years. And in that publication, one of the many observations I had made was that there was a big gap, something that Herman Goldstein and I had talked about for the longest time.


[00:09:08.160] - Mike Scott

There was a big gap in missing peace in policing as a profession. And as most of your listeners will know, police have been working toward professionalization for the better part of a century. And one of the missing pieces I argued was that we lacked in our profession an organized, accessible body of research-based knowledge or practitioners so meaningful police officers, police commanders, police executives about the business of police crime, disorder, accidental injury, all the stuff that cops deal with. Doctors had this body of knowledge. Lawyers had it, accountants had it. I even found the gardening occupation had that kind of knowledge. We didn't have it in police. And so that led me to collaborate with some additional funding from the Justice Department with Herman Goldstein, one of the major criminologists in the world named Ron Clark, who had developed a criminological approach called Situational Crime Prevention that we felt was very compatible with problem-oriented policing. And three or four other close colleagues, most of whom I had worked with at Perth in DC. And we got together and we initially proposed just these guidebooks that we would start writing for the police, now known as Pop Guides.


[00:10:23.710] - Mike Scott

So, we started with a handful of them. First one was on bar fights, assaults in and around bars. Having been a Wisconsin cop, that was a problem near and dear to my heart.


[00:10:34.250] - Steve Morreale

I've been to a few myself. There you go. Yes.


[00:10:38.190] - Mike Scott

And so, we started this and we spent a lot of time meeting with police officers around the country getting focus groups and getting them to tell us what kind of information would they like to have in what format. And that shaped the development of these pop Guides. Relatively short, concise, but crammed full of research and practice-based knowledge freely accessible to online. Well, initially in print, but for free. And that was a critical part of this tweet. You get the stuff out to the field and a couple of years in we then brought in a few other people with special expertise in web design and publishing and Ron Clark and I and Graham Newman at SUNY Albany. We proposed to the Justice Department that we formally create a center for problem-oriented policing. So we did that, and I ran that out of my office in Savannah, Georgia, and for several years before I was recruited by the University of Wisconsin Law School to go back there and actually teach the courses that I had launched my career at the Law School on policing that Goldstein had told.


[00:11:43.100] - Steve Morreale

Let me interrupt you for a second, because what I'm hearing is, and I thank you and I want listeners to know who we're talking to. We're talking to Mike Scott. He is a clinical professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU at the Arizona State University. And what I'm hearing from you is a history of policing, which is quite amazing, and some of the things that have gone on in American policing, especially with problem-oriented policing. So now you're back at the University of Wisconsin Law School and you're teaching. What strikes me, Mike, is why those courses were at a law school.


[00:12:13.900] - Mike Scott

Yeah, that's a great part of the history, and it traces back to Herman Goldstein's own history. Goldstein's involvement in policing was somewhat accidental. He was a graduate student at University of Pennsylvania, interested in public administration generally, and he had worked after he got his degree for the city manager in Portland, Maine, and all kinds of city governance issues. But about that time, inspired by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, there was a pitch and a recognized need in American law that we didn't really have a good understanding of the criminal justice system, such as it was. What actually happened? What did cops do? What did prosecutors do? How did judges actually operate? We understood them from an academic doctrinal perspective, but not from a practical. That led to a massive study run by the American Bar Foundation in which researchers were going to go into police cars, into courtrooms, into prosecutors’ offices to talk with corrections officers and just document what do they do, how do they make decisions? How do they exercise their discretionary authority? What factors influence their decision making? And it was such a rich experience that they thought they'd get to all 50 states, but only got to three, realizing that they had so much.


[00:13:28.820] - Steve Morreale

I understand how much time qualitative research takes. So, you're right.


[00:13:32.130] - Mike Scott

Yeah. So it turned out that one of the key people running that project was a professor at the Wisconsin Law School named Frank Remington. And another key person in the project overseeing much of the policing stuff was O. W. Wilson. So O.W.Wilson was both, as most people know, a renowned police chief, but also dean of the School of Criminology at University of California. So that's how Goldstein got recruited into that study, and he was one of those field researchers. And so, several years later, with some, the opportunity was ripe at the Wisconsin Law School. Frank Remington and Willard Hurst were some of the key names there, and they in a precedent breaking move invited Goldstein to join the faculty. He didn't have a law degree nor a PhD. And that was a first. And so, they brought him up from he had been working for four years in the Chicago Police Department with Ow. Wilson as his right-hand man, continuing to learn about the challenges of policing in a major city. When he went to Wisconsin, he and Frank Remington really began thinking about originally just new ways to teach law to law students.


[00:14:38.240] - Mike Scott

How do you teach them about the criminal law and more particularly about the criminal justice system? And so they revamped their entire curriculum and built it largely around problems. You don't just learn the law. You learn the problems which the law is supposed to address. And then you figure out and you recognize that the law is really a means to solving social problems, not an end in itself. That's the origin of problem-oriented policing. Goldstein taught there for 30 some years, influencing a lot of people, such as George Kelling, Gary Hayes, and many others. And then after he retired, those courses that he taught were not being taught. And some of his successors at the Wisconsin Law School said, we just need to get back to teaching those things. And so that's how I got recruited.


[00:15:22.210] - Steve Morreale

Were those classes being taught predominantly to law school students, or was there a combination?


[00:15:27.730] - Mike Scott

It was almost entirely law students.


[00:15:29.900] - Steve Morreale



[00:15:30.240] - Mike Scott

So, it's an interesting DEA. And what I recognize and Goldstein did before me is that we understood that only a handful of our students would go directly into policing. Now, some did. Some actually even went on to become cops, but many would go on to become prosecutors, judges, elected officials, police board members. And we just recognize that because lawyers largely run the world.


[00:15:55.920] - Steve Morreale

Damn lawyers.


[00:15:57.890] - Mike Scott

If you could influence their understanding of policing, give them a more nuanced and more sophisticated and a more realistic understanding of policing, it was bound to do some good in terms of improving policing.


[00:16:11.470] - Steve Morreale

Well, clearly it did. And what I'd like to say again, we're talking to Mike Scott, and he is sitting in the desert in Arizona. We're talking to you from Boston right now, and he is at Arizona State University. Problem oriented policing. It has a history. Is it still relevant today?


[00:16:27.800] - Mike Scott

Yeah, I'm convinced with obvious bias, but I'm convinced. I don't know what else, if not problem oriented policing. What else? Because this is the central insight that Goldstein came to. He said, this is essentially what police do, is they are tasked with addressing not just crime issues, but all manner of social problems for which we're not really sure who else ought to deal with, but somebody needs to deal with it because people's safety and security is at stake. And the police end up inheriting this incredible variety of problems that they're responsible for doing something about. And that's what the approach is designed to do, is to build into policing a recognition that their work is more than just crime fighting, though it includes that. But also to build into it a capacity for understanding the problems better than you can do simply by handling one crime at a time, one call at a time, clearing it, going on to the next one, closing a case, going on to the next one. And so if you really wanted to take seriously this idea that the police exist to promote public safety, to prevent crime and disorder, you had to have a better understanding of what's causing it.


[00:17:39.880] - Mike Scott

What are we doing about it? What's working, what's not working? Who else ought to be doing something about this? Improve your understanding constantly experiment with new approaches that might work better and critically learn how to shift and share responsibility for many of these problems with other entities and not have the police accept sole responsibility.


[00:18:00.110] - Steve Morreale

I think that's the big mistake the police have used over the years is accepting all calls and sort of accepting responsibility, but not necessarily having full authority. In other words, collaboration is so important in identifying what you just said, identifying other players that should be at the table to try to solve a problem so we don't go back repeatedly to the same sort of thing. And I understand in the Sarah model listen, we're talking to you. Who is the new dean, I would say, of problem oriented policing. And I know you have not done it alone. There are a number of people who have made this work and you have carried the mantle. But tell the listeners your understanding of the basis of the Sarah model.


[00:18:36.200] - Mike Scott

The Sarah model emerged out of the Newport News, Virginia Police Department project. And so, I didn't work directly on that project. So I wasn't in the room when John AK and Bill Spellman, the two lead researchers, settled on Sarah. But it emerged directly out of a set of principles that Goldstein had developed in the earliest articulation of problem oriented policing. And I had been involved in some of that. We had actually come up with 24 basic principles of problem oriented policing. But what Eck and Spellman recognized very wisely is that they needed to create an easy to remember but scientifically sound process that police could use to improve their understanding of what's going on, what's being done, what should be done and whether something new is working and working better than the old thing. And that was the Sarah model. So, it was an acronym. Scanning Analysis, Response Assessment. It is a basic problem solving model that we have seen over the decades be expanded into from four steps to six to seven to eight, back to four, given different names to the faces. You got the Capra model, you've got the five eyes. Just a whole bunch of these.


[00:19:50.740] - Mike Scott

They're all variations on a theme. And I tried to tell police, don't get hung up on whether Capra is better than Sarah. Understand the principle behind it. It's very basic problem solving. It's at the root of social science, it's at the root of science, it's at the root of problem solving we do in our everyday life. It's just a good mnemonic to help us remember to think systematically.


[00:20:14.840] - Steve Morreale

Yeah, I like that. So, tell me what you're doing now as the director. Are you training, are you still doing writing? Is this still guides? How do you keep this concept alive? Not only alive, but grow it and morph it to meet the problems of today?


[00:20:29.290] - Mike Scott

That has been a challenge. We had a good twelve years of, I think pretty good funding from the US Department of justice in The COPS Office to create the center to fund a good number of the guidebooks. But that funding stream has ended and ended in about 2012. We just don't have that anymore. So we make every effort to keep writing new guidebooks to update existing ones where resources are available. The Bureau of Justice Assistance has stepped in in recent years to fund some new ones. Very helpful using my university resources, in part to keep the conference going, to keep the award program going. The award program I think, is especially important, as is the conference, because it helps to keep the information fresh. As much as we rely on published research to inform police practice, we rely equally on good practice that's documented by the police. And the incentive for documenting, for writing up a good problem oriented policing initiative. The one incentive is you might win an award. And so that award program is primarily intended to keep that stream of new case studies flowing. And we now have several thousand case studies written by police practitioners saying this is the problem we had, this is our analysis of it, this is our new DEA and our new approach to dealing with it.


[00:21:52.130] - Mike Scott

And this is the impact that new idea, new approach seems to have had. It informs, inspires other police agencies dealing with similar problems to either adopt or adapt that approach or to go off in a new direction.


[00:22:05.730] - Steve Morreale

So, Mike Scott is on the line with us today on The CopDoc podcast and he is at Arizona State University. I'm curious to know, I presume that you are the chair, so you're seeing an awful lot of these applications and are you inspired by these, that police departments and police agencies continue to try new things and as you said, adapt or adopt? Can you talk about something similar that caught your eye saying, wow, this is.


[00:22:33.510] - Mike Scott

Unique every single year. We just got a new batch of submissions that we're judging, international Judging Committee is reviewing now, but every year we get several in which you just say, wow, that is breaking new ground. An example that will be familiar to many people came out of the Boston Police Department in the late ninety s and it was the effort to deal with the out of control gang violence problems. And this led to what is now known as focused deterrence. But it was really just a project started as a project involving the Boston Police Department It's Gang Violence Task Force collaborations with researchers at Harvard, at the Kennedy School of Government, who fortunately were deeply familiar with the problem oriented policing approach. Having been involved in those same executive sessions on community policing that I was, and they came up with this, I think, brilliant insight about an approach to dealing with some of the most violent crimes and the most violent. Offenders in a way that was not exclusively dependent on criminal arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. But it was leveraging that authority to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate, using that as leverage to persuade those offenders to voluntarily give up their criminal.


[00:23:48.980] - Mike Scott

Career in exchange for not being prosecuted, not being incarcerated, but instead taking advantage of going to the head of the line. All kinds of social service support that would allow them to build a non-criminal life. And I don't think anybody initially expected it would work that any committed career criminal would take that deal, but many did. And so that's just one example. A more recent one comes out of Cincinnati Police. Again, partnership between Cincinnati Police Department and some researchers in the probable and policing field dealing with the gun violence in Cincinnati led to identification of 35 gun violence hotspots in the city. But the breakthrough insight was a deeper look into each of those so called hotspots that led to the realization that it seldom one place, one location that is causing or contributing to the gun violence problem. It's usually set up. There might be a convenience store, there might be an apartment complex, there might be a safe house where the guns are kept stashed and the drugs are stored. It's a network of these places in a small geographic area that are interacting to essentially support portray a network of criminality that often leads to gun violence.


[00:25:10.150] - Mike Scott

So the insight was that rather than just chasing after every shooter and trying to identify as useful and necessary as that is, you also try to identify and understand the network of places that are facilitating and fueling and enabling the gun violence problem and then using largely civil law and property abatement actions to control the conduct at these apartments, these convenience stores, these licensed liquor establishments, and improving conditions simultaneously at all those places, essentially disrupts the entire violence micro market. That's a big insight and that has a lot of potential to make the police more effective in dealing with these chronic problems. And I could go on with lots of examples.


[00:25:57.270] - Steve Morreale

Certainly part of what we're talking about is that crime is not one dimensional. That's what you're saying too, that there are contributing factors and contributing sites that may lead to it. And when you were talking about the Boston thing. I was in Boston at the time with DEA and very familiar with what Boston was trying to do. Very interesting. And it must be for you, it must be validating to see that police are still giving it a shot. I mean, I think we get it. I say we, you and I were in the business, but policing is in my blood. Once you do it, police try so hard. Sometimes we give up for a little while and with everything that's happening, say, why try? And yet we turn around and we say, we've got to do something. Who else is going to do it? I find what you're talking about very, very interesting because I think policing can't do it alone, can't accept sole responsibility. But I'm looking at something. Some of the writing that has gone on in the guides, this strikes me because when we talk about problems, the problems are bound. We're now dealing with human trafficking, which is a problem.


[00:26:52.980] - Steve Morreale

How do police deal with that? You said assaults in and around bars, clandestine meth labs, disorderly youth in public places, drunk driving, loud car stereos. Seems so simplistic, but it's a problem for quality of life. Panhandling, rave parties, robbery, ATMs, speeding in residential areas, street prostitution. And so as you were writing these things, how do you assess what is a problem that needs some attention, that needs a guide? How do you figure that out?


[00:27:22.430] - Mike Scott

These guidebooks are in three different series, and what you were listing off are titles in the main series called Problem Specific Guides. But we have another series on problem solving tools. One of them, and I wrote this one is on Identifying and Defining policing Problems. Gets at the very question you're asking. So we started a number of years ago, at least I did. I was always interested that, again, referring to these other professions, they could all articulate the universe of problems that they were responsible for dealing with. Those who are familiar with the mental health field know that the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, it lists all now about 350 recognized mental diseases and disorders. Same with the medical profession when nobody had chronicled and mapped out the known universe of policing problems. So we tried it in a couple of ways, and my colleagues, John Eck and Ron Clark did it in a theoretical way. Theoretically, they identified about 72,000 different policing problems using some criminology theories. But I started in a more practical way with just making a list. Just started a list. And I upkeep this list and it's in the back of that pop guide and identifying problems it runs to.


[00:28:33.880] - Mike Scott

I think my latest one is 248 discrete policing Problems that police Commonly Have to Deal With. So, when we started this project early on, it was just a matter of just picking some interesting ones, some that the Justice Department thought were interesting. And we knew the cops had to. Deal with a lot. Bar fights, drunk driving, drug dealing at apartment complexes, burglary at single family houses. So, it gets a little more challenging. We have now written guidebooks for, I think, 75 of my estimated roughly 250. That means that there's work to be done. But we have hit, I think, most of the most common majors. Yeah, but there's still a handful. We don't have one on Embezzlement yet. And I think that's a big deal.


[00:29:22.310] - Steve Morreale

Cybercrime is a big one. Let me ask you this, just to take you off course a little bit, and I don't mean that you're not on course, but when you talk about cybercrime, it strikes me that we in policing are full of it. And I don't mean that we're not trying. It is so hard to solve those because so many of these cybercrimes are taking place way away from our jurisdiction. In some cases, you see a great deal and you want to buy an iPad and it shows up from China. And when you get the iPad, it is an iPad, but it's an iPad shell. And you've been duped. Someone has been duped. And there's no way that the Phoenix Police Department is going to be able to call the Shanghai Police Department and solve that problem. You understand what I'm saying, right?


[00:30:02.770] - Mike Scott

All too well, yes. And we could run down a list of these child pornography on the Internet. Most currently fentanyl abuse and trafficking. The Methamphetamine problem was like this. Mortgage fraud was a huge deal for a while, on and on. There is, as you say, there's no end. There's no end to the forms and varieties of frauds and illegal trafficking that can occur. And yeah, almost every cop recognizes, hey, if I make a good bus here in my town, that's a good thing. I'm taking a drop of water out of the ocean. And so that's really what leads to the value of police better understanding some crime theory, how, for example, routine activity theory. How does the place where the crime occur? Interact with the victims. Interacts with the offenders. But also taking seriously this idea of shifting and sharing responsibility and always asking the question other than the police, who else is responsible for either creating this problem or solving this problem and doing what you can based on good criminal logical theory and understanding of what it takes to try to do things that prevent or make it harder for offenders to commit the crime in the first place.


[00:31:19.500] - Steve Morreale

I don't mean to cut you off, but one thing just ran through my mind. It's not always crime, but it's problems, as you immediately say, I think, of homelessness. How is that a police problem? And yet it becomes a police problem. Right?


[00:31:31.440] - Mike Scott

Great example. Great example is a really good article in the current issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine talking about in very succinct but way about the true underlying causes of homelessness and it essentially makes the case that, like lots of other things, to a great extent, we've dumped this problem at the doorstep of the police and said, fix it. Get these homeless people out of here. Get this homeless encampment dismantled. We don't want to see it; we don't want it in our neighborhoods. And the police dutifully try to do it, but oftentimes with disastrous results, with complaints about abuses of civil rights and all of that. And then you come to really understand, as this article suggests, that the real causes have to do with housing policy and zoning issues and really is not and should not be understood as primarily a policing problem.


[00:32:22.270] - Steve Morreale

It's more social service oriented.


[00:32:23.960] - Mike Scott

Well, it's social services, but it's also housing, yes, mental health issues, it's all use issues.


[00:32:30.360] - Steve Morreale

I know all of that.


[00:32:34.130] - Mike Scott

If I look back over 40 years and where I see the greatest advances in policing, it's in this growing recognition by police that they alone cannot fix all of these problems and should not be made to, and to prove that there is need for police to serve as kind of the canary in the coal mine. The early warning system to say, we may be the first to recognize that we've got a serious truancy problem, drug problem, fraud problem, but we have to start convening people to collaborate with to get in front of this problem before it gets out of hand. We unfortunately still wait too long. We watch the methamphetamine problem more from one form to another. Same with fentanyl, watching the opioid problem more from one to another. Every time you come to recognize the police play a role in dealing with it. But the primary role is in talk about fentanyl. It's in international trans-shipment of precursor chemicals needed to make the fentanyl in these major superlabs down in Mexico that gets trapped across the border. Then it was contributed to greatly by the medical and the pharmaceutical professions that just dumped tons of opioid into communities, peddled these drugs and got a whole bunch of people addicted to opioids.


[00:33:50.450] - Steve Morreale

You're talking OxyContin.


[00:33:51.940] - Mike Scott

OxyContin, which led to horrible heroin, is the replacement drug, which has now led to fentanyl as the replacement drug. And so it's not the case that these are insoluble problems. They are they can be solved, just not by the police alone. And so the police role, I think, ought to be in these really big, complex problems more. One of sounding the alarm, helping with the analysis of the problem to identify the key contributing factors and then applying pressure on others to do the things that need to be done to control the problem.


[00:34:25.600] - Steve Morreale

So, there's a couple of things lingering I want to wind down, but with a couple of thoughts I've heard a lot about who else has the responsibility, who should be at the table to solve these problems that are coming to our attention. And I think that's an extremely good role. And I do think that most police agencies are not afraid to reach out to other agencies to try to solve a problem, which is great. And I think problem oriented policing is at its base. You were going to react.


[00:34:49.110] - Mike Scott

I'd say that's more true today. But there is and it's a commendable aspect of police officers and police departments. There can do organizations and can do people. They do not like to admit that a problem is beyond their capacity to deal with it. But that is actually necessary in some instances where the police have to say, we alone can't do this. And that has been hard for some chiefs to get comfortable with saying that. But I think more now are, yeah.


[00:35:13.800] - Steve Morreale

I think you're right. So evidence based policing, how does that play into problem oriented?


[00:35:17.680] - Mike Scott

It followed first articulated about 20 years after problem-oriented policing. It really built off it was professor Larry Sherman proposed it as just a way to add a little more academic rigor into the process of figuring out what works and what doesn't. And to that extent it's entirely compatible with problem oriented policing. My only caution is that it cannot completely supplant the problem oriented approach as applied by police practitioners. We can't leave all of this to academics to figure out what does and doesn't work, primarily because if and this is arguable, but if you think the highest level of certainty about what does work and doesn't work can be achieved through an experimental study, it turns out that running experiments in policing and with respect to crime is really hard to do. And so, we don't want to have to wait 500 years before we've done enough of these experiments to test what does and doesn't work. So I see problem policing and evidence based policing as on parallel paths. Each ought to be doing what they do best, mutually relying on the knowledge gained from these variations of the scientific method.


[00:36:26.800] - Steve Morreale

Great to hear and I thank you for that perspective. One of the common themes I'm hearing from some of the things you've been saying is that the groups that you've worked with, including at the center for Problem Oriented Policing is that it's facilitated discussion. Bringing people to the table are beginning to help them talk about the things that are driving them nuts, where these are the problems that are confronting us and we're not sure this is what we've tried. Who else has tried something else? And from Harvard to Perf to what you're doing now, that facilitation. Bringing parties together to talk about what the issues are and looking for solutions seems to be a common theme, something you've been doing for many, many years. The other thing that strikes me is, well, how do we continue that process?


[00:37:11.050] - Mike Scott

That's a great observation. Currently involved in the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix police, and ASU in City of Phoenix, asked ASU to help them with several major crime control initiatives in a couple of areas of the city. And these are problems that are driven by homelessness and fentanyl trafficking and a variety of other issues. And it's wonderful. We now have on a routine basis people from different city departments, different law enforcement agencies meeting regularly and all talking about the same problems and what we can do collect. That's a huge advance. What I would say. And this is another pop guide available, which is it was written for mayors and city managers and county executives. And it's essentially a plea to them to understand, to sort of move beyond the typical myths about policing and crime, criminal justice, to adopt a problem oriented approach within their government and to say to their department heads, police alone are not responsible for public safety.


[00:38:12.290] - Steve Morreale

I love it.


[00:38:12.980] - Mike Scott

They may be the lead, but every other and it's not just the fire department and EMS that are their partners. It's the Parks Department and it's the Social Services department and those who deal with mental illness and the zoning department and the city attorney's office, inspection services.


[00:38:30.880] - Steve Morreale

And on and on and on.


[00:38:32.260] - Mike Scott

All of them and you bring them in on an as needed basis for this particular problem. We got to have A-B-C and D at the table, but not limited to government. It's non-government organizations, community groups and so forth, but all there to deal with a very discrete particular problem, but to do so in a collaborative way.


[00:38:53.420] - Steve Morreale

Well, you know, what you're just saying is my doctorate is in public administration and so that's my baby. Obviously I've been in policing for many, many years but you just basically broaden, it seems to me problem oriented policing. It just problem oriented government in a lot of ways, Mike.


[00:39:08.580] - Mike Scott

That is the next evolution.


[00:39:10.010] - Steve Morreale

I was just going to say that because it plays well.


[00:39:13.020] - Mike Scott

Yeah, I know. There was one California city conquered that for a number of years that really pioneered that approach. The San Diego did as well. They learned from the police, but wisely their city management said this is good for the cops, it's good for all of us.


[00:39:28.950] - Steve Morreale

Adapt it. Yeah, I like that. I have a couple of parting questions, but the last thing I would be curious to know and hear from look, we are such a disparate set of agencies all over the country. Much different than what you find in the UK, or you find in Ireland or Northern Ireland or in many other countries, the Scandinavian countries, where there are singular agencies. There are so many big and small organizations out there and yet the standards are completely different from state to state and agency to agency. Is it time for a police college? Is it time for some standardization? I hate to ask the federal government to make standards, but what do you think about that as somebody who has studied this for so long?


[00:40:09.940] - Mike Scott

Yeah, I agree. And I remember pitching a national police college idea to the speaker of the House back in he was our local rep in Missouri back when I worked in St. Louis back in the we've been talking about this for decades.


[00:40:24.300] - Steve Morreale

Way too long.


[00:40:25.060] - Mike Scott

Yeah. Early on, Jake or Hoover had created the National Academy, and that was to be this police college for improving, and it did a lot of good. And there are some additional national programs. But I agree. The UK has a national police and college, and it's not just the place where you go for a couple of weeks of training. It's also a research hub and a place where they're actually studying how Australia has it.


[00:40:49.870] - Steve Morreale

I mean, a lot of countries other than us.


[00:40:52.300] - Mike Scott

Yeah, so we don't have it yet. I'm still a big proponent of at least a federal system where every state really like that model, rather than a national police force, which I think we'll never go with. But I do think there is at least just as a rough principle, I think we could one day move toward a county based policing that would take us down to roughly 3300 police agencies from the 18,000. And I think it would be a nice mix of local control, but with enough size in each of them to have the capacity to deliver genuinely professional police services. But I would shift away from not necessarily make it the elected sheriff model, but appointed. So this is a common model in Delaware, in some places in North Carolina, in some states in Georgia that have county police department.


[00:41:43.130] - Steve Morreale



[00:41:43.480] - Mike Scott

So, I think it's a basis for thinking about this, but we do need a recommitment. I was disappointed that the cops office more or less got out of funding what we do at the Pop Center because it has not been wholly replaced. And that just seems to me like a no brainer that we still ought to have this federal funding that's going to support the ongoing constant improvement and updating of the practical research based knowledge that the police require.


[00:42:10.030] - Steve Morreale

Yeah, that's great. So, a little bit personal. What's on your bucket list? You've been at this business for a long time. What do you want to accomplish besides all of this policing stuff and changing the world? What do you want to do?


[00:42:20.560] - Mike Scott

Well, I begin to think about retirement, of course. And that leaves me thinking about, and I am actively talking with a good number of 40 or 50 some close colleagues about just what happens after I retire to the Pop Center and so forth. Where is American policing going and policing? I continue to believe that Goldstein said it better years ago. Decades ago. He said something like the greed to which a society, the quality of life is enjoyed in society is heavily dependent on its police. That's true in a democracy. I don't want to overstate the police role, but the police are enormously important, not just to public safety, but to democracy.


[00:43:03.090] - Steve Morreale

Yes, I agree with that.


[00:43:04.320] - Mike Scott

And we have to continue that work of improving not just one police department at a time, but the entire police institution. One that better weaves it into the fabric of state and local governance, but also into the communities themselves. That's my biggest ambition, is to make that more routine.


[00:43:22.950] - Steve Morreale

That's great. If you had a chance to talk to somebody, dead or alive, that you didn't get a chance to talk to, whose brain would you like to pick?


[00:43:29.700] - Mike Scott

Well, this may seem like an easy answer, but I genuinely believe it. I'd love to talk to not just Sir Robert Peel, but also to his two colleagues, Richard Maine and Charles, drawing a blank on the third guy who founded the London Metropolitan Police Department. And so they came at it from three different perspectives politician, lawyer, military man. What were they thinking? We've got these now so-called Peels principles of policing that many of us recognize, but historians tell us we don't know who wrote those. We've got good reason to think it wasn't Peel. Where did they come from? They're brilliant. I would love to really love to hear from I read some recently from John Stewart Mill, a philosopher who wrote On Liberty. And as I read his stuff, I could see the implications for policing that he wasn't talking about, because the police had really not really been fully developed at that point. I'd love to talk to a Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the people who wrote John J. And Alexander Hamilton, who wrote The Federalist Papers. They were building a brand new approach to governance and society, a democratic approach. They hadn't thought of the police at that time.


[00:44:40.680] - Mike Scott

But from the very beginning, there were implications for how would a society police itself. I would love to hear from people like that, to say, to comment on their observations of what we have done with the police institution since and how that squares with the original principles they had in mind, and especially to the extent it does not. Where do they think we went off the rails?


[00:45:03.250] - Steve Morreale

The last question is for you to give a quick assessment of the top three issues confronting policing. What are you guys working on now? What are the problems that are out there that still need to be dealt with?


[00:45:14.320] - Mike Scott

The list. I've got a list of about 50 some topics, 25 or 50 that I think we desperately need to get at. But speaking more broadly, there's a great need, especially in the United States. So if I were to say, where has problem or in policing come in these various countries? It's at the center of thinking in the United Kingdom. Again, it's at the center of thinking in New Zealand. It's at the periphery of thinking in American policing. Unfortunately, we've gone through these the waxing and waning of police interest. We are at an ed period in American policing and we've got to get back to a recognition of, in a macro sense, what's effective, what are all the things, all the good things that came out of the community policing and problem oriented policing era from the, say, mid eighty s to about 2000? How do we lose sight of the best of those ideas and how do we get back to them?


[00:46:06.000] - Steve Morreale

Well, my own feeling on that, first of all, what I'm hearing you say is we really shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater as we're always looking for something new. But what troubles me, and I was very heavily involved in community policing and pushing those ideas and clearly a part of that was pop at the time, back in the 90s. But then 911 happened and I think we lost our way. I think lots of money went to let's go and make sure that we can identify who the terrorists are and throwing community policing out the window. And really that should have been the basis because what better way to know your community but to deal directly with your community and open that conversation up rather than looking for people who might look like a terrorist? I mean, I just think we lost our way for a while.


[00:46:45.170] - Mike Scott

I agree, I agree. But I do lay some of this at the doorstep of my academic colleagues as well. We also lost sight of some things and I think there's natural competition in academia to create the next big idea, which implies that you ought to forget about the last idea because your new idea is better. And most of the strategies in policing are really variations on the problem oriented approach to policing.


[00:47:08.270] - Steve Morreale



[00:47:08.760] - Mike Scott

So, I wish we could get academia back to collectively working on these problems together. I often say to people, if you say it's not problem solving, that's not the way to go, it's something else. analogize that to the field of science. Imagine them saying, well, we've been trying the scientific method things since for about 400 years that's passe, that's old, let's.


[00:47:32.600] - Steve Morreale

Move on, let's move on.


[00:47:34.440] - Mike Scott

I would say you're nuts, you want to improve it constantly. But the core principles are as sound today as they were 400 to 500 years ago. I wish people would see that about the problem oriented approach to policing. At its core, it is sound.


[00:47:48.760] - Steve Morreale

Well, we've been talking to Mike Scott for a good long time, and I appreciate it. One of the things we try to do, Mike, and you are a pracademic hold myself the same way you were a police officer, you're an academic, a combination of both. But I think we try to find people who are thought leaders and without question, I think I found another one in my life and I certainly appreciate chatting with you. I hope that you've been able to impart to some of the listeners, some very important things that we need to think about so we can continue to move forward with policing because we can't do without it, that's for sure.


[00:48:18.020] - Mike Scott

Thank you very much, Steve. I enjoyed the experience.


[00:48:20.610] - Steve Morreale

Same thing. So, thank you very much to Mike Scott, who's out in Arizona. We have had a wonderful conversation. I'm Steve Morreale, and there is another episode of The CopDoc Podcast, the can. Thanks and stay tuned for more episodes coming up.


[00:48:36.770] - Intro

Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune in to The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.


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