The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership

The CopDoc Podcast Ep 024 Dr. Renee Mitchell, Sacramento Police (Retired Sergeant) Senior Researcher RTI International

June 07, 2021 Dr. Renee Mitchell Season 1 Episode 24
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
The CopDoc Podcast Ep 024 Dr. Renee Mitchell, Sacramento Police (Retired Sergeant) Senior Researcher RTI International
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
The CopDoc Podcast Ep 024 Dr. Renee Mitchell, Sacramento Police (Retired Sergeant) Senior Researcher RTI International
Jun 07, 2021 Season 1 Episode 24
Dr. Renee Mitchell

We spoke with Dr. Renee Mitchell, retired Sergeant from the Sacramento Police Department.  Renee earned her doctorate from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.  She is one of the founding members of the American Society of Evidence-based Policing and serves on its executive committee.  

In 2009-2010, she was a Fulbright Police Research Fellow, studying juvenile gang violence at the London Metropolitan Police Service.  Renee is now a Research Associate with RTI International. 

We talked about the state of policing and using evidence to drive police services.

Show Notes Transcript

We spoke with Dr. Renee Mitchell, retired Sergeant from the Sacramento Police Department.  Renee earned her doctorate from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.  She is one of the founding members of the American Society of Evidence-based Policing and serves on its executive committee.  

In 2009-2010, she was a Fulbright Police Research Fellow, studying juvenile gang violence at the London Metropolitan Police Service.  Renee is now a Research Associate with RTI International. 

We talked about the state of policing and using evidence to drive police services.

[00:00:02.005] - Steve Morreale

Hi, everybody, this is Steve Morreale, and you're listening to The CopDoc Podcast, I'm coming to you from Boston and I have the pleasure to have my guest today, Dr. Renee Mitchell. Dr. Renee Mitchell is a retired Sacramento sergeant, Sacramento Police Department, 22 years. She is a proud academic, as I call myself now, working for RTI International. And she also is the founder of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing. So we're going to be talking to her today in North Carolina.


[00:00:32.335] - Steve Morreale

We just spoke a moment ago off-mic where she indicated that she had moved from the West Coast to the East Coast. And so let's talk about that again for a moment. How are you adapting? You've got snow now.


[00:00:46.105] - Renee Mitchell

I do. I actually loved it. My kids, we all went outside. I think one of my kids was still in shorts. I think we're the only family in North Carolina that walks around in 40-degree weather with shorts. I'm fully clothed in sweats and tights and boots and scarves, but my husband and children still are like, it's not that cold.


[00:01:14.035] - Steve Morreale

It is that we adapt. Well, that is funny because when you go because I just came back from South Carolina, same thing happens that we're walking the beach at 50, 60. It's no big deal for us, no big deal. And everybody else has their hats and their mittens and their mukluks on.


[00:01:27.085] - Steve Morreale

And I think it's it's not even it's not 50 degrees. But anyway, everything is different.


[00:01:31.765] - Steve Morreale

So I'm so glad to have you on the podcast. You come with so much experience. And I presume if you're like me, you're still in a state of learning. You're an attorney. You went to the University of Cambridge and got your Ph.D. and now you're doing research. Let's talk about that for a moment. What are you engaged in?


[00:01:52.675] - Renee Mitchell

So one of our biggest projects that we have going on right now at RTI International is a large project funded by Arnold Ventures. We're working with seven cities within the Carolinas. So six of them are in North Carolina and one is in South Carolina. And it stemmed out of an article we wrote about defending the police because that's been a big national conversation in the last year about reallocating the policing budget to other city services. And the assumption that we have is that if you're reallocating police services or the budget somewhere else, it's that you're trying to reduce police citizen contact and you're putting some of those calls that call responsibility to someone else in the city.


[00:02:43.225] - Renee Mitchell

But it seems like from what you're seeing in the media, social media is people were the cities were doing this without giving thought to how this was going to be done. So our article was really about like a step by step process of using both data and the research to really drive. If you were going to make those decisions, like to have a more in-depth understanding about how you're going to make those decisions of what those decisions were going to look like and then how to test out the whatever you were going to decide to do, like how to test it to see if it actually is more effective and more efficient and was getting you the outcomes that you wanted.


[00:03:26.215] - Renee Mitchell

So with these seven cities, that's what we're in the process of doing right now, is we're just at the beginning of looking at all their calls for service data to examine, you know, what is it that the officers are responding to? Where are your repeat calls for service locations, where your repeat calls for service people? What are your highest rates of arrest and or mental health issues? You know, there's just a recent article by David Weisburd talking about how mental health is higher.


[00:04:02.845] - Renee Mitchell

There's higher rates of depression and PTSD among your crime hotspots versus your areas that don't have as much crime. And using a community, a mental health clinician, along with the a community engagement officer to work those areas compared to other areas. And the response from the community was really they like they liked both parts of it. Right. So they have the mental health component to make sure that the community. Is getting the services they need, but they also like the public safety part, because if you live in a high crime area, you can't essentially treat one without the other, can't give mental health services and say, well, gosh, I hope your depression is better.


[00:04:48.185] - Renee Mitchell

I hope your PTSD is better, but you still have gunshots at night or you still have you still can't walk to the grocery store and feel safe. You know, you have to work on both issues. At the same time, if you're working at helping a community, you have better mental health outcomes due to violence in the neighborhood.


[00:05:05.585] - Steve Morreale

Well, you know, it is certainly a common theme that's coming up. And in the next few weeks, I'll be talking to somebody named Sarah Abbott, Dr. Sarah Abbott, and she is responsible for advocates and she is a clinician who is putting these clinicians in police vehicles with police officers. So I think that is certainly a trend coming. Let me go back to something.  I remember many years ago I saw you on a TED talk, which drew my attention to you.


[00:05:28.325] - Steve Morreale

I remember calling you you were in Sacramento and I was traveling back and forth to California. We were supposed to connect and we never did. But since that TED talk and certainly that TED talk attracted some attention to you and you have been outspoken, but can we talk about leadership, police leadership at all levels and the state of policing today? And in your view, what are the things that police should be focusing on, police leaders to try to stay ahead of these discussions about defunding and calling into question police legitimacy and procedural justice issues?


[00:06:02.195] - Steve Morreale

What comes to mind that?


[00:06:04.025] - Renee Mitchell

You know, that's a really tough question, because I often think I might answer your question without answering your question or might sound that way anyway, because I think it's a little tough, because when I look back and I watch what happened in the last year, the media's portrayal of policing and the issues that occur, sometimes I look at the circumstances. And if people don't work in policing, they don't have an understanding like the politics that go along with policing.


[00:06:30.425] - Renee Mitchell

And I wonder how much they realize that a lot of these decisions are a lot of policy are really driven by your cities, right. Your city management, your city councils. And I think when it comes to looking at the research, looking at data, we are an ill prepared profession for how far we had advanced and what would that be the 80s, in the 90s when we first started actually using a little bit of data to drive policing. And when it comes to evidence-based policing, that's only been since the 90s that we've even had evidence-based policing.


[00:07:03.905] - Renee Mitchell

And I don't think people realize that when it comes to research and policing we've been doing, there's been research on police practices. But as far as looking at what works in the field, as far as trial techniques, all these different techniques, we're not as advanced as, say, evidence-based medicine. And so ultimately, I feel when it comes to police leadership, one of the only ways of really being able to have more credibility in some of these discussions is to get away from that.


[00:07:34.385] - Renee Mitchell

This is how we've always done it. I think you have to have much more research to back up what you're doing and why you're doing it. For example, the riot and crowd control cities are starting to take away the tools that police officers are allowed to use in the field for right and crowd control. And if you don't have something that demonstrate an unbiased empirical evaluation that says here is the best way of handling these situations, you're going to be hard pressed to go before your city council and say, here's why we should still be using these things, because it looks bad.


[00:08:06.305] - Renee Mitchell

Right. So I guess in a sense, I think, one, we need to catch up on our research, too. I think these are all systems within systems. So I think our leadership are hard-pressed because they're confined within a box of politic that drives policing. So when you have the administrations, both Republican and Democratic administrations, that don't put funding behind police research or criminal justice research, you're not getting the supply of information and knowledge that police leaders actually need.


[00:08:35.615] - Renee Mitchell

And then when you have city managers and city leaders that don't have a thorough and in-depth understanding of both data analysis and the research on policing their driving policy within their cities without a thorough understanding of policing and the criminological research behind it, it's a system problem and police leadership, it shouldn't be on their back. And I feel like that's what social media and media does, is they keep saying, oh, police, police, police. But nobody looks at the systems that police work within and how they're limited by the statutes that we have within our state city ordinances that they're confined by and then the politicians within their both their cities and their state that require of them certain policies, practices and what have you.


[00:09:23.465] - Renee Mitchell

So I think it's just really complicated. And I think the only thing that police leaders nowadays really can do is be very well educated on like a research base. So they can point to something that is not just their opinion and not just a neighboring agency either, you could no longer say, well, I'm doing what LAPD does because it has no ground to stand on unless LAPD policies and practices are grounded in some type of research somewhere.


[00:09:48.655] - Steve Morreale

Right? Well, yeah. And I think that that's the mistake we make when we are always looking for best practices in some of those best practices are not grounded in research and evidence. And I think there's a couple of things that come to mind when you're talking about I think police have gone through some mission creep. And I think as leaders, my sense is we have to take a look at the data, will tell you what kinds of calls are we going on and how much time is being spent. And is the police officer, the person who should have to go to that, think about the things they used to do when you started, you went on dog calls, you did lockouts and all of those kinds of things.


[00:10:17.655] - Steve Morreale

At some point in time, we started to back away from that. We backed away because we're sworn officers and we have other things to do. But I also think in terms of police reform, and police reform, that has been pushed through so many legislatures, that's troubling because it has not, it's been forced through. In other words, there hasn't been time given to these reforms. But now you said something that really struck me, and that is that there is not funding going to police research when we think about how much money is put into medical research and think about how much money has been thrown at covid for very good reason.


[00:10:49.855] - Steve Morreale

But police research and understanding what we do is push to the side. So how do we make the argument that this is necessary?


[00:10:56.845] - Renee Mitchell

I don't know. This is one of my arguments I've made for a long time. I have a pie chart, a bar chart that I've shown before that within the federal funding of how little funding goes to the criminal justice system when it comes to research for the criminal justice system, for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, you know, the different agencies that really supply that information to the criminal justice system to fund the research that the academics do in conjunction with the police department. So the only way to increase that funding is for, I don't know, for somebody to show that the criminal justice system actually impacts our society when it comes to finances so much more than anything.


[00:11:43.165] - Renee Mitchell

And like I've always said, I make a joke with the American Society of Evidence Based Policing because we're a membership organization. But we also, besides being a membership organization, we run a conference every year and we would love to be able to fundraise the way other people or other groups do. But I don't have sick moms. I don't have puppies with crying. There's nothing there's nothing emotional about raising money for solving crime issues. Right. Because especially now, nobody really cares for the cop, but then even on the criminal justice end.


[00:12:15.985] - Renee Mitchell

So unless you're raising money to help people, specifically to the Innocence Project or things like that that really like pull at people's heartstrings, you're not going to be able to raise money to say, I really want to do police research. So I understand the complexities of poverty and crime and violence and how police interact with these communities and how police should better interact with these communities and how best to balance having investigatory stop versus community engagement and the best way to engage with your Bypop community versus other types of community or non-English speaking communities versus a university type community, because we have different types of communities all across the U.S.


[00:13:01.765] - Renee Mitchell

But how do you not that you're competing, but it's different when you have a five K fundraiser for survivors of breast cancer. There's a like I say, I don't when I say sick moms, I don't mean to denigrate or demean the importance of that. But you have had somebody in your life that usually probably has had cancer and that you want to go out and run a five K because you want to fight against leukemia, you want to fight against breast cancer.


[00:13:25.375] - Renee Mitchell

Nobody can really say, well, I'm going to go run a five K because I want to understand crime in high poverty areas or I do. I'm going to it's just really difficult. So the funding. But if you look at the impact in society when it comes to the financial costs of having children in foster care, having the juvenile justice system having are right. Even our recommendations for what we see, how to alleviate some of these problems, I don't even know if this has changed.


[00:13:53.545] - Renee Mitchell

I have yet to see outcomes for DUI or anything like drug related. It was always back in the day of go to a 12 step program of people getting like their 12-step meetings signed off for when they had a DUI. Well, 12-step programs don't have an evidence base. I know. I'll probably get a tweet of I've been in recovery for this long and I go to a 12-step program. But when they look at the overall impact to the average community member dealing with a drug and alcohol issue and A is not an evidence-based program and there's like medically assisted treatment programs that have been proven to work.  And they're slowly coming to the U.S. They're more dominant In the U.K. and areas over in Europe and the Netherlands that shown success over there, but coming over to the U.S., we don't use them.


[00:14:41.515] - Renee Mitchell

So it's just like I shouldn't it should be funded at a greater and given greater weight than it has been. But I don't know how you change that other than by doing this, by vocalizing the fact that it should be funded at a higher rate than it is.


[00:14:56.305] - Steve Morreale

Certainly, the same problem seems to run with training. Training is the first thing that goes away. If we've got a problem with money, we're going to put the training,  think about in-service training and in some cases how subpar in-service training has become. Sometimes it's 40 that's moved back to 32. And only 12 of those hours has to be face to face and everything else is online. So training is sort of the giveaway. And that's a shame. And the fact is that there are no real training standards and national standards for policing.


[00:15:25.585] - Steve Morreale

18000 police departments. Everybody does it differently. California does a different than Massachusetts, North Carolina does it different than Arizona. All of those things happen. And while we may not want federal intervention, I do wonder why there is not a national standard of training.  Because you alone know that some police officers are sworn in after a 12-week training and others a 30-week training. I have to scratch my head and say what's missing between the 12 week and the 30 week?


[00:15:54.305] - Steve Morreale

And then we turn these people out and they're bona fide police officers. But what the hell are we missing? I see you smiling. I'm sorry. I'm able to see the audience can see you smiling. But what's your reaction to that?


[00:16:04.645] - Renee Mitchell

Well, and I and I think to myself, like, not even the the training piece, it's that they we don't even know if it works. Right. And not that - we've got to have an academy. We definitely have an academy. But it's also when they use like for a solution, for instance, like implicit bias training when we have no idea if that's actually an effective intervention to change behavior in COP. There's been, I think, one research study that finally came out and I don't remember the results.


[00:16:29.995] - Renee Mitchell

But before any of this research has even started, it becomes, oh, cops need procedural justice training, like whatever. I think Ed Flynn has been the one that's always said that whatever the issues are in police training, the solution has always been like train the cops. It's never any different solution. But on the same sense, like what you're saying is there's no national standard of like what we're supposed to be learning or how we're supposed to be learning.


[00:16:53.395] - Renee Mitchell

And there's no institution to review any of this stuff to say is what Arizona is learning versus New York. Is it even reasonably close, which is always been one of my pet peeves when people group policing and I'm er quoting, people can see it as it's one thing, one profession altogether. Because the way I'm trained in California doesn't mean that that's the way somebody is trained in Georgia. So comparing what a Georgia cop did and how they engaged on a traffic stop or how they engaged in their use of force can be completely different and their use of force policy can be completely different than what mine is in California.


[00:17:32.365] - Renee Mitchell

Yet we're all grouped and judged across the U.S. as though we were one entity.


[00:17:37.495] - Steve Morreale

And I don't I don't mean to cut you off, but I want to you know, you're catching something with me. Imagine the talk about standards. What we just trusted someone somewhere at one point in time said a college degree requires 120 credits, no different on the East Coast than it is on the West Coast. So imagine that in comparison with policing, saying a police officer can go to an academy for twelve weeks and yet a an L.A. cop or Sacramento.


[00:18:01.075] - Steve Morreale

What was yours? Yes, I was at 25 weeks or more, 26 weeks. That's a vast difference. And what is what is different? Why aren't there standards? And, you know, you've spent time abroad and it's completely different. It's a singular or just a few police agencies. And they all are trained generally the same. And we have not done that here. I know we love local control, but that may be one of the issues.


[00:18:24.625] - Renee Mitchell

Right. Well, and I think because you're going across the pond, I've been able I've been over in Scotland and then in the UK and looking at there and even into New Zealand and Australia and looking at their models, they are different than because they have much more federal control. Right, than we do in looking. And I am not a scholar when it comes to any of our Constitution, Bill of Rights, any of that stuff. But if you look at how we were created policing in the way we were structured, I kind of doubt that we could ever get to where they are because of our fear of having a national police and a federal police, because of our history with Britain.


[00:19:05.215] - Renee Mitchell

But what I think we could do, and I and it's there have been people before me that have called for this forever, but is a national college of policing, an American College of policing. So the UK has the UK College of Policing. So it's not that they're a federal entity of saying, like, you shall do this, but what it is, is it's like a board of standards for all of the UK and it has practitioners and academic on it.


[00:19:28.925] - Renee Mitchell

So you don't have just politicians or I could. Or people outside of the profession that are saying this is what cops should be doing. You have practitioners in there and you have well-educated practitioners, you know, that's another piece that get tiresome when they group policing all together or talk about police officers and they have a they have a stereotype for a police officer, especially the uneducated, untrained police out there, because both you and I don't fit that model.


[00:19:55.925] - Renee Mitchell

But that's who they have at the UK college policing are these police officers that have been through rigorous masters and PhD level programs contributing to the intellectual dialect of where UK policing should be headed in the U.S.? If you look at Lyndon B. Johnson commission that he held in 1960, and I'm going to get this wrong


[00:20:14.995] - Steve Morreale

67, 67


[00:20:15.725] - Renee Mitchell

So if you read through that one of his one of the things that that commission came back with there besides to increase our training, that was one of the other one.


[00:20:25.565] - Renee Mitchell

There was a quite a few different pieces of not advice directives. And if you look at all of them, we did a really good job as a profession of trying to incorporate these into policing. One of the ones we never accomplished was having everybody having a bachelor's degree. But the one we really failed at is we never got the research in there because it said that police agencies should have a researcher like largest agency, should have a researcher on staff.


[00:20:51.785] - Renee Mitchell

It said that there would be this is how the National Institute of Justice was actually created was through that commission. It was called something else at the beginning, but eventually became the national and justice. But they called for funding, for research and for having not oversight, but for some other entity driving like this national standard, FEMA. Under FEMA, there is a national fire management which does the same thing like a UK College of policing. So we could in the US have something similar to UK College of Policing.


[00:21:21.725] - Renee Mitchell

We could have an American College of Policing under a federal organization like under FEMA. That and what they do for the National,  and I'm getting the name wrong. That doesn't sound right in my head for Fire Management. They do the research, they go out into the field. They figure out like what the firefighters should be doing and how they should be fighting fires. They put out that information to the field, but they're funded to do the research.


[00:21:44.375] - Renee Mitchell

They're funded to go out to determine how things should be running in the field. Now it's up to individual cities to adopt those practices, but at least you have a dedicated funded agency that is trying to stay the most advanced and current in the research or fighting fires and in policing where so we don't have something like that right now. If we had an American College of Policing Gary Cordner has been talking about this Larry Shaman's and talking about this, we actually got together, a group of us who try to create the first American College of Policing and put a small board together and couldn't get any traction for it.


[00:22:24.245] - Renee Mitchell

But you could have that same entity that was really driving these national standards in national conversations from an unbiased point of view, to some extent, because they could stay away from the politic, the internal conflict. And if they were funded to do research, we could be advancing policing much more than we are today.


[00:22:43.235] - Steve Morreale

A couple of things that just went through my mind when we write research, especially that which is academic, is driven by evidence and with some scientific approach. It is very dense. It is very difficult to read. And what I've talked to a number of people who I have had the opportunity to interview is to say, how do we translate that? In other words, how do we make it so it's synthesized. It's easy to read and it's usable and it doesn't take ten years to get from inception to reality.


[00:23:10.355] - Steve Morreale

That's a tough thing. But I also I'm also thinking that another model to go by is the military. The military does tremendous, and they have contracts galore over leadership training and tactics, training and what are we going to where all of those kinds of things are done within the military and paid for by the military. And yet policing is a paramilitary police organization, so we say, but we do not adapt or adopt most of what is going on in the military.  We could learn from the military, but we don't seem to.


[00:23:40.025] - Renee Mitchell

No, we don't. And that's why they say because the military has national funding, because they're  under the feds, they get more funding to do their research. And I think they're also I know people do not want to hear that the police are going to adopt anything from the military. But they also, like a lot of the things the military do, are to keep their people safe and to learn some of the some of the work that been that I've seen come out of the military over the last decade.


[00:24:08.975] - Renee Mitchell

Having to do with counterinsurgency has a lot to do with communication because they're dealing with people on their own lands that speak a different language, that have a different culture, and that don't agree with the same ideology that Americans do. How do you bridge that gap? And they've actually done the research to say, well, what? We're not just guessing at it and saying here's what we think works, but testing these things out. And like I said, I think that's where we fail a bit is we don't have federal funding in that sense, other than I shouldn't make it seem like we don't have federal funding.


[00:24:42.845] - Renee Mitchell

There's federal funding that comes down through the OJP, like the the Justice Institute, that then put out applications to the universities, the research institutes like mine, RTI International, that you apply for, and then you can build your  research around. But there's nothing that in the military they're getting directly funded where if there was a national college of Policing, like, you can directly fund that in some sense with federal dollars and say we're in this and you could leave it where it's not affecting local agencies.


[00:25:17.225] - Renee Mitchell

Just like I said with the fire management, you could say, here's what our research has found. But you're not telling a local agency that they have to do it, but they have access to information and make when you're saying about the research is usually done like that is something that R.S.V.P. that is our mission because we are all academics, you know, where the practitioner and academics that one of the things that we offer our members is to translate research.


[00:25:44.555] - Renee Mitchell

So we try to take and we're not fully funded. Most of us are working full time and trying to run a nonprofit on the side. So we we do the best we can with what we have, but we pull research articles that we think the cops would be interested in and then we translate them. We try to we narrow it down to about a two page paper if we can. And then what we usually do is run that paper by one of the authors to make sure that we don't get the language we use.


[00:26:08.885] - Renee Mitchell

We want to make sure we didn't water down or that we didn't. Some of our language isn't biasing at one side or the other. We want to make sure that we're accurately translating it. And once they say if this is an accurate depiction of what my research does, then we post that. And we've been putting out these brief or a couple of years now, every two weeks, some of the briefs people are like other things and other briefs.


[00:26:27.665] - Renee Mitchell

People are like, oh, this is great. This is exactly what I was looking for in my agency is now looking into be about training. It could be about hotspot policing. We just put one out the other day about crime data that a lot of people really, really like that one about how you look at crime data and what's the difference between looking at percents going up. It's going down versus other types of analyzing the data. So there's those issues, too.


[00:26:53.045] - Renee Mitchell

And that's where I also think because these are systematic issues that are so big and they are so impactful to our society that I really think you need something like a college of policing where you can have people examining all these issues and how they interlink, because I don't think any one person, even myself, like the more I the more I read in, the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know much. I feel the same way, you know.


[00:27:20.995] - Renee Mitchell

Yes. Every every step of my career, I feel like I'm just opening another door to be like, well, I didn't know that either to have a group of people really driving it, like how to understand this better and how to make things work. And I think you need a lot of different people involved. I think you need economists. I think you need psychologists. I think you need cops. I think you need the academic to really dig into all of these issues to say, here's what we know in the research and here's what we think might work.


[00:27:49.835] - Steve Morreale

Yeah, I think as we watch, I think it's very interesting because as we're watching what's going on with the pandemic, who knew that public health would have so much power in our country because of what's going on? Look at the vaccination and how are we getting those out and who's making the decisions? Somebody making a decision power of the governor that have shut businesses down. It's pretty phenomenal. But my point is that when you're listening to the Dr. Fauci's of the world or whomever, they're always talking about data and they're always talking about right?


[00:28:14.885] - Steve Morreale

And that becomes important. That drives decision. You know, the science. Look at the science. And I think that's what we're saying in this particular discussion. So if I asked you very quickly, I'm not running out of time, but I want you to think very quickly three things police organizations need to address. What would they be?


[00:28:30.455] - Renee Mitchell

Probably no one would agree with me. But I actually think you have to address the issue of data management. I do think that if you look at Kahneman and Tversky work. About we do not innately understand statistics, and I think my favorite quote, I think it was by Ben Goldacre getting the person wrong, but he talked about the fact that your job depends on being numerate, on understanding data. Then you have an ethical responsibility to understand data and statistics.


[00:28:59.295] - Renee Mitchell

And like I said, our profession has moved so quickly since the 90s when it comes to concept and to use data to drive our decision making. But when you talk about leadership and you talk about the military, when the military puts leaders into positions, what does their training look like? Like it is it is fundamentally structured by rank and has very specific things that you're going to take and achieve and accomplish at each level.


[00:29:25.645] - Steve Morreale

Right. It's developing competencies.


[00:29:27.585] - Renee Mitchell

Yes. And we do not have anything at the national level that develops competencies across rank for policing. Now we have the FBI and which developed a little bit of schooling in it. But there's nothing that says like here's what you should know as a sergeant. Here's what you should know as a lieutenant. And I think one of those pieces is especially as you get to a lieutenant level, because that's when you're starting to manage a district.


[00:29:51.105] - Renee Mitchell

And usually a lot of brand new lieutenants are out there managing field patrol. And if you don't understand data and you don't understand how data fluctuates and you don't understand how to compare data, and if you want to say that you're and most agencies nowadays are trying to say that their data data driven, then you're often making decisions that affect your community based on information that you don't understand. So that's my first thing. And then secondly, like I said, I think the neckpiece is really getting a grasp of what we know and what we don't know about policing when it comes to the research.


[00:30:26.055] - Renee Mitchell

Because if you look across the country, we're still using programs and practices that have been debunked and have no evidentiary support for them. And we still have you mentioned best practice. Like I won't even use that term. I just call it common practice because our version of best practices, if three agencies use it, then it must be good. But that's fundamentally based on nothing. Right. And then on that, the third part is, I think for the future of policing, you really do have to examine.


[00:30:58.515] - Renee Mitchell

I think you have to sit back, slow down if your politicians will let you and you've got to go through, like and ask your city and your community, like, what do you want from policing? Because like, I was explaining the calls for service project that we have going on here in North Carolina, I think to some extent they want to every police agency across the country now wants to take some of the services from police and put it into another city service.


[00:31:24.885] - Renee Mitchell

But I don't know that anybody's asked the system. So when somebody's calling and not on a 911 call, because that's not an appropriate place for it, but on a non-emergency service, would you rather have a city employee, a crisis counselor or somebody for dispute resolution, whatever those things may be the options? Right. Because I think some sometimes people don't realize you may as an outsider or as a even as a researcher think, OK, but we don't want the cops going here anymore, these calls.


[00:31:52.965] - Renee Mitchell

Right. But what about what the citizen want? Because both you and I know that a lot of times when we've been out in the street, often we take a report that means nothing, that goes nowhere. But because a citizen wants it, that's the customer service we give them. We do that report for them. Right. So I wonder about the same thing for Cull's. If when a citizen wants a police officer, if they're a city employee, if that citizen is going to say, that's not what I want, I don't want a city employee like I want a police officer.


[00:32:23.175] - Renee Mitchell

I want somebody here that makes me feel safe and secure and whatever a police officer means to them and a good example. And you have to do it more thoughtfully because there is a great tweet the other day where they did an article and it was somewhere in Canada where they essentially took police services away. They sent them to the city. And you have this coffee shop that's calling about one of the issues that they're having with their homelessness. And the police department said, sorry, we aren't allowed to go to those calls anymore.


[00:32:53.385] - Renee Mitchell

You have to call the city. And when they called the city, the city said, we don't know what to do with that call. And so then the coffee shop owner is saying, well, what do I do? Like, you won't send me a police officer anymore. You said the cops can't come to my coffee shop. Now you're telling me the city won't come help me now what do I do as a business owner? So I think those are the things that one you have to know in advance what your response is going to be, but also to let people pay taxes for a reason.


[00:33:18.555] - Renee Mitchell

And so in some ways, just the same way you and I would always get that whole I pay your salary, right? I mean, it's we hated it. But in some sense, like this is the same problem that I think cities will face is those same people on the other end of the phone. They might have that same reaction when you want to send them other services, they might. Say I pay your salary. I want a police officer.


[00:33:42.845] - Renee Mitchell

I don't want that other service. So I think that's the other thing is cities really have to define what do you want your cops to do? What do you want city workers to do? Well.


[00:33:54.755] - Steve Morreale

But, Renee, the thing is, you're absolutely right. But it can't be a politician who is coming down with that edict, who was deciding for themselves. There have to be some sort of, exactly what you're saying. We have to survey and we have to ask those questions. What do you want? And that's exactly right. And it can't be anecdotal, right? It cannot be anecdotal. It has. Exactly. So let's ask the questions. Let's collect the data.


[00:34:16.745] - Steve Morreale

Let's crunch the data, and then let's let people know what we found. Because a lot of times when surveys are done, if they don't like people who did the survey don't like it, they just don't release. And you've seen that before, right? Yes. Yes, I know.


[00:34:28.535] - Renee Mitchell

I think all of these questions and what I advocate for is it's a very complex problem. And what bothers me about the media and the conversation we have going on today is that so many people want to just say, here's the solution and there isn't there isn't a solution. There's learning and there's data to sort through and there's research to be done. And there's a lot of learning on a lot of different systems and people's part. But there's no one panacea that's going to solve this problem.


[00:35:02.745] - Renee Mitchell

So unless people start sitting back and actually dedicating the time and the resources to really understanding it and then creating solutions that work for the people living the problem, that we're just not going we're going to be in the same. You talked about we got to wrap up soon. You talked about like my TED talk that TED talk five years ago. I was talking about the same thing we are today. And I had said if we don't start changing things, we're going to be in the same boat five years from now.


[00:35:31.605] - Renee Mitchell

And I said that because what I saw from the lunch that Lyndon B. Johnson commission, is that commission I felt was right on with where they were directing policing. And had we actually followed through with that commission's recommendations, I think policing would be somewhere different. But I think we're so hellbent on these programs of the day and the new acronym or the new exciting thing that's going to cure all in policing. I think we can be better off than we are today.


[00:36:00.395] - Renee Mitchell

And if we don't start examining the data and the research more thoroughly, we're going to be just as bad.


[00:36:06.365] - Steve Morreale

If you look at that report and turn that report into potentially a strategic plan. And if you're going to be training in strategic planning, you have a plan, you have goals, you have a champion, and then you have an evaluation period. Is it working? Isn't it work? I actually think we need to go back and look at that 50 year-old report, see what we did, see what we did.


[00:36:24.245] - Steve Morreale

Fast-forward, maybe create another commission to say, OK, what have we done?What did we miss? What has to happen today? Because the question that is burning it with me yourself, being an academic now, a researcher now, but coming from the field, are police bad?


[00:36:37.685] - Renee Mitchell

I don't think so. Like when I look at this is what makes me sad is because I think that you have all this I think there are dollars being thrown at all these organizations that are saying that they're going to reform. And when I look at these organizations, where are your cops? And that's why I am always advocating for a ASEBP, because I feel like we're the cops that are advocating a very solid plan in some sense to change the trajectory of policing.


[00:37:03.575] - Renee Mitchell

And when I look at the cops around me, I think to myself, all of these people want policing to be better. They want it to be more than it is, and they don't want bad cops. But yet that's all that gets highlighted in the world, is every time a cop misstep. And that's the thing. They don't do that to doctors, not malpractice. Like the the mistakes that are made in medicine are in the hundreds of thousands.


[00:37:29.495] - Renee Mitchell

They've shown implicit-bias within the medical profession and the deaths that accumulate within the medical profession. But yet it's somehow it's a moral judgment on police officers for as for us as a whole in totality of our profession.


[00:37:45.665] - Steve Morreale

So it's a generalisation,


[00:37:47.405] - Renee Mitchell

Right, so if a doctor is a bad doctor and goes into a surgery drunk and accidentally kills somebody because he makes a mistake, you don't hear about everybody saying all doctors are bad. They're all have these.


[00:38:00.005] - Steve Morreale

We need to reform the medical profession.


[00:38:02.915] - Renee Mitchell

It's that doctor. And so that doesn't happen in our profession. It becomes that all police what's the acronym? ACAB, that all cops are bastards. It becomes all of us. I've seen that on Twitter. You know, I don't know one good cop. I don't know any cop that is a good person because they're in a system that's a racially based system, so there can be no good cop.


[00:38:25.925] - Renee Mitchell

So all I know are a bunch of people that got into the profession because they want to make a difference. And I think over the decades, like if you look at the profession, I think we try really hard to get better at what we do until. Learn from our mistakes and to change our policies and their practices and to look at ourselves and do better. I've often heard if you look at the way we've improved versus other professions, sometimes I think we have advanced more than other professions have because, one, we're in the limelight.


[00:38:54.745] - Renee Mitchell

But two, we try hard and we mean well.


[00:38:57.115] - Steve Morreale

That's good to hear.  I want to throw a couple of curveballs at you as we get ready to wrap up. The first question is, what books are you reading? Where do you look for information to expand your horizons other than policing book?


[00:39:10.025] - Renee Mitchell

I don't read policing books. I think the last time I ran out of something to read, like I went on Twitter and I asked, hey, does anybody have any recommendations for reading? Don't suggest any policing books because I don't read those. So usually I actually read psychology books and lately I actually am in copyright violation because I think I've almost tweeted all of Adam Grant's Think Again book. It just got released like three days ago and I've been reading it and I love the quotes out of it.


[00:39:42.385] - Renee Mitchell

But the books I enjoy the most that I think actually are really good for police leadership are usually the ones that challenge our way of thinking. So Annie Duke's Thinking in Bets, I think is a great book. My all-time favorite, my hero is Dr. Kahneman. So his thinking fast and slow, his work with Tversky, because I think ultimately that is probably also why I got into please research is our intuition about what we think is going to happen in the world and then how human beings really react to totally different things.


[00:40:15.055] - Renee Mitchell

What we think human beings are going to do and then when we test our assumptions usually are wrong. We don't get it right half the time. So his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, really lays out this framework for why we think the way we think, why we struggle with statistics. And I actually to really geek out, I think some of the best book I've read that I think a lot of policing leaders should actually read are on statistics.


[00:40:41.065] - Renee Mitchell

So the Signal in the Noise by Nate Silver and then How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg or two of the statistics books that I usually because they're they're not written, they're not like a textbook for college. They're written as every day they got the interesting stories in them, fun to read. They kind of have that Malcolm Gladwellellian stories too, but they're teaching you about psychology. And then I also really like Atul Gawande. He's writing. So he wrote, actually, I think being mortal has nothing to do with leasing, but that's a good one for any human being to read.


[00:41:12.355] - Renee Mitchell

But his books don't.


[00:41:13.795] - Steve Morreale

Police, but don't police officers have to realize that they're mortal. They're not immortal.


[00:41:18.895] - Renee Mitchell

That is very true. And it's a great book about death being human beings. But I think for policing his checklist manifesto, I think it's something for police leadership because he talks about when you're under pressure or stress, because he comes from the medical profession that having like a checklist and he's done a lot of work. A lot of his writing is centered around how to reduce accidents in the medical field. So he writes about if you create checklists, it helps you not to make mistakes.


[00:41:47.335] - Renee Mitchell

I've always thought there's got to be things in policing that we could bring checklists into and use them. So those are what we certainly use.


[00:41:55.015] - Steve Morreale

Imagine a pilot operating a plane without a checklist, the same sort of thing.


[00:41:58.535] - Renee Mitchell

He's another one that I like. So all of it's funny. Most of the authors that I read center around all of the same ideas. To some extent, it's usually how to make their profession. It's better not to rethink their professions, whether it's a medical field or the psychology. And it's also about human behavior, because I think we really probably just in the last thirty years or so, are starting to understand education and learning so much better. We don't even understand exactly the way we learn.


[00:42:31.225] - Renee Mitchell

That's the whole learning styles. That's a myth that's been busted with research, but that's still something that we pass around. And the academy is saying that we have learning styles. So those are off the top of my head.


[00:42:43.105] - Steve Morreale

The last question, if you had the choice or a chance to sit down with somebody of notoriety, not necessarily famous, dead or alive, to pick their brain, who might that?


[00:42:53.035] - Renee Mitchell

Oh, it'd be Daniel Kahneman.


[00:42:54.775] - Steve Morreale



[00:42:55.105] - Renee Mitchell

Because his work is really it's all about how our brains work. And he has this exceptional style of creating impairment that tap into what he's examining. And then I wish I could replicate in the field the way he does. So most of my experiments that I've run our patrol, the old experiments with cops, but I actually want to somehow to wait a little bit into doing lab work where you can potentially do the same kind of work he's done.


[00:43:23.635] - Renee Mitchell

But figure out how to reconstruct some of what we do in the field, in the laboratory to really get at what is happening. We've been playing around with the idea of VR using scenarios and then changing things in the scenarios to see how people react. He would be somebody that I would love to sit down and just talk to you and say, how do you construct your agreements? And you do you have your question first and then walk back here, Berriman, or do you just surround yourself with people and kind of bounce your ideas until they finally just somehow forms that nugget in your brain and you figure it all out?


[00:43:56.275] - Steve Morreale

Well, thank you. Thank you for your time today. Glad to have another person who's on the East Coast, even though you're a transplant with that. I applaud you for what you're doing. And I know that the society of Evidence-Based policing is something that you and others worked to put together. But I think it helped focus exactly what you're talking about, that we become more data-driven and help people understand what that means. So thank you, Renee, very much.


[00:44:18.775] - Renee Mitchell

Thanks for having me.


[00:44:19.645] - Steve Morreale

It's my pleasure.  I hope to have you back again. I want to sign off by saying this is Steve Morreale in Boston. You've been listening to The CopDoc Podcast and Renee Mitchell, Dr. Renee Mitchell from RTI International. Stay tuned for other episodes coming up. Hope you have a good day.