ASEBP Statement on U.S. Capitol Riot

If a crisis is recognized by a widespread sense that something is not right, coupled with sharply differing opinions about what is needed to make things right, then American police are in crisis. ~ David Bayley (2017)

The American Society of Evidence-Based Policing (ASEBP) was founded in 2015 amidst the Occupy protests occurring across the country.  That year, ASEBP founder Renee Mitchell delivered a Tedx Talk: Research, Not Riots where she advocated for the use of data and research to drive police practice rather than rhetoric, politics, and commonly accepted police practice. The next day, she led the inaugural meeting of ASEBP, establishing a mission to advance and improve American policing through science. 

Six years later, American policing is even more deeply in crisis.  While the country is struggling to find a clear path forward for American policing in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that followed, last week‘s riot at the US Capitol spotlighted – among many other things – the complex relationship between policing and political violence in the US. 

Stories of heroism – like the quick thinking of Officer Eugene Goodman to lure protestors away from the not-yet-secure Senate chambers – are blunted by stories of police complicity and active participation.  Early reports suggest that the failure to provide adequate security resources and much-needed backup were politically motivated.  And some local police departments are discovering their own officers were active participants in the riot itself. 

Policing is a public institution.  It would be naïve to think that the profession could exist absent some type of political influence.  But political ideology cannot – must not – drive police decision-making.  The stakes are too great for anything other than a data-driven, evidence-informed approach to serving the American people and advancing public safety.

Since 2015, ASEBP has advocated that evidence-based policing must be the foundation of policy and practice. It is not a panacea, but an objective, apolitical approach to resolving policing issues, advancing public safety, and fairly and equitably serving the public.  If this nation wants to address the persistent and growing crisis in American policing, then the federal government must significantly increase funding for research and incentivize evidence-based policing at the federal, state, and local level.

As we write, the FBI is reporting plans for armed demonstrations and in some cases calls to violence in all 50 states.  We are conscious of the fact that advocating for more research in the midst of impending widespread violence may seem weak and ineffectual.  But the absence of adequate research on which to build police practice creates a vacuum - one that has been filled by fears, biases, and political whims - none of which have a place police decision-making, and all of which perpetuate the very crises we seek to address.

We write knowing that the coming days may mirror what we witnessed at the US Capitol last week.  The majority of our board and our membership is made up of sworn law enforcement officers, many of whom are in command positions and actively preparing for what is to come.  We do not write this statement lightly, but out of an obligation to advocate for what is objectively necessary for a better future. 

Research, not riots.

ASEBP Executive Board