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DOJ Press Release letterhead

  • Thursday, March 24, 2011
  • Contact: Office of Justice Programs
  • Contact: Sheila Jerusalem
  • (202) 307-0703

Experts Debate Police Professionalism for the 21st Century

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) today announced the release of two papers from the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety, a roundtable funded by NIJ and managed by Harvard Kennedy School's Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management. Both publications, The Persistent Pull of Police Professionalism and Toward a New Professionalism in Policing, are the latest additions to the New Perspectives in Policing series, a collection of papers from the Executive Session.

"The Executive Session meetings provide an opportunity for scholars and practitioners to collaborate and share ideas and knowledge, potentially determining the shape of policing over the next two decades," said Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Department's Office of Justice Programs.

In The Persistent Pull of Police Professionalism, Harvard Executive Session member David Sklansky argues that some new approaches to policing, including intelligence-led policing and predictive policing, represent a worrisome return to police professionalism — the model of policing that was replaced by community policing by the 1980's. Sklansky believes sympathy has increased for several core ideas in police professionalism: that police departments should focus on crime suppression dictated by objective analysis rather than public whims and that authority within police departments should be centralized and rationalized. He is concerned that a renewed emphasis on technology and expertise may be at the expense of essential elements stressed in community policing, such as outreach and community partnership. To combat this, he proposes a model of community policing that makes use of advancing technology in a lesser role, without compromising community partnerships.

Harvard Executive Session members Christopher Stone and Jeremy Travis, in contrast, believe that while community policing represented a change in how police officers did their jobs, a "New Professionalism" is the new model for the 21st century. In Toward a New Professionalism in Policing, Stone and Travis propose a framework for executives, officers and the community to shape and understand the work of police departments. This framework relies on increased accountability for police in both effectiveness and conduct; greater legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry; continuous innovation in tactics and strategies for interacting with offenders, victims and the general public; and national coherence through the development of national norms and protocols for policing. For the public, policing becomes more effective, more responsive to residents, less forceful and brusque. For police, the work promises to become more stimulating with a greater emphasis on learning, innovation, ethics and professional mobility.

"Over the course of the past six meetings, the members of the Executive Session have produced a series of papers we hope will provoke discussion across the field, and perhaps inspire, if not challenge, the next generation of police leaders," said John H. Laub, NIJ Director.

These documents were prepared in consultation with all members of the Harvard Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety.

TITLES: The Persistent Pull of Police Professionalism and Toward a New Professionalism in Policing, part of the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety series published by NIJ.
AUTHORS: David Sklansky (The Persistent Pull of Police Professionalism), and
Christopher Stone and Jeremy Travis (Toward a New Professionalism in Policing)
WHERE: National Criminal Justice Reference Service

Additional papers published as part of the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety series can be found at


The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has seven bureaus and offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Community Capacity Development Office; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). More information about OJP and its components can be found at