Skip to main content
Improving Academic-Police Partnerships: Observations and Suggestions from a Long-Term Partnership in Portland, Oregon
Translational Criminology (2015)
  • Kris R. Henning, Portland State University
  • Greg Stewart, Portland Police Bureau
The integration of data analysis and scientific methodologies into the practice of law enforcement has advanced considerably in recent decades. At the same time, there is still considerable room for further improvement. Specific recommendations that have been offered for advancing the science of policing include: 1) expanding police agencies’ internal capacity for data collection, data analysis, and research design; and 2) broadening practitioners’ access to academic scholarship (Lum, Telep, Koper, & Grieco, 2012; Rojek, Smith, & Alpert, 2012; Sparrow, 2011; Weisburd & Neyroud, 2011). A third strategy for advancing police science is partnerships between academics and police practitioners. Successful partnerships are hard to develop and can be even harder to sustain over time. Having collaborated now for more than 10 years on a variety of topics, we would like to offer academics several pieces of advice for working with law enforcement agencies.

The knowledge and skills that academic researchers have brought to bear on a variety of public safety topics has contributed significantly to our understanding of crime. The impact of this scholarship on law enforcement policies and practices by contrast is debatable. Police practitioners rarely access academic journals where research studies are archived and academics are not uniformly skilled at making their work accessible to lay audiences (Lum, Telep, Koper, & Grieco, 2012; Rojek, Smith, & Alpert 2012). These challenges are mitigated to some degree when academics develop long-term research partnerships with police practitioners. For practitioners, an effective partnership provides access to the scholarly literature, enhances their research and data analysis skills, and helps them take ownership of the scientific process. Academics involved in long-term collaborations gain access to data, practical experience, and the opportunity to test theories in applied settings. Based on the success of prior academic-practitioner partnerships, the federal government has sought to expand collaborations through several recent grant programs (e.g., SACSI, PSN, and SPI).

This has led experienced criminal justice scholars to offer newer academics recommendations for working with police agencies (e.g., Alpert, Rojek, & Hansen, 2013; Grieco, Vovak, & Lum, 2014; Rosenfeld, 2014). These suggestions are undoubtedly of great value to academics who are working to establish their first research collaborations. We believe, however, that effective partnerships require something else—something that is rarely discussed in academic circles or the existing literature on academic-police collaborations. University professors seeking to conduct research in police agencies need to fully appreciate the practitioners’ experience of being subjected to scientific scrutiny and the cost/benefit ratio of research participation for each party. This is especially true for entry and mid‐level police employees who are often directed by their superiors to participate in research projects without true consent (i.e., “volun-told”).

By way of illustration, think about your current position if you already work as a professor in academia. If you are employed in another field, think about what it might be like to work as a professor at a large public research university.
Publication Date
Fall 2015
Citation Information
Kris R. Henning and Greg Stewart. "Improving Academic-Police Partnerships: Observations and Suggestions from a Long-Term Partnership in Portland, Oregon" Translational Criminology Iss. 9 (2015) p. 17 - 19
Available at: