Police Practice-Based Projects

Practice-based research is a process that complements random controlled trials (i.e., experimental research) and is based on good quality data collected from routine police practice that when evaluated can provide direction for implementation of programs and organizational treatments. There are several methods that can accomplish a practice-based research approach.

  1. Researchers actively assist in developing processes and mechanisms for implementation, provide technical assistance, and then conduct a process evaluation that informs both the police department and the field.
  2. Police and researchers work collaboratively on demonstration and field application projects.
  3. Police departments that have identified an effective strategy enlist researchers to conduct an evaluation of the process and impact of its implementation.

The following are practice-based police research projects that have been conducted by members of the Center.

Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services Grant: Danville, VA Police Department Case Study: Understanding the Effects of Stratified Policing and Community Engagement on Crime, the Community, and the Police Organization 

In recent years, police have become more disengaged from conducting proactive crime reduction and engaging the community. There is a need now, more than ever, to provide a clear path for how police, city officials, and communities can reengage to improve safety in their communities. Historically, the City of Danville, VA experienced some of the highest crime and poverty in Virginia. For decades, there was distrust among city officials, the community, and police where improvement would have seemed impossible. Starting in 2019, the Danville Police Department (DPD) implemented a stratified proactive community engagement and crime reduction model (Stratified Policing). Comparing the three year periods of 2016-18 to 2019-21, the city has seen a 51% decrease in violent and 23% in property crime (https://www.facebook.com/RiverCityTV/videos/401124391815697).

Additionally, there have been significant improvements in how city officials and the community trust/partner with DPD to solve community harms. This has resulted in officer’s improved morale and willingness to engage with the community and proactive crime reduction.

This project fulfills the need to build trust/legitimacy with the community and enhance DPD’s current efforts of transparency with its community by examining and understanding the nuances of how DPD was able to decrease crime and improve community collaboration/trust. DPD will work with Drs. Roberto and Rachel Santos (Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research, Radford University in Radford, VA), to conduct a comprehensive case study to understand the effects of DPD’s efforts on its relationship with the community and city officials, its organizational culture, and crime and disorder.

Using a mixed-methods approach for data collection from a wide array of individuals and groups within the community, local government officials, criminal justice partners, DPD personnel at all ranks, and official crime data, the project seeks to dissect and understand how DPD was successful and identify ways that DPD can refine, adjust, and improve its practices to better institutionalize its proactive community engagement and crime reduction efforts. For the broader law enforcement community, the case study results will offer specific community-based and crime reduction examples based on DPD experiences as well as considerations, lessons learned, and recommendations for implementation and sustainability. The goal is to provide guidance for other agencies and their communities on implementing an organizational model that brings together proactive community engagement and evidence-based crime reduction. The audience who will find the case study most helpful are police leaders, city managers, mayors, and communities who are struggling to systematically implement proactive crime reduction, while at the same time, are facing high levels of crime and trying to build relationships with their communities where there is a lack of trust. 

Publication forthcoming, late 2024.


Office of Community-Oriented Policing Grant: Translating Best Practices: Developing a Framework for Institutionalizing Community Policing by Rank

Publication (2024): Operationalizing Proactive Community Engagement: A Framework for Police Organizations

Abstract: This guide is intended to present police leaders with a framework for institutionalizing community engagement strategies to improve their personnel’s willingness to increase proactive, positive interactions with the community. It draws on the discussions from law enforcement focus groups at every rank from 14 police departments, sheriff’s offices, and state police organizations, synthesizing the results into three themes: (1) defining expectations for proactive community engagement (2) engaging leaders in proactive community engagement and (3) establishing proactive community engagement accountability. To illustrate how these concepts can be applied, the final section presents how a specific proactive community engagement strategy—community walks—can be holistically implemented in a neighborhood experiencing high victimization.

Project Description: The Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services, “Community Policing Development,” grant is a project in which the Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research is partnering with 13 police departments and sheriff’s offices. The strength of community policing lies is in its flexibility and diverse set of strategies, but this also creates ambiguity in how community policing should be implemented throughout a police department and by whom.  For community policing to be normalized in an agency, it must not be carried out by a specialist squad or relegated for only some individuals at the officer level, but must be an integral part of the organizational mission and carried out at each level of the organization. The goal of this project is to produce practice-based deliverables that present an organizational approach in which all ranks in the police department are engaged in community policing on a daily basis. The Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research is partnering with 13 community-focused police departments and sheriff’s offices to solicit best practices. The project will result in a framework and toolkit to assist agencies in institutionalizing community policing throughout their organizations.



Office of Community-Oriented Policing Grant: Proactive Police Response to Domestic-Related Repeat Call For Service

Publication (2023): COPS Office Guide: Proactive Response to Domestic-Related Repeat Calls for Service

In 2018, the Danville, VA Police Department (DPD) implemented a Stratified Policing strategy to combat one of the highest rates of violent crime in Virginia. Working with the creators of the strategy, Drs. Santos, professors from Radford University, DPD was able to cut violent crime by half in 2019. With grant funding from the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services, DPD and Radford University’s Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research partnered again to apply the successful model to domestic-related repeat calls for service. The project sought to identify, track, and address repeat incidents at residences by applying police and community resources to prevent or limit disputes from escalating. Using the problem-solving process, sergeants were systematically assigned responsibility for repeat incidents and held accountable for implementing responses and resolution of the problem. Weekly reports were created to identify the locations, track responses, and monitor progress toward resolution. Weekly meetings were conducted to evaluate and adjust strategies until the domestic situation is resolved and the location/persons are no longer an issue. Community-level domestic-related resources were utilized to support the process and supplement the police response.  The goals are to prevent the escalation of violence and increase victim safety in Danville while at the same time create a replicable process and tools that can be implemented and sustained in any jurisdiction at a minimal cost.

News article about the project: Danville PD awarded $90.5K grant for response to domestic violence calls

Using Drones for CPTED Analysis in City of Radford Public Schools

Dr. ‘Shawn Smith, Center Faculty Fellow, is working with Corporal Eric Martin, school liaison and oversight officer of School Resource Officers (SROs) for the Radford City Police Department (RCPD), and Radford City Public Schools (RCPS) to perform CPTED/Drone analysis of school facilities throughout the Radford City Public schools system in the interest of better fortification against and response to mass shooting threats. Dr. Smith is overseeing the use of the aerial unmanned drone and gimbal 360 degree camera technologies, recently acquired by the Criminal Justice Department at Radford University, to complete a thorough examination of the layout (both internal and external) of each school in the RCPS district. The initial assessment was performed for Belle Heth Elementary School, located on George St. in Radford, Va.

The CPTED-centered analysis and active shooter response is about to enter its second phase.  Partnering with Dr. Skip Watts (Radford Department of Geology), they have created 3-D renderings that were taken from drone scans of the schools.  The models are usable now for officer training, and Corporal Martin’ is eager to move forward to the next phase.  Some results of this work include plans for redesigning one of the school's front entrance based upon the recommendations offered in the initial report.



Matthews, NC Police Department: Organizational Assessment for Stratified Policing Implementation

With funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance National Training and Technical Assistance Center, Drs. Santos partnered with Chief Clark Pennington and the Matthews, NC Police Department (MPD) to implement Stratified Policing.  To understand the policies, practices, and organizational culture of MPD, an organizational assessment was conducted which included an examination of data and technology capabilities, crime analysis products, problem-solving processes, crime reduction policies and procedures, as well as the organizational structure and unit/personnel functions.  An organizational survey was conducted for officers and above about current crime reduction and problem solving practices, communication, leadership, accountability, and transparency. Dr. Santos spent two days onsite doing interviews and focus groups. The deliverable for this work was a report with specific recommendations for tailoring Stratified Policing to MPD's organizational structure and implementing the proactive crime reduction strategies best suited for MPD. 




Drs. Rachel and Roberto Santos present an overview of Stratified Policing to Matthews Police Departments supervisors, managers, and commanders, as part of the two-day site visit. 

Implementation of Evidence-Based Policing Strategies and Crime Analysis in Rural Police Departments in Southwest Virginia

With funding from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Center provided evidence-based policing and crime analysis education and Stratified Policing implementation assistance to small, rural police agencies in Southwest Virginia. Through a partnership with the Galax, VA Police Department, Drs. Rachel and Roberto Santos delivered a chief’s seminar and multiple training sessions for over 100 police officers at all ranks from more than 15 departments. They worked closely with four police departments in a workshop to develop and implementation plan for Stratified Policing and subsequently provided in depth assistance to guide the agencies in developing a crime reduction policy, crime analysis products, and accountability meetings.

See this news article for more information on the project: Radford University professors take crime reduction police training on the road


Stratified Policing training hosted at the City of Radford Police Department.


Stratified Policing workshop held at Radford University with Galax PD, Pulaski PD, Radford PD, and Harrisonburg PD. 



Walton County, FL Sheriff’s Office: Evaluation and Sustainability of Stratified Policing

Since 2014, Drs. Roberto and Rachel Santos have partnered with the Walton County, FL Sheriff’s Office to implement, evaluate, and sustain Stratified Policing and evidence-based practices.  The partnership has included a comprehensive organizational assessment, recommendations for implementation of Stratified Policing, training for sworn personnel and advanced training for crime analysis personnel. Drs. Santos continue to work with and provide assistance to the agency. The following is a peer reviewed academic article with results from the survey that examine organizational change in the Sheriff's Office.

Santos, R.G. (2018) Police organizational change after implementing crime analysis and evidence-based strategies through stratified policing. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 12(3), 288-302.

Abstract: This article presents the findings from an evaluation of one sheriff’s office in Florida. Evidence-based policing strategies and crime analysis were implemented within the agency through ‘stratified policing’, an organizational framework to facilitate the systematic implementation of evidence-based practices through problem solving, analysis, and accountability. Crime analysis is an integral part of stratified policing and is the foundation on which all evidence-based practices are implemented and evaluated within the approach. While the agency saw crime reductions after implementation of stratified policing, when implementing and sustaining new practices throughout a police organization, it is important to evaluate components of organizational change. Thus, two waves of the same anonymous online survey were administered to agency personnel to obtain their perceptions about leadership, accountability, communication, and transparency occurring within the agency’s crime reduction efforts as well as the frequency of proactive crime reduction activities. Comparisons of the mean results for the two waves (i.e. baseline and one year of implementation) show significant increases in the amount of crime reduction activities in addition to significant improvements in leadership, accountability, communication, and transparency. Personnel were also more satisfied with the agency’s crime reduction efforts. The findings support stratified policing as one way to institutionalize crime analysis and evidence-based crime reduction and make important changes to sustain practices within an agency’s crime reduction culture.

See this article on the agency’s implementation of Stratified Policing: Sheriff's Office touts statistical policing

Bureau of Justice Assistance Crime Analysis Capabilities Project

Dr. Rachel Santos served a subject matter expert for the Institute for Intergovernmental Research, Bureau of Justice Assistance for the “Crime Analysis Capability Project” funded by Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).  She lead a team that oversaw the project design and provided technical assistance for the implementation of three projects to implement crime analysis into a medium sized-agency, a real time crime center, and for a regional initiative. In addition, she helped to monitored each project’s progress and lead the development of a Crime Analysis Toolkit based on the results of the agencies’ implementation and crime analysis best practices for BJA.

Greensboro, NC: Stratified Policing, Community Engagement, and Resource Allocation

Dr. Rachel Santos partnered with the Greensboro, NC Police Department and conducted training of sworn and crime analysis personnel, an organizational assessment and in depth assistance with the implementation of Stratified Policing, community engagement, and resource allocation. The work was funded by the agency as well as a grant from the Office of Community Policing Services.

Increasing Analytical Capacity: Training for the Law Enforcement Executive

Drs. Rachel and Roberto Santos partnered with the National Police Foundation in Washington D.C. and the International Association of Crime Analysts to develop curriculum and system for training delivery to law enforcement executives on proactive policing strategies for crime reduction and crime analysis. Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a team of trainers including a police leader, researcher, and crime analyst conducted training around the country to groups of police agency leaders at regional sites as well as at the Southern Policing Institute at the University of Louisville. 

Implementing CompStat and Crime Analysis in Maryland Police Agencies

With over $1 million in funding from the State of Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Drs. Rachel and Roberto Santos partnered with the University of Maryland, Institute for Governmental Service and Research, to assist 100 agencies throughout the State of Maryland in their implementation of CompStat, Crime Analysis, and Stratified Policing.  A comprehensive framework for delivery of training and technical assistance was developed which included 1) a best practices seminar for police executives, 2) a needs assessment process that resulted in specific recommendations for implementation, 3) training for sworn and crime analysis personnel, 4) a workshop for implementation plan development, and 4) in depth on site assistance.  The initiative succeeded in training most of the agencies and hundreds of their sworn and crime analysis personnel, conducting over 30 assessments, and providing in depth assistance to a number of agencies for the successful implementation of Stratified Policing. 



Port St. Lucie, FL Police Department: Institutionalizing Problem Solving, Analysis, and Accountability

This project, funded by several grants from the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services, began in 2004 with the goal of institutionalizing problem solving, crime analysis, and accountability into the Port St. Lucie, FL Police Department.  Dr. Rachel [Boba] Santos worked closely with the agency as a research partner to develop standard crime analysis products, policies, and practices for an organizational system to support proactive crime reduction.  Funding also supported the evaluation of the implementation and the publication of two guidebooks to support other agencies in implementing the organizational model. Dr. Roberto Santos played a key role in the development and implementation of the strategies in the police department and in writing of the publications and research articles. “Stratified Policing” was born from this initial work with the Port St. Lucie, FL Police Department. It has been enhanced over the years by Drs. Santos and implemented by many other agencies around the country and internationally. The work received the first ever International Association of Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement-Research Award in 2008 and the following are publications that were a direct result of this partnership:

Santos, R.B. (2013). Implementation of a police organizational model for crime reduction. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 32(2) 295-311.

Santos, R.B., & Santos, R.G. (2012). The role of leadership in implementing a police organizational model for crime reduction and accountability. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 6(4), 344-353.

Boba [Santos], R., & Santos, R.G. (2011). A police organizational model for crime reduction: Institutionalizing problem solving, analysis, and accountability. Washington DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Santos, R.G. (February 2011). Systematic pattern response strategy: Protecting the beehive.  FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.

Boba [Santos], R. (2011). Institutionalization of problem solving, analysis, and accountability in the Port St. Lucie, FL Police Department. Washington DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Boba [Santos], R. (2010). A practice-based evidence approach in Florida. Police Practice and Research, Special Issue: The Evolving Relationship between Police Research and Police Practice, 11 (2), 122-128.

Boba [Santos], R., & Crank, J. (2008). Institutionalizing problem-oriented policing: Rethinking problem identification, analysis, and accountability. Police Practice and Research, 9(5), 379-393.

Boba [Santos], R., & Santos, R.G. (2007). Single-family home construction site theft: A crime prevention case study. International Journal of Construction Education and Research, 3(3), 217-236.