Criminal Justice professors use experience to assist local police departments

Two criminal justice professors are using their significant experience working with police over the last two decades to implement Stratified Policing and evidence-based crime reduction as well as improve community engagement in local police departments and sheriff’s offices in Southwest Virginia.

With funding of $106,000 from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, Rachel Santos, professor of criminal justice, and Roberto Santos, assistant professor of criminal justice and a retired police commander, have partnered with the Galax Police Department along with the Radford, Pulaski, and Wytheville Police Departments.

The professors will implement a comprehensive initiative of training and technical assistance based on the work they have done around the United States and internationally for these four departments as well as the other agencies in Southwest Virginia. Four Radford University criminal justice students, two graduate and two undergraduate, will also be involved to see how what they have learned in the classroom applies in the real world of policing.

“Our systematic approach of implementation begins with providing training about what works,” Rachel Santos said. “We start with a seminar for chiefs, sheriffs and their command staffs to expose them to proactive policing and community engagement approaches and what the most effective crime reduction strategies are. We then lay out how to make these strategies work in the police organization through Stratified Policing.”

Group photo

Chief Don Goodman, Radford PD, Chief Ricky Arnold, Wytheville PD; Roberto Santos; Chief Gary Roche, Pulaski PD; Chief Rick Clark, Galax PD; Rachel Santos

Roberto Santos said that “we have developed and implemented Stratified Policing in a wide range of agencies over the last 14 years.”

“It is an organizational model that provides clear structure and guidance to ensure all levels of the police department are involved,” he said. “Through the model, proven crime reduction strategies are institutionalized into day-to-day police business, just as answering calls for service and investigating crimes already are.”

The seminar is followed by multiple six-hour training sessions for all levels of the police department that provides the components and examples of specific strategies that are most effective for place-based, problem-based, and offender-based problems in the community.  The training walks the officers through separate approaches for short-term and long-term crime and disorder problems, breaking each down to describe the crime analysis needed, the tactics that are most effective and ways to hold individuals accountable to ensure the work gets done. Attendees from 11 police agencies and sheriff’s offices have already participated in the seminar and training.

Once an agency sends its officers through the training, the professors will work closely with each agency on site to tailor the approach to its crime and disorder problems, its organizational structure and its available resources. The goal is to make each agency more efficient and effective in reducing crime and engaging with the community, ultimately improving the quality of life in the community.

“The training is just the first step in making sure that everyone in each agency is on the same page,” Rachel Santos said. “Once they are trained, we then help them develop specific crime reduction goals and a departmental policy that outlines the roles and responsibilities of each rank, division, and unit for crime reduction. We have examples of policies, products, and processes from all the agencies we have worked with, so that departments do not have to ‘recreate the wheel’ but can tailor existing best practices to their own needs. ”

Phillip Berry of Milford, Delaware, is a Master of Arts criminal justice candidate and is excited to be involved with the project and see how the Santos’ research is applied.

“I have learned about evidence-based policing and Stratified Policing in my classes,” Berry said. “And it will be interesting to see how research is translated into real-world application.”

Berry said he is especially looking forward to seeing how the professors work with each agency to implement the model.

The initiative began in December 2017 and will continue through December 2018 with training and in depth assistance occurring throughout the year.  The Santoses hope to reach each police department and sheriff’s office that serves the communities in Southwest Virginia to train them on the current research and best practices of proactive policing as well as provide hands on assistance to tailor and incorporate those practices into their current crime reduction efforts.  

Feb 1, 2018
Max Esterhuizen