Every day police officers make crucial decisions that can either make or break their course of action. This complex decision-making process has earned the interest of many policing scholars who want to investigate the factors that contribute to the decisions made by the authorities.
While these police officers are called to serve and protect the public, their line of work also calls them to do their tasks under conditions that are enormously challenging, stressful, dangerous, if not fatal. Here, we will explore how an in-depth study of human behavior, particularly Behavioral Science, can help police agencies in carefully considering the costs and benefits of every action that they make.
What Is Behavioral Science?
Behavioral Science is the study of how people make decisions – and acts within the complex environment and circumstances that they are into. This basically aims to understand human behavior through systematic analysis and investigation. The standard approach to predicting human behavior involves several factors, like the value of the options provided, available information, and the conditions of which the decision has to be made.
Behavioral Science is practiced across various fields including psychology, psychobiology, anthropology, and cognitive science. It is well utilized in realigning policies, programs, and even product marketing.
How Behavioral Science Can Help Police Agencies?
While most people are given the privilege to weigh their options and ponder on the possible outcomes of their choices, police officers don’t have this luxury of time. In most situations in the field, law enforcers are forced to come up with immediate decisions about a problem that they encounter.
While it is not often discussed, Behavioral Science plays a crucial role for Police Agencies to do their duties in the community.
1. Enables police officers to better understand their community.
According to research, the public does not generally know the legalities of police practices. Most are unaware of the written law. For this reason, people make assumptions based on their limited experience. Given that this is how the public acts, Police Agencies are thereby challenged to better understand the community’s perception of them.The knowledge on how people in the community perceives them enables police officers to develop strategies on how to better approach the people in the community – without being offensive or coercive.
2. Helps identify behaviors that are not tolerated in the community.
Different communities react differently. Several factors can affect the way the community responds to the way the police handle the situation. Behavioral Science can help Police Agencies determine what works well and what prompts a negative reaction from the community by identifying the general cultural background of the people living in the area. Going over the profile of the community may as well help in better responding to misconduct or crimes committed.
More often, the cause of conflict between the police and community roots in misunderstanding and miscommunication. It is therefore imperative for the police to also include in their decision-making and course of action the background of the community.
3. Resolves conflict faster
Behavioral Science can help Police Agencies resolve community conflicts faster. While behavioral assessment and analysis are often applied to criminal investigations, this also educates police officers on what behavior to look for – so that they can intervene before violence happens. When familiar behavior is detected from an individual, it is easier for the police to decide what to do and how to go about the conflict or problem that is happening in the community.
4. Reassesses Police Performance
Recent studies have shown that people tend to look beyond single experiences and evaluate police performance based on behavioral patterns exhibited over time in the community. People love to compare and observe other people’s behavior – that’s why it’s easy for them to provide feedback on the performance and services provided by the police officers. Knowing that the community is always on the look, police officers need to do better with how they conduct their duties and reassess the programs that are not working – and probably ask suggestions from the people.
5. Scaffolds Community Policing
Knowing that some people love to share suggestions and provide feedback, Police Agencies can utilize this knowledge in coming up with community policing practices that would be beneficial for both the police and community. Background on Behavioral Science can help the police in customizing community surveys – like Officer Survey – that would really cater to the needs and interests of the community. Besides, this will guide them in coming up with analysis and best measures to adopt to make the community a better and safer place to live in.