Jenny Baker
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President’s Column: The Behind the Scenes Work in Advocacy Efforts

Mo Wang

Happy New Year, SIOPers! I hope everyone had a great 2022 and is looking forward to a more fabulous 2023. 😊

In this column, I would like to highlight a great recent achievement from SIOP’s advocacy effort, namely, SIOP’s new partnership with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office). The news release issued by the COPS Office specifically noted

Awareness and implementation of industrial-organizational psychology findings can help law enforcement agencies cultivate safer, more effective workplaces, which can then lead to enhanced public safety and increased community engagement.… Through this partnership, the COPS Office and SIOP will work together to support organizational effectiveness in law enforcement agencies by showcasing evidence-based workforce solutions in areas such as hiring, recruitment, leadership development, training, and interventions to reduce stress and improve decision making.

This public recognition from the federal agency is exciting and impressive. It represents a great deal of behind the scenes work by the SIOP advocacy team and our advocacy partner, Lewis-Burke Associates LLC (Lewis-Burke), which I appreciate and would like to highlight.

Summer and Fall 2020

Following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, and subsequent events, there were several renewed calls for federal policies to address policing reform. These calls were complemented by requests from SIOP members that the Society’s advocacy arm respond appropriately. After several discussions between SIOP leadership and Lewis-Burke, it was determined that a positive first step would be to relaunch the SIOP Policing Initiative, which aims to communicate relevant I-O psychology findings from SIOP member experts in this space to policymakers. The new Policing Initiative picks up where the previous group, led by former SIOP President-Elect Jim Outtz, left off following unrest in Ferguson and Baltimore in 2015–2016. As with the previous Policing Initiative, the new working group (Ann Marie Ryan, Rick Jacobs, Amy Grubb, and Sergeant Anna Tornello) supports the application of scientific theory and data-driven methods and findings to enhance police recruitment and selection processes; supervision and leadership; training and development; diversity and inclusion; and other areas. In the second half of 2020, the Policing Initiative developed recommendations for I-O-based reforms to be shared with congressional staff and other federal officials. Taking this step early allowed SIOP to make proactive, concrete recommendations for how I-O could be leveraged in the development of policing programs and policies as Congress considered policing reform legislation in 2021. 

Spring 2021

After the start of the 117th Congress in January 2021, Lewis-Burke scheduled meetings with key committee staff on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to discuss evidence-based policing legislation, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The recommendations of the SIOP Policing Initiative were well received by the staff and led to a follow-up meeting with Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) office, which was important given he is one of the leading members of Congress on policing issues and was driving the Senate’s policing reform bill. During the meeting, his office also offered introductions to additional key staffers on the Senate side.

Summer 2021

Working with the SIOP Policing Initiative, Lewis-Burke drafted legislative edits to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to be considered by congressional staff working on policing reform. The legislative language would edit the bill’s section on Public Safety Innovation Grants to make them more inclusive of I-O priorities, such as evidence-based selection and training programs, targeted recruitment for underrepresented individuals, and leadership development training for supervisors. The Policing Initiative’s legislative language also recommended the National Criminal Justice Commission, a commission to study the state of the criminal justice system included in previous bills, be included in the legislation being considered at the time and that I-O psychologists be included as a group that should be consulted by the commission. 

The SIOP Policing Initiative and Lewis-Burke had a follow-up meeting with Senator Booker’s staff as the Senate worked on their policing reform bill. The initiative also met with staff from Senator Tim Scott’s (R-SC) office. Senators Booker and Scott were the leading negotiators of the most recent Senate policing reform effort. The Policing Initiative shared its general recommendations, along with the legislative language mentioned above, with staff in both offices. Following the meeting with Senator Scott’s staff, Lewis-Burke was added to the congressional policing reform listserv run by Senator Scott’s office, which allowed them to provide the Policing Initiative with real-time updates on the progress of the legislation. Unfortunately, policing reform efforts stalled due to political disagreements around a few key provisions.

Around the same time, Ann Marie Ryan and Lewis-Burke met with staff from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Committee on Law and Justice. The meeting served to introduce SIOP’s priorities for evidence-based policing reform and gathered information about the committee’s upcoming initiatives on the subject. At the end of the meeting, the Law and Justice Committee staff invited the Policing Initiative to forward names of I-O experts who may be a resource to either their policing reform or workforce transformation efforts. As a follow-up, Lewis-Burke shared the names of 13 I-Os with relevant research experience and the Policing Initiative’s report with recommendations for evidence-based policing reform advocacy. Tammy Allen was invited to contribute to the report, “Short-Term Strategies for Addressing the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women’s Workforce Participation,” which has since been released. 

Fall 2021 and Spring 2022

Lewis-Burke understood that with the impasse in Congress, the federal role in policing would likely remain with the agencies. As such, in December 2021 and January 2022, Lewis-Burke facilitated meetings between the SIOP Policing Initiative and leadership of the DOJ’s COPS Office. The COPS Office is responsible for advancing the practice of community policing by the nation’s state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies through information and grant resources for activities such as hiring and training. The Policing Initiative initially met with the Acting Deputy Director for Community Policing Advancement to introduce SIOP and I-O psychology’s expertise in addressing selection, training, morale, and other topics of importance to police departments. SIOP was then encouraged to meet with the COPS Office’s acting director, Robert Chapman. During the meeting with Acting Director Chapman, the SIOP Policing Initiative discussed ways to formalize collaboration between SIOP and the agency, as well as participate in potential benchmarking studies and other opportunities to inform agency priorities.

Following the successful meeting with Acting Director Robert Chapman, SIOP and the COPS Office began discussions on the signing of a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Society and the agency. The MOU would formalize future collaboration between two the entities and encourage the COPS office to consult SIOP for expert input on priorities regarding hiring and selection, reducing officer burnout, providing meaningful training and professional development, and other topics of I-O expertise. According to the COPS Office, this MOU would represent the first such agreement between the agency and a scientific society, further emphasizing the vital role I-O psychology plays in this space.

Summer and Fall 2022

Following months of productive discussions regarding signing a formal partnership agreement, SIOP and COPS Office leadership finalized the MOU. Since the signing of the MOU, SIOP and Lewis-Burke have established standing monthly calls with the COPS Office, supported a forthcoming podcast from the office, formally briefed COPS employees on I-O psychology findings and its relevance to their work, and provided input to a DOJ COPS newsletter article about I-O psychology’s relevance to the field of policing. Additionally, SIOP and Lewis-Burke are actively working on scheduling several engagement opportunities with the community of law enforcement officers served by the COPS Office. This agreement and the pace of activity provide SIOP with a meaningful and regular opportunity to contribute expertise to agency officials.

As you can see from this chronological curation, it was a long journey from relaunching the SIOP Policing Initiative to eventually achieving the official partnership with the DOJ COPS Office. In addition, where the advocacy effort started (i.e., the legislature) was not necessarily where the success materialized (i.e., a federal agency) for SIOP. All this is to say that SIOP needs more member involvement in the advocacy work. I invite you to check out the web page of the SIOP Government Relations Advocacy Team (GREAT; https://www.siop.org/About-SIOP/Advocacy/Government-Relations) as well as additional advocacy materials (https://www.siop.org/About-SIOP/Advocacy/Government-Relations/Advocacy-Resources). Please also feel free to contact Jennifer Rineer, who is now our GREAT lead for the policing initiative, to share your ideas and support.

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