“One on One with… Assistant Chief Joshua Ederheimer”
Recently, Joshua A. Ederheimer, Assistant Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) of the District of Columbia, provided the opening remarks at roundtable discussion hosted by the COPS Office and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In his remarks, he offered nine suggestions as to how researchers and funding organizations can better partner with law enforcement. The complete list of suggestions is provided at the end of this interview, and it was in light of these suggestions that the Dispatch invited him to be the first participant in what we hope will be an interesting and informative regular feature section. Dispatch Editor-in-Chief Deborah Spence conducted the interview.
CP Dispatch: You have worked on both sides of the law enforcement-researcher relationship, and that has clearly informed the nine suggestions for how researchers can better partner with law enforcement that you offered at the recent roundtable. Conversely, do you have any suggestions for how law enforcement can better partner with associations, research institutions, and funders?
Assistant Chief Ederheimer: I’ve seen a degree of resistance by police organizations to participate in research projects and partnerships that I think is driven mostly by leadership being so busy with day-to-day police operations that they are not thinking about long-term strategic planning. Police organizations are great at short-term crisis management, but they struggle with long-term strategic planning. Partnering with researchers can help. I’d like to see police organizations, one, be more open to working with researchers and two, be more responsive to research surveys. A third key to success is for agencies to incorporate research projects into their strategic planning process. Finally, leadership should be more aware of the key stakeholders. I am shocked by the number of police officials who don’t know about the major law enforcement associations, or the reputable research universities and organizations, and don’t ever look at the major Department of Justice web sites (like COPS and the OJP components) or understand the DOJ structure and where to find information. Personally, I find the time to check out all the major DOJ and association web sites at least once a month.
CP Dispatch: Your first suggestion to researchers and funders is "ask us what we need," so what are some products you think the field needs that a researcher can provide to a local law enforcement agency? The Dispatch can't see that you get them, but here's a chance for you to throw part of your wish list out there.
Assistant Chief Ederheimer: Police are always looking for the latest examples of what works in fighting specific crimes. I do think there is a void in the areas of leadership and management training, and we also need more information on recruitment and retention—not only how do we get good people into our organizations but how do we keep them. Then there is a big need for products that will help us interact with young people and understand youth culture, which links to my previous point—as we try to recruit new officers to the profession, how do we balance the traditions of a paramilitary organizational structure with the modern youth experience and what they are seeking in a workplace environment? There is also an ongoing need for information related to intelligence gathering and sharing. And with this I mean criminal street intelligence, not homeland security, although I think they are related. Finally, I’d like to see more information on building strong partnerships with other government agencies that focus on human services and community development.
I recognize that there is always going to be a need and a place for big, thick research reports on long-term projects, but researchers must recognize that executives are never going to have the time to read them. Recently, for example, MPD Chief Lanier had to brief the mayor about possible modifications to our take-home car and in-car camera programs. We had only a couple of hours to develop some key points. Luckily, we found two-page primer documents online for both programs that summarized the issues, referenced information that we could follow up on later, and made some basic recommendations for policy and practice—exactly what the chief needed.
CP Dispatch: What goals have you set to improve and/or expand the adoption of community policing within the MPD? Have any specific initiatives been started in pursuit of these goals?
Assistant Chief Ederheimer: Partnering with research organizations has been written into the MPD’s and the chief’s performance goals. This means that we will be assessed on how many partnerships we form, for both large and small research projects. We are also disseminating community policing information throughout the department during role call and training, as well as through e-mail and the daily newsletter that we publish both electronically and in hard copy. The newsletter features community policing strategies that work and problem-solving and partnership successes taking place throughout the city.
We also recognize that information sharing is a two-way street. Officers can send information to the command staff, both through traditional chains of command and through an electronic suggestion box that even allows them to submit anonymously.
CP Dispatch: How do the concepts of partnerships and problem-solving affect the daily work of line-level officers at MPD?Assistant Chief Ederheimer: Chief Lanier has personally pushed the importance of alternative strategies to address crime problems and has done more to encourage innovation on the part of our officers. Traditionally, we had an annual awards ceremony to recognize innovation and creativity, but now we start our three weekly crime briefing meetings by recognizing officers who creatively solve problems, initiate innovative programs, and work to engage the community. The awards are also featured in the daily newsletter. It means something to the officers to get a medal, a ribbon, or even just the recognition in front of the command staff at that meeting, and to have it come in such a timely fashion.
CP Dispatch: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the advancement of community policing today, and how do you think we can all work to mitigate that challenge?Assistant Chief Ederheimer: I think the biggest challenge is that we live in an era of information immediacy. There is intense media attention given to crime problems, making the problem often seem worse than it is, and driving the politicians to demand immediate results. Community policing can address this fear, but it takes time to build the trust, the programs, and the strategies needed to do so. The challenge is how to balance the short-term responses demanded by media attention with building and maintaining the long-term partnerships and projects necessary to good community policing and long-term crime control.
Assistant Chief Ederheimer leads the MPD’s Professional Development Bureau which incorporates a variety of support and operational functions, including recruiting, training, human resources, discipline, medical services, research, planning, criminal intelligence, legislative, language access, and the forensics laboratory. He joined the MPD in 1985 and has served in a variety of areas including patrol, investigations, and administration. In 2004 he became director of the Police Executive Research Forum’s Center on Force & Accountability in Washington, D.C., returning to the MPD in 2007 to serve in the administration of newly appointed Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier. He led Chief Lanier’s transition team and later was appointed as Director of Training. Chief Lanier subsequently promoted him to his current position. Assistant Chief Ederheimer serves on several professional boards, has written extensively, and edited and published numerous books, technical reports, and other publications. He is also an adjunct professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in justice from American University, and a master’s degree in management and leadership from Johns Hopkins University.
On April 8, 2008, Assistant Chief Ederheimer spoke at a roundtable hosted by the COPS Office and John Jay College in Washington, D.C. The roundtable focused on building partnerships to advance effective policing. He presented nine suggestions that can help research and funding organizations to be better partners with law enforcement, specifically:
- Ask us what we need, don’t tell us.
- Don’t take too long to complete a project.
- Involve a greater cross section of police and include civilians.
- Speak our language.
- Disseminate the information widely, be proactive, and use a variety of media.
- Make results practical; don’t give us a big, thick book.
- Provide a means by which agencies can pilot the results— help us implement it and make it sustainable.
- Encourage roundtables and foster the creation of relationships.
- Seek out the assistance of the government and other funders to pay for it.