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Dan Flynn

  • Inducted February 2010
  • Nominated by Geoff Alpert, University of South Carolina

Biography:

Dan Flynn is currently serving as the Chief of Police in the Marietta Police Department, Marietta, Georgia, an appointment he has held since 2007. Prior to his appointment with the Marietta Police Department, Chief Flynn served as Chief of the Savannah Police Department, Savannah, Georgia, as Chief of the Savannah-Chatham Police Department, and as Major assigned to Special Patrol Bureau Commander with the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Chief Flynn holds a bachelors degree in Public Administration from St. Thomas University, Florida and a masters degree in Public Administration from Florida International University. He also holds two graduate certificates, one in Executive Leadership from the University of Miami and the second in Personnel Management and Labor Relations from Florida International University. In addition, Chief Flynn is a graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy.

Chief Flynn’s professional memberships include Police Executive Research Forum, International Association of Chiefs of Police, FBI National Academy Associations, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, and Rotary International.

 

Evidence-Based Research and Practice:

Chief Flynn has been influential in the implementation and empirical evaluation of two substantial programs. First, he partnered with criminologists to evaluate the Tactical Narcotics Team (TNT) program in Miami-Dade. Chief Flynn also developed and implemented the Savannah Impact offender reentry program in Savannah, Georgia. He played a substantial role in securing funding for a major National Institute of Justice Grant on Police Officer Decision Making and Discretion.

 

Publications and projects reflecting Chief Flynn’s efforts:

  • Dunham, R. and Alpert, G. (2009). Officer and Suspect Demeanor: A Qualitative Analysis of Change. Police Quarterly, 12, 6-21.
  • Stroshine, M., Alpert, G. and Dunham R. (2008). The Influence of “Working Rules” on Police Suspicion and Discretionary Decision Making. Police Quarterly, 11, 315-337.
  • Alpert, G., MacDonald J., and Dunham, R. (2005). Police Suspicion and Discretionary Decision Making During Citizen Stops. Criminology, 43, 407-434.
  • Dunham, R., Alpert, G., Stroshine, M., and Bennett, K. (2005). Transforming Citizens Into Suspects: Factors That Influence the Formation of Police Suspicion. Police Quarterly, 8, 366-393.
  • Dunham, R. and Alpert, G. (1995). Controlling the Use of Force: An Evaluation of Street-Level Narcotics Interdiction in Miami. American Journal of Police, XV(1), 83-100.
  • Flynn, D. (1992). TNT – A Second Look. The Narc Officer. Jan-Feb. 32-37.

Statement from Chief Flynn:

POLICING WITH EVIDENCE: 

In my view, police leaders who operate at an advanced level tend to use research methods and data analysis as a basis for proactively addressing crime patterns. Inasmuch as the Community Policing philosophy promotes policing that is less incident-driven and more data-driven, many have learned that traditional methods of attacking crime problems by implementing a task force based on anecdotal evidence, and then touting results in terms of numbers of arrests, citations, or quantities of contraband seized is outdated. Policing has been evolving into a more sophisticated evidence-based method, focused on detailed problem analysis, specifically-designed intervention tactics, before and after measurement of the original problem, and where necessary, adjustment and follow up.

One of the earliest examples of evidence-based policing is in the area of domestic violence. Until the early 1990s, the traditional police method of handling domestic disputes was to calm everyone down, separate the involved parties and take little or no enforcement action since the victims were unlikely to prosecute. Sadly, the rate of domestic homicide remained unacceptably high, even following the standard police intervention(s). That dismal situation changed when research revealed that in domestic violence cases where the police arrested the aggressor, despite low prosecution rates, the rate of subsequent domestic homicide showed a sharp decline. Police standards for handling domestic violence cases were modified to require arrests upon the bare threshold of probable cause of domestic violence, and nationally the overall rate of domestic homicide has declined sharply in the succeeding years.

Another early positive example of police successfully using evidence-based policing is in the area of street-level narcotics enforcement. While the traditional police method of attacking a burglary, robbery or larceny, or combination crime trend was to attack the problem directly with traditional techniques such as stake-outs, decoys or saturation patrols; credible research revealed that high percentages of all manners of felony crime were directly or indirectly related to narcotics activity. As a result, many police jurisdictions designed and implemented comprehensive, well-focused, community-involved, street-level narcotics enforcement programs. Results confirmed that by effectively attacking the street-level narcotics problem in an intelligent way, we were able to sharply reduce burglaries and robberies, etc.

Personally, the lesson I draw from examples of evidence-based policing I have participated in or witnessed is that the police are much more potent in our crime-fighting mission when we are evidence (data) driven in our approach to crime pattern problems.

GROUP BEHAVIOR:

Beyond the realm of proactively addressing crime patterns, an often overlooked area of policing where evidence-based approaches hold great promise is the frequent need police leaders have to influence group behavior. The most common scenario in this regard occurs when the police are planning for an upcoming major political, sports, entertainment, or community event and there is an identifiable group threatening to disrupt it. For example, we sometimes find ourselves planning to prevent an angry group from rioting; dissuade a group of protestors from disrupting an upcoming major special event, or for maintaining order at a pending demonstration. In these types of situations, in my experience, the most effective prevention strategy is to study (research) the characteristics of the antagonist or opposition group in order to identify their role models and important symbolic issues. Based on the results, the police can attempt to reason with and enlist the cooperation of the role model(s), whoever they are, and design an intervention or strategy to influence the group in a positive direction. The key to the intervention, of course, is to accurately identify (usually through random sampling interviews and/or surveys) positive role models likely to be emulated by the antagonist group or population.

Influencing group behavior requires the police to operate on a more perceptual or symbolic level than basic crime-fighting and the stakes in terms of public safety are often quite high in group behavior kinds of situations. Particularly when approaching an impending situation with a group prone to create disorder, using bona-fide research methods even in a quick-and-dirty fashion is far more likely to produce valid data for evidence-based planning and decision-making than using anecdotal information, or simply copying another department’s previous plan.

In a final note concerning group behavior, it is important for police leaders and practitioners to know that in our high-speed world, we rarely have time for big-budget research projects while planning or preparing for groups threatening to disrupt major events. There are, however, researchers who are very proficient in analytical methods and they are often ready, willing, and able to help with short-term research projects. Meanwhile, more comprehensive research can be very helpful, as it has been with debunking unsubstantiated allegations of large scale racial-profiling and allegations of large scale excessive use of force against police. In each of those scenarios, evidence-based research served to largely exonerate whole police organizations and isolate small pockets of problems that we can effectively address with in the field of policing.

MANAGEMENT OF POLICE RESOURCES:

The third general area in which police leaders can benefit greatly from evidence-based policing methods is that of managing police resources. In these times when the public is increasingly frustrated with government inefficiency and ineffectiveness, the police need to continually reevaluate operational practices and efficiencies. Undoubtedly, we will always remain under scrutiny regarding our ability to make optimal use of public funds of which we are the stewards.

A good example of a contemporary evidence-based resource-management issue, and one in which I have become personally involved, is calls-for-police-service concerning burglar alarms. In police departments across the nation, research has consistently found that patrol officers spend massive amounts of time responding to burglar alarms, while over 95 percent of total alarm calls are ultimately found to be false; either accidental or faulty. Faced with evidence of this nature, common sense tells us that if we spend an overwhelming amount of officer time on any activity that is predictably due to human or mechanical errors, we need to intervene in a way that is suitable to all stake-holders. Many have implemented alarm ordinances that penalize alarm users for false alarms and the ultimate result has been that false alarm calls have been drastically reduced and as a result and thousands of hours of police patrol time can be directed toward proactive crime prevention activities. Our widespread success in this area can be attributed to proper sustainable research of police calls for service.

Another fertile management topic where police leaders can greatly benefit from impartial research is in the area of management of technology. Police administrators usually rise to their position due mainly to strong backgrounds in policing and law. Many do not have extensive backgrounds in technology or even procurement, yet they are becoming the final decision makers with regard to multi-million dollar long term communications systems, records management systems, and the like. Due to their limited technical knowledge, top administrators often wind up abdicating their responsibility in this area to subordinates, and they and/or their subordinates are often manipulated by crafty vendors to make decisions that may become costly mistakes. Research and evidence-based methods, e.g., credible needs-assessment, up front can save a police administrator millions of dollars and years of frustration.

CHALLENGES TO EVIDENCE-BASED POLICING:

Perhaps the greatest impediment to evidence-based policing is research funding. Many of the grant programs that provide funding are tailored to research issues that rarely align well with the most pressing issues or problems confronting police leaders. Secondly, the police often need quick results. Police leaders work in a universe beset with political pressures, public opinion pressures, and police morale pressures that require prompt decision making. Thus if research takes too long, a decision has to be made in order to move on and thus we are often reluctant to slow down the decision-making process to wait for research results.

Having acknowledged and wrestled with the challenges, however I remain convinced that information is power; and the police leader who learns how to overcome the challenges and harness the power of evidence-based policing will continue to become the most successful and effective police leaders of tomorrow.

 

Testimonials:

Professor Geoffrey Alpert, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of South Carolina: “Chief Dan Flynn is a consumer and producer of evidence-based policing. In the late 1980s, before the concept was well known or used openly in policing, then Major Flynn was asking researchers to evaluate his programs and projects so he could tweak them, replicate them or end them depending on the evidence. Dan always pushed the researchers to investigate complex situations but provided guidance, and insight into police work and access to the officers and necessary data. Beyond his interest in improving policing through evidence, he has been helpful in securing funding for his projects and making sure the whole organization would buy into the research.”

 

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