David Cowan

Inducted June 2024

Nominated by Geoffrey Alpert, University of South Carolina; Lorraine Mazerolle, University of Queensland; Michael Newman, Queensland Police Service; and Justin Ready, Griffith University


David Cowan has served with the Victoria Police (Victoria, Australia) since 1990. He is currently Detective Superintendent of the Organized Crime Division, Crime Command, where he oversees the Major Drug Squad, Clandestine Laboratories Squad, Joint Organised Crime Taskforce with Australian Federal Police, and Victoria Fugitive Task Force. Cowan has led a range of organizational reforms in Victoria Police including conducting major reviews into counter terrorism, family violence and crime scene services. He has lead health safety and wellbeing for 2500 staff in Southern Metro Melbourne and has performed the role of Divisional Commander in a number of operational divisions. He is the President of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing (ANZSEBP), which comprises of senior police from every police agency in Australia (approximately 4000 members). Cowan holds a Masters of Criminology from the University of Cambridge, has completed the Senior Leaders in Government Program at Harvard, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In 2020, he was selected to receive the prestigious Churchill Fellowship from the Churchill Memorial Trust. In 2024 he was one of ten Churchill fellows selected to attend Federal Parliament and to meet with Ministers to drive national reform to support evidence based policing.

Evidence-Based Research and Practice:

Cowan is recognized for contributing to the evidence base for policing and for his national efforts in Australia and New Zealand to incorporate evidence-based approaches nationwide. While at Cambridge, Cowan studied how repeat offending might be reduced through diversion in Victoria, which was published with Sherman, Strang, and Valdebenito Munoz. He received the 2023 Gold Award from the Australian Institute of Criminology for his focused deterrence randomized controlled trial in Melbourne, Victoria. Cowan has also led a controlled trial on police legitimacy during COVID and an intelligence-led hot spots randomized trial. He is currently running a behavioral science experiment providing improved information to accused persons to reduce arrest for failing to appear in court.

Beyond his research, nominators Mazerolle, Alpert, Newman, and Ready state that “he has been a driving force for evidence-based policing and the use of science in policing in his role as President of the ANZSEBP and across Australasia and internationally.” His efforts have led to international collaborations between the United Kingdom and Australia and New Zealand Societies of Evidence-Based Policing. Most notably, he led the implementation of the Global Evidence-Based Policing Conference involving over 6,500 police and academics with over 60 presentations and 30 jurisdictions participating. His efforts in the ANZSEBP have also advanced the publication of Police Science Journal, which provides a forum for police officers to publish evaluations of police-led research. He is deeply engaged with running evidence-based policing master classes to advance training on evidence-based policing in Victoria.

In 2020, Cowan was named a Churchill Fellow by the Winston Churchill Trust. In this position, he visited multiple individuals and organizations worldwide to investigate the development of evidence-based policing from a range of perspectives. This study focused on identifying insights that could be drawn from global leaders in developing the capacity for evidence-based policing in police agencies, understanding collaboration between police, academia, and policy makers, and investigating the role of the various societies of evidence-based policing worldwide. In his final report he offers ten bold recommendations on building the capacity for evidence-based policing and concludes: “Implementing EBP within an agency is not a academic exercise. Far from it. It is a broad and inclusive approach to develop greater insights from data, understand what works and what is promising, with a clear and constant focus on supporting police and improving community safety. It is a wholistic approach, underpinned by leadership and collaboration, whilst being cognisant of the authorising environment, community expectations and the foundational aspiration to improve the professionalism of policing.” As part of a delegation to Federal Parliament in 2024, he published an article in Policy Futures – A Reform Agenda, titled ‘Shifting the focus to evidence of what works in community safety’ which incorporated a proposal for a national plan for evidence-based policing.

Statement from Inductee:


Contributions to Grants, Publications, and Projects: