Darrel W. Stephens

Inducted May 2010

Nominated by Dennis Rosenbaum (University of Illinois, Chicago) and John Eck (University of Cincinnati)


Darrel Stephens is widely recognized as being one of the most innovative police chiefs in modern American policing, and he served over 40 years as a police officer and at the executive level. He is most recently retired as the Chief of Police for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, where he served from 1999 to 2008. Prior to his service in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, he served as Chief of Police and City Administrator for the City of St. Petersburg, Florida (1992 – 1999), Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum (1986 – 1992), Chief of Police for Newport News, Virginia (1983- 1986), Chief of Police for Largo, Florida (1979 – 1983), Assistant Chief of Police for Lawrence Kansas (1976 – 1979) and rose through the ranks from officer to commander in the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department from 1968 to 1976.

Perhaps best known for advancing innovative approaches to policing, Stephens has earned a national reputation as a leader in law enforcement. The Major Cities Chiefs Association elected Stephens vice- president in 2005 and president in 2007. He was also awarded the ACJS O.W. Wilson Award (1996) and the prestigious Police Executive Research Forum’s Leadership Award (2005). He was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and has served on both the Harvard University Executive Session for Policing, Domestic Terrorism, and Community Policing as well as a graduate of the Senior State and Local Government Executives program. He holds an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Central Missouri State University, where he also earned a M.S. in Public Services Administration (1977). Chief Stephens is now with a member of the Faculty of the Public Safety Leadership Program at Johns Hopkins University in the School of Education.

Evidence-Based Research and Practice:

Darrel Stephens involvement in evidence-based policing began when as a police officer in the Kansas City Police Department he assisted in the development and execution of a series of Police Foundation and National Institute of Justice practical research efforts during the same time the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment and the Kansas City Response Time Study. He spent served as the first NIJ Police Fellow (1973-74) and returned to Kansas City to manage the Operations Resource Unit which served as the lead in the development and implementation of new patrol strategies based on earlier research. Later, as the Chief of the Newport News Police Department he worked with Gary Hayes (executive director or the Police Executive Research Forum-PERF), Herman Goldstein, James “Chips” Stewart (Director of the National Institute of Justice) and NIJ staff member Bill Saulsbury to implement problem-oriented policing (POP) force wide in Newport News.

Chief Stephens assured widespread police involvement in the application of POP. The SARA process, was a joint development of the Newport News Police under the leadership of Stephens and the staff at the Police Executive Research Forum, under the research direction of Dr. John Eck. Eck writes fondly of that experience that “Darrel was always at the table encouraging police to speak up and curbing some of our sillier ideas. The endurance of SARA is in large part due to the fact that he gave cops a strong voice in its development, making sure it was simple and practical.”

When Stephens left the Newport Police Department to become the Executive Director of PERF, he continued to champion problem-oriented and evidence-based policing through grant and research development. He helped create and sustain the annual problem-oriented policing conferences (now in their 21st year). These were the first meetings for police professionals that emphasized empirical analysis in everyday police work and management. He promotes progressive policing approaches through his extensive writing about policing, and as a consultant and speaker. A hallmark of his leadership and management approach has been the effective use of technology. While at PERF, and before the Internet was generally available, he created an on-line communications system linking police executives and PERF staff. “At the time it drove me nuts,” said Eck. “But it really helped the researchers stay in touch with the field and vice versa. It was only after the wide spread adoption of e-mail that I realized how far sighted Darrel was.” In every organization that he has led he has introduced various forms of technology to enhance the productivity of employees. This includes automated record systems, patrol vehicle laptop computers, geographic information systems, mapping, email and telephone voice mail systems that put officers in closer touch with the community, investigative analysis systems and video technology. He has also always opened the door to researchers. In St. Petersburg he worked with Steve Mastrofski in his patrol observational research, Joel Garner on the use of force and Carl Klockars on police integrity. In Charlotte he opened the door to Herman Goldstein, Ron Clark, Vivian Lord and many other researchers working to improve our knowledge of policing.

Most recently, Chief Stephens has served as an informal advisor to the National Police Research Platform, one of the most comprehensive long-term studies of police officers, supervisors, and police organizations. He currently teaches police managers how to be more effective leaders in the field through the Johns Hopkins Public Safety Leadership Program.

Statement from Inductee:

It is truly an honor to be nominated by two friends and colleagues that I have admired for many years – John Eck and Dennis Rosenbaum – and selected for the Evidence Based Policing Hall of Fame.

A good deal of my 42 year career in policing has been spent wrestling with questions about the effectiveness of police approaches to dealing with crime and the myriad of problems that we are called on to do something about.  I have been a part of many efforts aimed at improving the way we interact with the public, enhancing the quality of people in policing, efficiency, accountability, technology and the impact we have on crime and safety.  Some of those initiatives were based on my understanding of the best research in the field at the time.  Other ideas emerged from the organizations I worked, were borrowed from others or a bit of both and seemed to be reasonable approaches to dealing with the issue we faced at the time.  I have had the good fortune to have worked with researchers interested in helping improve the police as an officer very early in my career, while at the Police Executive Research Forum and as a police chief. My career in policing has coincided with a period where there has been an explosion of research, literature, healthy debate and thoughtful efforts aimed at improving policing.  It also has coincided with the most significant increases and decreases in crime and violence as measured by the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

I started my career with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department in 1968.  I was convinced the best way to control crime was through the arrest, prosecution and conviction of offenders.  It seemed clear to me then, if we arrested and jailed enough criminals it would deter them as well as others.  That thinking was reinforced by my training, my peers and the public.  My perspective was unchallenged until 1971 when the department initiated four patrol task forces with the support of the Police Foundation.  These task forces were charged with coming up with ideas that would improve the way we served the community and our effectiveness.   It was also the first time I encountered people that questioned the conventional wisdom.

The task forces were supported by external consultants and Police Foundation staff with strong academic backgrounds.  I was involved with a project that tested special units assigned to a location oriented patrol based on crime trend analysis against a perpetrator oriented patrol in which our most active offenders were targeted.  A street crime intelligence center was established to do crime analysis and capture and disseminate information on active offenders.  The active offenders were randomly assigned into one of four cells to determine the effectiveness of disseminating information to different segments of the department or not at all.  The groundbreaking preventive patrol experiment was the focus of one of the task forces while another focused on the use of peer review of officer behavior and the fourth worked on strengthening community relationships.  These initial projects were followed by response time research, domestic assault and homicide research, elder abuse and organizational development.

The work in Kansas City and other research like San Diego’s beat profiling, one vs. two officer patrol and field interviews; Rochester’s criminal investigation, New Haven’s Directed Patrol and both the Rand Institute and Stanford Research Institute’s criminal investigations studies was the basis for developing a new patrol strategy for Kansas City.   The strategy – Directed Deterrent Patrol:  A Concept in Community Specific, Crime Specific and Problem Specific Policing was introduced in August, 1974 in the East Patrol Division.  It took advantage of early crime mapping using SYMAP which showed crime and workload density to focus patrol shifts.  Innovations such as telephone reporting and call prioritization were implemented to help manage workload so officers could work on follow up investigations and crime concentrations.  Sergeants were given the authority to manage their resources by splitting officers in to call response and problem focused groups.   By 1976 key leaders and staff involved in this work were leaving the department, the evaluation was not completed and the department lost the momentum that came from Chief Clarence Kelley’s participatory management philosophy.

I moved on to Lawrence, KS as an Assistant Chief and then to Largo, FL as Chief where I continued to focus on applying research to improving policing in both communities.  Our major emphasis continued to be on Patrol.  Lawrence was selected to participate in the federally funded Integrated Criminal Apprehension Program that emphasized enhancing the role of the patrol officer.  That included crime analysis support, records management systems, patrol allocation and workload management.  It tried to capture and manage time based on what had been learned from the preventive patrol and response time studies.

In Newport News, VA the police department teamed up with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF Staff John Eck and Bill Spelman with Herman Goldstein consulting were critical support and evaluators for the effort) and the National Institute of Justice to implement Problem-Oriented Policing involving officers assigned to regular patrol duties.  Working with members of the police department John Eck and Bill Spelman created the SARA model to guide officer’s problem solving efforts.  Newport News was a tough urban environment where relationships were particularly strained with the African-American community.  Both officers and the community responded to the new efforts to develop problem solving partnerships and demonstrated that it helped reduce crime and repeat call locations.

I then spent seven years as the Executive Director of PERF where we continued to be advocates for problem-oriented policing and evidence-based practices in policing.  We studied the impact of education on policing, criminal investigations, the mentally ill, drug enforcement strategy, conducted forums on racial tension and continued to push for policy relevant research that was reported in a way that police executives could both understand and put into practice.

In St. Petersburg and Charlotte I continued to press forward with community problem-oriented policing because of a belief that it made the most sense as a way to address the wide ranging crime and service problems the police are called on to address.  The strongest evidence seemed to support a focus on problems, hot spots, active offenders using crime analysis to identify them and problem analysis to craft the solution that seemed most appropriate followed with an assessment of impact.  In both cities we opened our doors to researchers – Roger Parks and Steve Mastrofski’s Policing Neighborhood’s: A Study of the Police and Community.  Carl Klockars research on enhancing police integrity in Saint Petersburg and Charlotte.  Joel Garner’s studied the use of force police by and against the police.  We supported research by graduate students, local university partners such as the University of North Carolina Charlotte and the University of South Florida.

My career has been on using research to guide both operational and management decision making.  It has also been one of advocating research and supporting it in a number of ways. Along the way I have been influenced and mentored many researchers and practitioners that have helped refine and focus my thinking on using research and evidence to guide policing philosophy and strategy.


Professor Dennis Rosenbaum:

He not only helped to identify the limitations of traditional police practice, but over the years, Darrel has been on the cutting edge of research to introduce and test new models.

Professor John Eck:

Without a doubt, Darrel Stephens is one of the very most important police practitioners of the last three decades. Without his active support and encouragement, problem-oriented policing would never have gotten off the ground. Before the consistent use of information became standard in policing, Darrel was promoting it. Unlike some contemporaries, Darrel never sought the lime light. Rather he promoted the works of others. Yet he took considerable professional risks to assure that sensible, effective, and fair policing became the norm in policing. To me, he is the father of modern policing.

Contributions to Grants, Publications, and Projects:

  • Stephens, D. (2011) Police Discipline: A Case for Change. Harvard Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety. National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC.
  • Stephens, D. (2010) Enhancing the Impact of Research on Police Practices. Police Practice and Research, 11:2, 150-154.
  • Stephens, D. (2009) Mortgage Foreclosures: Police-Community Response, Publication in process, Local Initiatives Support Corporation – Community Safety Initiative, New York, NY.
  • Stephens, D. (2009) Policing in Post-Conflict Environments: Improving the U.S. Military Contribution, Lafayette Group, Washington, DC.
  • Stephens, D. (2005) IT Changes in Law Enforcement. Issues in IT: A Reader for the Busy Police Chief Executive. Police Executive Research Forum, Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. (2004) The Challenges to the Future of Community Policing. Community Policing: The Past, Present and Future. Police Executive Research Forum, Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. (2003) Protecting your Community From Terrorism: Strategies for Local Law Enforcement. Difficult Decisions–FBI Priorities. PERF, Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. and Hartman, F. (2002) Beyond the Beltway: Focusing on Hometown Security. The Policing Challenge. JFK School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge.
  • Stephens, D. and Geller, W. (co-editors) (2003) Local Government Police Management 4th ed. International City Management Association. Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. (1999) From Both Sides. Selecting a Police Chief: A Guidebook for Local Government. International City Management Association. Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. (1999) Measuring What Matters: Proceedings from Policing Research Institute. Measuring What Matters. National Institute of Justice. Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. (1992) Executive Responsibility. Police Management: Issues and Perspectives. Police Executive Research Forum. Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. and Moore, M. (1991) Police Organization and Management. Local Government Police Management, 3rd ed. International City Management Association. Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. and Moore, M. (1991) Beyond Command and Control: The Strategic Management of Police Departments. Police Executive Research Forum. Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. and Sapp, A. (1989) The State of Police Education: Policy Direction for the 21st Century. Police Executive Research Forum. Washington, D.C.
  • Stephens, D. and Carter, D. (1988) Drug Abuse by Police Officers: An Analysis of Critical Policy Issues. Charles C. Thomas. Springfield, Il.
  • Eck, J., Spelman, W., Hill, D., Stephens, D., Murphy. G. (1987) Problem Solving: Problem Oriented Policing in Newport News. Police Executive Research Forum, Washington, D.C.


CEBCP Symposium at George Mason University Arlington Campus.  Photo by:  Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University