James Chapman

Inducted June 2019

Nominated by Sue-Ming Yang and Charlotte Gill, George Mason University


James “Jimmy” Chapman is the Assistant Chief of Police for administration in the Roanoke County (Virginia) Police Department (RCPD), where he has served for 24 years. He has served in many capacities in RCPD, including as the commander for the Uniform Division; lieutenant and academy director for the Roanoke County Criminal Justice Academy; sergeant and lieutenant of the Professional Standards Unit; Grants Administrator; sergeant in the Uniform Division; and as a patrol officer. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, and holds Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from SUNY College at Brockport.

Evidence-Based Research and Practice:

Assistant Chief Chapman was jointly nominated with Chief Howard Hall of the Roanoke County Police Department by professors Sue-Ming Yang and Charlotte Gill of George Mason University for their joint efforts in supporting a major research initiative under the Smart Policing Initiative (now Strategies for Policing Innovation) to evaluate, using a randomized controlled trial, a program to improve police response to community members experiencing a mental health crisis. This new approach aimed to address a particularly underserved population—those who have called the police because they are in crisis but do not meet the criteria to be taken into emergency custody. Despite being CIT trained, officers often do not have many options to effectively address the needs of this specific group, who can generate repeated calls for police service. Assistant Chief Chapman and Chief Hall were instrumental in leading the development of a response protocol in collaboration with a 24-hour mobile crisis response team in which a mental health professional would take over crisis calls once officers stabilized the situation. The experiment tests whether the model effectively provides services to community members in terms of crisis mitigation, use of force reductions, and workload efficiency.

In their recommendation, Yang and Gill write that developing the project was complex and time consuming, requiring the sustained leadership, assistance, and commitment of both Chapman and Hall for the research to be successfully implemented. Both championed the innovative research design and its integrity, working to ensure that the experiment was implemented well. This included working with individual officers, supervisors, staff, and dispatchers to ensure they were trained properly and that they understood what was expected of them, as well as maintaining regular contact with researchers to ensure that all aspects of the project were successful. In the words of Yang and Gill, “Chief Hall and Assistant Chief Chapman have always respected our role as research partners, found innovative ways to support us, and have always treated this collaboration as instrumental in creating evidence-based practices to improve mental health response.” Both Chapman and Hall continue to expand their efforts with Yang and Gill, and are now working on community surveys to gauge citizen perceptions of the police and their efforts related to people in mental crisis.

Assistant Chief Chapman has also collaborated with the local community service board as well as Mental Health America to launch the first CIT assessment center for the county. Under the guidance of Chief Hall he has also been instrumental in operationalizing the department’s Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) program, which contributed to reductions in property crimes, burglaries, and vehicle crashes in targeted areas.

Statement from Inductee:

First, I would like to sincerely acknowledge and thank my colleagues Dr. Sue-Ming Yang and Dr. Charlotte Gill for their nomination.  Since 2015, Dr. Yang and Dr. Gill have served as an inspiration to me through their tenacious commitment towards advancing evidence-based practices within the Criminal Justice profession.  I’m honored and deeply humbled by my recent induction into the Center for Evidence-Based Crime and Policy Hall of Fame.

It has been interesting exercise to reflect upon the changes I have experienced during the course of my career.  Drip by drip, changes have evolved about how we police.  Proactive, Hot spot policing replacing the reactive patrol model; advancement and the application of technologies in the field; access to robust amounts of data; improved responses to vulnerable populations such as the mentally ill, and the adoption of evidence-based practices.

As a shift commander, the benefits of evidence-based policing were apparent when I helped to operationalize Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) under the guidance and experience of Chief Howard Hall. Applying knowledge from research published by David Weisburd and Christopher Koper helped to expand my understanding of place-based policing and how to deploy officers to maximize the effectiveness of DDACTS.  Specifically, understanding that over time, crime places remain static and allocating police resources to those places improves efficiency and effectiveness for crime control.  The application of the “Koper Curve” Theory provided guidance to officers on the type of patrol tactics to use within our two defined Target areas (i.e. hot-spots).

Two years after implementing DDACTS, RCPD experienced a 14% reduction in Part I Property crimes, 42% reduction in burglary and 17% reduction in crashes in Target Zone 1. In Target Zone 2 RCPD experienced a 12% reduction in Part I Property crimes, 56% reduction in burglary and 5% reduction in crashes.  The application of EBP practices proved that officers’ work in the field could make meaningful change towards improving public safety while also playing an integral role in shifting RCPD’s organizational culture.

In 2015, I had the opportunity to take a front-row seat on how evidence-based practices are developed.  RCPD was awarded a BJA / Strategies in Policing Innovations grant to evaluate an alternative model for how the police respond to persons in a mental health crisis.  The Department was fortunate to partner with CEBCP and leverage the experiences and skills of Dr. Yang and Dr. Gill to develop a randomized control trial.  Their willingness to understand police operations and develop procedures that would not overly burden officers in the field was impressive.  Through a highly collaborative process, the research team identified four main goals for the project:

  • Reduce repeat calls for service with persons experiencing a mental health crisis
  • Reduce use of force incidents involving persons who are believed to have a mental illness
  • Reduce the time officers spend on mental health related calls for service
  • Improve safety of officers, citizens, and the community

At the time of this writing, the results of the randomized control trial are being evaluated.  If the evaluation is successful the project design has the potential for replication in a small or mid-sized agency.  In addition to the rewarding idea of translating research into practice, this project also exposed the complex nature of officer’s interactions with the mentally ill, the limitations within the mental health profession and the overwhelming need to pursue alternative treatment models that support this highly stigmatized population.

As the field of criminal justice continues to evolve within this new era, the climate for law enforcement leaders is rich with opportunity to pursue collaboration with researchers. Agency leaders who apply the right balance of evidence-based practices along with sound police procedures will improve agency effectiveness and legitimacy with their community.

In closing the BJA/SPI grant provided me a unique opportunity to develop a strong working relationship with the researchers at CEBCP and experience the rigorous measures they use to advance the field of criminology.   All the staff at CEBCP are truly at tip of the sword within academia.

Contributions to Grants, Publications, and Projects:

Bennett, Sierra, Odalis Alfaro, Brandi Harris, Tyler Figenbaum, Saim Bashir. (2018). Beyond Mere Observation: Examining the Factors Affecting Perception of Disorder and Implicit Biases. Honors Research Project. Department of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University.

“Improving Police Response to Mental Health Crisis in a Rural Area” Bureau of Justice Assistance (Smart Policing Initiative) 2015-WY-BX-0007. See also http://www.strategiesforpolicinginnovation.com/spi-sites/roanoke-county-virginia-2015

Woestehoff, Skye and Allison Redlich. “Police Investigator Decision-Making in High-Profile Cases.” (Grant Funded by the National Science Foundation).

Telep, Cody and Cynthia Lum. (2014). The Receptivity of Officers to Empirical Research and Evidence-Based Policing: An examination of survey data from three agencies. Police Quarterly, 17, 359-385.

Thompson, Paige S. (2018). Police Mentorship: Fostering Leadership Development And Career Goal Planning. Capstone in Policy and Practice. Department of Criminology, Law and Society George Mason University.

Yang, Sue-Ming, Charlotte Gill, L. Caitlin Kanewske, and Paige Thompson. (2018). Analysis of Police Perceptions Regarding Responses to Mental Health- Related Calls in a Rural Area. Victims and Offenders, 13(8), 1132-1152.

Yang, Sue-Ming, Charlotte E. Gill, SangJun Park, Yi-Fang Lu. Spatial Concentration and Comorbidity Analysis of Mental Health Calls. (manuscript in preparation).