Dr. Roberto Santos
Inducted June 2014
Nominated by Laura Wyckoff, University of Maryland
Roberto Santos has served with the Port St. Lucie (Florida) Police Department since 1994. Currently, he is commander of the Professional Standards Division which includes the Internal Affairs Section, the Training and Recruiting Section, and the Crime and Intelligence Analysis Unit, as well as accreditation and the department’s systematic accountability process.
Lieutenant Santos has served as Acting Assistant Chief overseeing the Patrol Bureau. Prior to his current assignment, he was the commander of the Criminal Investigations Division and commander of the Special Investigations Division. He was the team leader for the Crisis Negotiations Team for several years. As a sergeant and an officer, he held several positions, such as persons crime detective sergeant, K9 supervisor, SWAT operator, and narcotics detective and spent several years at each rank in patrol. Prior to his policing career, Lt. Santos served four years in the United States Marine Corps.
Lt. Santos holds a Ph.D. in criminal justice with a concentration in organizational leadership from Nova Southeastern University, a Master of Science degree from Florida Atlantic University in criminology and criminal justice, a Bachelors of professional studies from Barry University, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy (Session 239). He serves as a volunteer board member for two local community organizations—Harvest Food and Outreach Center and Lifebuilders of the Treasure Coast—and as the Port St. Lucie Police Department representative on the Treasure Coast [law enforcement] Training Council Region XI.
Evidence-Based Research and Practice:
Lieutenant Santos has been integral to the development and implementation of a comprehensive evidence-based police organizational model for crime reduction with Dr. Rachel Boba Santos known as The Stratified Model of Problem Solving, Analysis, and Accountability (i.e., Stratified Model) in the Port St. Lucie, FL Police Department and other agencies around the country. The model outlines a structure of stratified problem solving responsibility, specific crime analysis products, and a structured set of accountability meetings so that both place-based and offender-based crime reduction strategies can be implemented and institutionalized into the day-to-day practices of an organization. Not only did he develop specific practical strategies for implementation of the new ideas and practices, he collaborated with researchers to ensure that the model was relevant to police organizations and sustainable in creating positive observable reductions in crime.
In addition to the Stratified Model development and specific work he has done in his own agency, Lt. Santos has displayed professional leadership in that he has worked with law enforcement agencies across the United States in organizational change, evaluation, and sustainability processes for institutionalizing evidence-based crime reduction strategies, crime analysis, and accountability. He has authored and coauthored several publications that seek to instruct police departments in these successful methods and guide them in adapting the Stratified Model to their own agencies’ needs. His agency has won two prestigious policing awards for this work: Finalist for the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing (2006) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award (2008).
Lt. Santos’ dissertation used a quasi-experiment propensity score matching design which discovered that tactical police response is effective when implemented in property crime micro-time hot spots. His current research within his agency includes implementation of two randomized control trials. The first focuses on testing the effectiveness of offender-focused strategies in long-term property crime hot spots and is part of a BJA Smart Policing Initiative. The second is being done completely within house with researcher collaborations and without external funding and tests tactical police responses in property crime micro-time hot spots. In her nomination, Dr. Wyckoff writes that Lt. Santos “has worked collaboratively with researchers and police leaders for many years to create and implement innovative, creative, and transformative ideas that, in my opinion, will change the field of policing by improving its effectiveness to reduce and prevent crime.”
Publications and Projects Reflecting Inductee's Efforts:
- Santos, R.G. & Santos, R.B. (Under Review). An ex post facto evaluation of tactical police response in residential theft from vehicle micro-time hot spots. Journal of Quantitative Criminology.
- Santos, R.G. & Santos, R.B. (Under Review). Practice-based research: Ad hoc evaluation of evidence-based police practices implemented in residential burglary micro-time hot spots. Justice Quarterly.
- Santos, R.G. (2014, Forthcoming). Guidebook: Community-Oriented Policing for Police Supervisors. Washington DC: Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office).
- Santos, R. G. (2013). A quasi-experimental test and examination of police effectiveness in residential burglary and theft from vehicle micro-time hot spots. Dissertation. Nova Southeastern University.
- Santos, R.B. (2013). Implementation of a police organizational model for crime reduction. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 32(2) 295-311.
- Santos, R.G. & Santos, R. B. (2013) Presentation: Sustainability: Crime reduction best practices. Arlington, VA: Bureau of Justice Assistance Smart Policing Annual Conference.
- Santos, R.B., & Santos, R.G. (2012). The role of leadership in implementing a police organizational model for crime reduction and accountability. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 6(4), 344-353.
- Santos, R.G. (February 2011). Systematic pattern response strategy: Protecting the beehive. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.
- Boba, R. & Santos, R. G. (2011). A police organizational model for crime reduction: Institutionalizing problem solving, analysis, and accountability. Washington DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
- Boba, R. (2010). A practice-based evidence approach in Florida. Police Practice and Research, Special Issue: The Evolving Relationship between Police Research and Police Practice, 11 (2), 122-128.
- Boba, R. & Santos, R. G. (2008). A review of the research, practice, and evaluation of construction site theft occurrence and prevention: Directions for future research. Security Journal, 21 (4), 246-263.
- Boba, R. & Santos, R. G. (2007). Single-family home construction site theft: A crime prevention case study. International Journal of Construction Education and Research, 3 (3), 217-236.
Statement from Inductee:
First, I would like to start by saying that I am honored to have been inducted into the Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame and to be among other respected police practitioners. In my policing career, I have had the privilege to have been given numerous awards for specific actions that I have taken while conducting my police duties, but this recognition holds a special place for me because it is for the culmination of work that I have done for many years beyond my police duties and is based on something that I strongly believe in—specifically, evidence-based policing and the translation of empirical findings into realistic, sustainable police strategies.
Since my rookie year as a police officer in 1994, my perspective on how police should and could affect reduction of crime has certainly changed. As I progressed through my career, I began questioning why we, as police, are not as effective as we should be in our efforts to reduce crime, and why is the police profession not as open to empirical evidence as other professions, such as medicine. I now believe that police will not achieve our fullest potential if we do not systematically and intelligently incorporate empirical evidence into our crime reduction practices. That is, the police profession cannot shy away from research that shows us what works, but should use it as a beacon of light to assist us, as police leaders, to offer the best service to our communities.
With limited and shrinking resources that police executives face today, it is necessary, more than ever, for organizations to employ systematic crime reduction efforts that are informed by evidence-based research in order to become more effective as well as more efficient. The days of employing strategies on ad hoc basis solely on our “gut feelings” are over because doing that does not result in consistently positive results. Yet, implementing evidence-based strategies is only one of four components that I feel is necessary to truly improve policing and its effectiveness in reducing crime.
Evidence-based police research is necessary to test both commonly used and new crime reduction strategies and to determine what works. Equally important is the ability to translate these findings in a way that allow police leaders to ensure that their organizations systematically employ what works as normal day-to-day operations. If this is not achieved, real sustainability of evidence-based practices cannot be accomplished. I believe the first component of improving policing is innovation which is the development of new strategies based on theory, technology, and practice. The second component is testing the effectiveness of those strategies through rigorous research (i.e., experiments) and developing empirical generalizations for what does and does not work. The third component is determining how to make effective strategies work in the day-to-day operations of the police agency through practice-based research. Lastly, the fourth component is sustainability of the effective practices which results in substantive institutionalization and ultimately organizational change that is permanent. All of these components require police executives who are willing to participate in research, to develop partnerships with researchers, and even, at times, to lead the research themselves. It takes strong leadership from police executives in the research and implementation processes as well as in the sustainability efforts to innovate and improve the entire policing profession.
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to all of these components. Operationally, I have developed new strategies to crime and disorder problems. I have lead and implemented quasi-experiments and random controlled trials to rigorously test these and other strategies. Most importantly, I have sought to unlock the puzzle of how evidence-based strategies can be translated into the “real world” of policing. In psychology, this has been called “practice-based” research and was an outgrowth of the problem that working therapists discovered when they attempted to implement strategies found to work through experimental, research. The problem was that techniques often did not work in the “real world” therapeutic settings with clients even though they were effective in the laboratory. Thus, I have conducted practice-based research on the implementation of evidence-based strategies. For example, we know that hot spots policing works through the experimental research of Lawrence Sherman, David Weisburd, Anthony Braga, and others, but what is the best way to implement hot spots policing in a police organization? What policies and procedures should be implemented to support hot spots policing? Who should be responsible for making sure the hot spots are identified correctly, on a systematic basis, and are responded to as part of daily operations? And what type of leadership is needed for an agency to overcome organizational resistance to these new ideas and practices?
To that end, I have, with Dr. Rachel Boba Santos, created, tested, and enhanced, as well as have written about an organizational policing model called the Stratified Model of Problem Solving, Analysis, and Accountability. The Stratified Model is one answer to the question of how to make evidence-based policing work because it provides a specific, comprehensive structure for infusing evidence-based strategies within an agency in a realistic, sustainable way. Importantly, the strategies employed by the agency within the model should be those that the agency believes best suite its community’s problems and can be identified, for example, by Cynthia Lum and Christopher Koper’s Hot Spot Policing Matrix. Thus, the strategies will vary by agency, and as new evidence is developed through research, they can be incorporated into the model, because the Stratified Model is not a program or special unit. It is a structure for an entire organization to implement and sustain evidence-based crime reduction strategies. Over the last 10 years, I have had the honor in leading these efforts in my own police organization as well as the privilege to work with many other police executives to do the same in their organizations, to name a few—Anne Arundel County, MD Police Department; Dayton, OH Police Department; Greensboro, NC Police Department; Salisbury, MD Police Department; Smyrna, GA Police Department; and the Walton County, FL Sheriff’s Office.
Finally, although what police researchers do is imperative for improving policing and crime reduction efforts, if the evidence-based findings cannot be translated into police practice effectively, there is no true benefit of the research to our communities. I believe that the current cadre of researchers and police leaders has begun a paradigm shift in policing, which must continue in order to tear down the silos between the academics and police so that a free flow of ideas and effort can occur. When evidence-based and practice-based research are translated to everyday police practice, it ultimately improves police service, and the end result is trust, legitimacy, and long-lasting partnerships between the community and the police. I am grateful that those at George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy understand this and dedicate their efforts to this end. The purpose of the Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame is to recognize practitioners who contribute to policing through the development and implementation of evidence-based research and practice, and again, I am truly honored to join the already impressive list of individuals who have been inducted.
Chief John Bolduc, Port St. Lucie, FL Police Department:
Lieutenant Roberto Santos’ ability and initiative to take research and translate the results into every day police operations has been paramount to our success in reducing crime. As well, his passion, leadership, and his mentorship throughout the development and implementation of our evidence-based approach have been invaluable to making real substantive changes to our culture at every level. The City of Port St. Lucie, FL and the Port St. Lucie Police Department owe a great debt of gratitude to Dr. Roberto Santos for his sustained determination in implementing evidence-based policing practices and ensuring that we continue to be one of the safest communities in the nation.
Officer Scott Johnson (President, Port St. Lucie Officers, International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO), Port St. Lucie, FL Police Department:
I’ve been an officer since 1994, and the changes I have seen in our agency are remarkable. I can honestly say that we, as officers, are more effective at reducing crime, arresting criminals, and keeping the community safer. Lieutenant Santos has been at the forefront of bringing new ideas and new ways of doing police business to our agency. He conducts research, our training, mentors officers, and is out in the field leading us. He has been able to convince us that research is useful and can be implemented into what we do every day. I’m so proud that Lieutenant Santos is being recognized by the Center of Evidence-Based Crime Policy because we see every day what his leadership and encouragement has done for us. His innovative research and its application to our every day crime solving needs will undoubtedly keep us on the cutting edge of policing.
Scott H. Decker, Ph.D. Foundation Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University:
The induction of Lieutenant Roberto G. Santos, Ph.D. into the Center for Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame is both appropriate and a signal. It is appropriate as it recognizes his exemplary career in law enforcement as an innovator, leader, and stalwart for advancements in policing. Roberto has spent his career advocating for strategic change in policing that produces reductions in crime. His induction is a signal of the importance that one person can make in producing change in institutions. I am proud to have had the chance to work with him over the course of the last several years and look forward to the changes he will bring to the future of law enforcement. The combination of his law enforcement and research work is truly unique. Congratulations Roberto.