Inducted June 2017
Nominated by Laura Huey, University of Western Ontario and Canadian Society of Evidence-Based Policing
Sheri Bell is a Crime Analyst and Knowledge Translation Specialist with the Winnipeg Police Services in Canada. She has conducted numerous types of analyses for the crime analysis unit, and most recently has taken over the analytic work for all four districts in the police service. She previously conducted research at the Riverview Health Centre and Center on Aging at the University of Manitoba, and was a project coordinator for RESOLVE at the University. Ms. Bell holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Manitoba. She is the recipient of the Governor General of Canada’s Gold Medal for Research from Dalhousie University, and the Outstanding Research Award from the Canadian Sociological Association.
Evidence-Based Research and Practice:
Professor Huey nominated Ms. Bell for being “a pivotal figure in the development and testing of a handful of important crime prevention strategies within her organization” through various Smart Policing Initiatives as well as her overall commitment to advancing evidence-based policing. The Winnipeg Smart Policing Initiative program is a combination of place-based, deterrence-focused and problem-solving initiatives aimed at reducing harm across the City. As the Research lead, Bell implemented a mixed methodological evaluation process that combined pre and post-test analysis of indicators from a number of police data sources with community survey data (open and closed-ended questions). The inclusion of community survey data allowed Bell to test for backfire effects, an important but often overlooked phenomenon in research of this nature. This project was the first major evaluation of a targeted policing strategy in Canada and undertaken with little academic support. Huey notes that Bell’s initiative improved the understanding of testing and tracking programs in the police service.
The Winnipeg Police Service has also invested in a community-based program (termed a ‘Crime Prevention through Social Development’ initiative) called “Gerry’s Kids”. Gerry’s Kids aims to reduce negative and/or adverse police-youth contacts by identifying young people with an offending history and building improved youth relations with the police. Bell developed a comparative analysis of the effects of positive and negative contacts between selected youth and police officers and observed adverse behaviors (criminal, disorderly and other problematic conduct), which helped increase understanding of how police-community relations might be improved as well as how youth offending could be reduced.
Inspector Jamie Blunden of the Winnipeg Police Service describes Bell’s efforts at evaluating and innovating proactive policing philosophies in the WPS as “groundbreaking, setting a new standard for how we perform and measure our work as a service to the public. Her work has been recognized by Public Safety Canada, academics, the CACP [Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police], CAPG [Canadian Association of Police Governance] and numerous law enforcement agencies across Canada who have contacted us to find out what, and how we are doing what we are doing. While most agencies talk about evidence based and intelligence led policing, Sheri has allowed us to actually build a structure and foundation which makes a workable practice for the frontline officer… It is a ‘new norm’ which in a culture such as ours (is) very difficult to do.” Bell has also developed guidelines and strategies on smart policing to guide operations in the police agency.
Bell is also an active member of the Canadian Society of Evidence-Based Policing (CAN-SEBP), sharing her research findings with the society and presenting for the society. She will be an integral part of Winnipeg Police Service’s commitment to being a regional hub for CAN-SEBP activity. Professor Huey writes: “In short, you’d be hard pressed to find a police-based practitioner, certainly in Canada, who better exemplifies dedication to police science and the mobilization of evidence-based policing knowledge.”
Statement from Inductee:
First of all I need to thank Dr. Laura Huey for her nomination. Dr. Huey has done tremendous work advancing evidence-based policing in Canada through the Canadian Society of Evidence Based Policing (CAN-SEBP). It has been an honour to be able to collaborate, debate and work with her.
As a Crime Analyst at Winnipeg Police Service, I have been extremely fortunate to work for a Service that has had a number of visionaries champion evidence-based policing, including former Police Chief Devon Clunis, former Deputy Chief Dave Thorne and former Superintendents Bill Fogg and Greg Burnett. Our current visionary leaders, such as Inspector Jamie Blunden, Inspector Jim Anderson and Smart Policing Coordinator Jason Dyck, continue to promote proactive, evidence-based practices within our Service.
As a team we work together to overcome the many hurdles that arise when trying to institutionalize this “crazy” notion that evidence should help govern police actions and activity. The goal for our team has always been to identify issues and problems before they get out of control and to find ways to mitigate them through proactive policing strategies and community engagement. We don’t stop there though. We then apply a rigorous program of testing and evaluating to see if what we are doing is working. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t work, we change what we are doing and try something else. Our proactive policing program is constantly evolving through research and evidence to meet the changing landscape of crime and disorder in our city. New strategies and tactics are developed, monitored and evaluated to see if they work. There is no one size fits all when it comes to addressing crime, traffic problems and disorder.
While leadership, vision and analysis are essential to developing a strong evidence-based program, membership contribution and buy-in are just as important (if not more important). A police service needs a strong frontline to proactively prevent, deter and suppress crime. We often ask our front lines to do the impossible. Not only do they have to catch and stop the criminals, but they also have to be social workers, fire fighters, domestic counselors, mental health workers, missing person trackers, mediators, and paramedics. And then we actually ask them to do more. We ask them, when they’re not responding to calls for service, when they’re not doing all of those other really important things, to use the evidence that we provide them with and be proactive.
Being proactive is not the most glamorous of police work. The frontlines don’t typically get recognition for the crimes they prevent. Then again, for that matter, they hardly ever get recognition for any of the hats they have to wear. Yet, without Winnipeg Police Service’s frontline members doing the work and buying-in to our proactive, evidence-based strategies, we would never see the results we have seen to date. Our proactive policing projects have led to significant decreases in crime, disorder and traffic issues. We’ve noted increases in community engagement. We’ve seen positive impacts and a shift away from criminality in children and youth in care. All of this is because of the work performed by Winnipeg Police Service’s members. I am just proud to be able to help guide them and support their very important work with research, evidence and analysis.