Shon F. Barnes

Inducted June 2024

Nominated By: Maureen McGough, University of South Carolina


Chief Shon F. Barnes has served as Madison Police Department’s Chief of Police since February of 2021. He is a nationally recognized leader in crime reduction and community-police relations. Previously, he served as Director of Training and Professional Development for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability in Chicago, Illinois; as Deputy Chief of Police in Salisbury, North Carolina (2017-2020); and as a Captain with the Greensboro (NC) Police Department where he began his career as a patrol officer in the fall of 2000. Chief Barnes received a B.A. in History/Pre-Law from Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina, a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. Chief Barnes is a National Institute of Justice LEADS Scholar and served as a council member on the National Police Foundation’s Council on Policing Reforms and Race, a nonpartisan initiative that uses research and evidence to consider and offer recommendations to resolve some of the most pressing issues regarding police reform. He is a graduate of the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Session and the Senior Management Institute for Police (Police Executive Research Forum).

Evidence-Based Research and Practice:

Chief Barnes has long been a long-time advocate for evidence-based policies and has leveraged his position as Chief to advance and champion the integration of science into police practices both locally and across the country. Under Barnes’s leadership, the Madison Police Department (MPD) became one of the first police agencies in the U.S. to include evidence-based policing in its vision statement, and the MPD has engaged in a series of researcher-practitioner partnerships to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of key programs. One evaluation in particular – which explored the effectiveness of the Madison Area Recovery Initiative Program – has generated several peer-reviewed and practitioner publications. This criminal diversion program for offenders living with substance use disorders builds on evidence of promising approaches to community-based alternatives that seek to interrupt the continuous cycle of drug use and arrest. Chief Barnes collaborated with researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering to evaluate the program’s effectiveness, with early results indicating the program effectively reduces recidivism within six months of program participation.

Chief Barnes has also enlisted the support of researchers from Virginia Tech and the Technology, Race, and Prejudice (TRAP) lab to launch a study exploring the MPD’s implementation of body-worn cameras. The department intentionally is distributing several different models of body-worn cameras through a randomized controlled trial to explore the effects of different camera models on officer behavior, especially with regard to uses of force, stops, arrests, and citations. Concurrently, researchers will explore how the implementation of body-worn cameras affects community behavior, including calls for service, community complaints, and community trust in the MPD. Additionally, he collaborated with academics from the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice to conduct a sentinel event review of the Madison Police Department’s response protests following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, providing mountains of data to researchers and giving them full access to staff and information. This initiative resulted in 69 specific recommendations to the department to promote peaceful protests and protect First Amendment rights.

Chief Barnes’s evidence-based policing record also includes instituting improved data collection and analysis practices to support the identification of possible institutional barriers to diversity and inclusion. For example, he is one of the country’s most outspoken advocates for the 30x30 Initiative to Advance Women in Policing. He has prioritized improved rigor around the hiring and promotional processes to identify and remedy inherent bias and ensure the best possible candidates are selected. While at the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability, he helped design and implement empirically-based performance assessments and modified COPA training programs to reflect the latest developments in scientific research. During his tenure as the Deputy Chief of the Salisbury Police Department, he implemented the stratified policing model, designed to embed evidence-informed procedures for handling multiple incident types, empower officers to engage in problem-oriented policing, augment the role and impact of crime analysts, and improve agency and officer accountability.

Most recently, Chief Barnes has collaborated with Assistant Chief Tarrick McGuire (Arlington Police Department) and former Sergeant Obed Magny (Sacramento Police Department) to release a self-funded documentary called The 54th Mile. Chief Barnes and his colleagues walked the 54 Miles from Selma to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery just as Dr. King did over five decades ago. They documented their experiences, interactions with the public, and epiphanies along the way. With support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Chief Barnes and his colleagues have partnered with the National Policing Institute to develop a rigorous police training curriculum as a complement to the film.

In her nomination of Chief Barnes, Maureen McGough best summarizes why he deserves the Hall of Fame recognition: “Simply put – Chief Barnes is an important and impactful force for the advancement of evidence-based policing. He has leveraged each of his leadership opportunities to infuse the latest scientific evidence into agency policy and practice, while improving the rigor of data collection and analysis to support research in his own agencies. He regularly collaborates with a broad range of academic partners to co-produce new research, and he uses his growing platform and influence to inspire other police and municipal leaders to do the same. He embodies the kind of leadership that many of our agencies need – innovative, inquisitive, collaborative, and laser-focused on what actually works to improve public safety outcomes across all communities.”

Statement from Inductee:

I am both humbled and honored to be inducted into the Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame. During my career, I have been fortunate to interact with police professionals and academics, which fostered my interest in evidence-based policing. These relationships have prepared me for my role as the Chief of Police. I am able to successfully lead a community-focused, collaborative, and innovative police department into an exciting and rapidly changing landscape. I have developed a personal philosophy as it relates to policing. My philosophy simply states, “Policing should be neighborhood-oriented, community-focused (business, educational, and residential), problem-oriented, and based on the most current empirical research available to quickly reduce crime, and harm to the community, while improving citizens’ satisfaction with police services.”

As a practitioner of evidence-based policing, I am committed to partnering with the academic community to implement empirically-based crime and harm-focused initiatives. For example, these include diversion programs that focus on eliminating and reducing arrests while addressing the root causes of crime. Evidence-based policing has allowed me to create a strong department that has successfully faced 21st-century public safety challenges while exploring opportunities to make our city safer and better through research design.

As a leader, it is my responsibility to create a departmental culture that values a strong dedication to community engagement and effective crime reduction strategies. I am fortunate to have worked in great police departments with members who care about the community we serve. However, I am most proud of the opportunity to mentor and develop a new generation of young and diverse police professionals who appreciate the value of research and its contributions to law enforcement.

My life’s work and continued commitment to 21st-century police leadership is my North Star. Innovative leadership practices, personal experiences, and evidence-based policing practices are the sails that guide my ship. I take great pride in being both a student and “pracademic” of the law enforcement profession, which provides me with a vision for understanding what is expected from the community we proudly serve. I am excited about the next phase in the implementation of evidence-based policing while understanding that success in police organizations is not final, failure is not fatal, and the courage to improve should be the only constant.

Contributions to Grants, Publications, and Projects:

  • Barnes, S.F. (2017). “Implementation of Procedural Justice in Police Agencies” citied in; Novak, K. J., Cordner, G. W., Smith, B. W., & Roberg, R. R. (2017). Police & society (7th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Barnes, S.F. (2018). Police Community Relations: A study of racial disparity and the effects of hot spot policing leadership strategies. Doctoral dissertation (North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, 2018).
  • Barnes, S.F. (2018). Profile of the 21st Century Leader. A paper of the BJA Executive Session on Police Leadership. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice and St. Petersburg, FL: Center for Public Safety Innovation, St. Petersburg College.
  • Barnes, S.F. (2018). Mastering New Essentials: Leader Skills 5. BJA Executive Session on Police Leadership, The BJA Executive Session on Police Leadership (
  • Miller, K., Danielson, S., & Barnes, S. (2013). Making leadership count: Implementing effective partnerships and alternative organizational structures to address complex problems. Case analyses of two child development-community policing partnerships in North Carolina. Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Session on Police Leadership.
  • White, V.M., & Albert, L.A. (2023). Evaluating diversion and treatment policies for opioid use disorder. Unpublished Research Paper (located at
  • Zgierska, A.E., White, V.M., Balles, J., et al. (2021). Pre-arrest diversion to addiction treatment by law enforcement: Protocol for the community-level policing initiative to reduce addiction-related harm, including crime. Health Justice, 9,