William B. Barritt
Inducted June 2017
Nominated by David Weisburd and Charlotte Gill, George Mason University
Inspector Barritt is a Commander in the Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Police Department, where he has served since 1997. He began his policing career as a volunteer Police Reserve Officer with the St. Paul (MN) Police Department in 1995 and worked as a Community Service Officer with the Fridley (MN) Police Department before joining the Brooklyn Park PD. He has served in a number of roles, including patrol officer, school resource officer/juvenile detective, investigator, patrol sergeant, and Safe Streets (street crimes) sergeant. Since 2012 he has held several leadership positions including Patrol Lieutenant and Investigative Lieutenant. He was promoted to Inspector of Patrol in January 2014, and currently oversees patrol functions for Brooklyn Park’s North Precinct as well as managing the full-time detention facility.
Evidence-Based Research and Practice:
Inspector Barritt was instrumental in implementing an innovative and challenging randomized field experiment, known as the Brooklyn Park: Assets Coming Together to Take Action (BP-ACT) Experiment, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Smart Policing Initiative. This randomized field trial sought to enhance collective efficacy and police legitimacy at crime hot spots, involving the entire patrol division of the BPPD. In this study, over 40 hot spots in the city were randomized to treatment and control conditions. Treatment hot spots were assigned specific teams of patrol officers who would spend their uncommitted time identifying “assets”—key community members who were capable of building relationships and working together with other citizens and the police to ameliorate crime and disorder.
In their nomination, Weisburd and Gill write, “As you can imagine, BP-ACT was a complex experiment to develop and implement. It would not have been implemented with fidelity without Bill’s leadership. … He met with us and our training and technical assistance partners regularly to keep us up-to-date and work with us to solve problems. He requested regular reports detailing the progress of implementation at each of the 21 treatment hot spots and frequently called in the hot spot teams to reinforce the principles of the experiment, address activity that fell below the dosage and standard required for the study, and celebrate good practice. This included mobilizing officers who were doing a good job of implementation to provide peer-to-peer training for those who were struggling. He was also fully committed to our presence and role as research partners and found ways to support us throughout, even by reallocating implementation funds to allow us to conduct more in-depth research. Bill is one of those police professionals who really gets the importance of experimentation and evidence-based policy. He was absolutely instrumental in making BP-ACT happen.”
Inspector Barritt continues to use experimental data and regular reporting on crime and collective efficacy outcomes to identify which communities were most likely to benefit from the intervention and which officers were most successful at implementing it, and has continued the program at these more targeted areas as part of regular operations. He has advanced evidence-based practices in the Brooklyn Park Police Department in other areas as well, including his advocacy for a co-responder mental health project, and is contributing to a larger national role as an evidence-based policing mentor through the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Smart Policing Initiative.
Statement from Inductee:
I began working with SPI and our research partners at George Mason University back in 2013. My agency, the Brooklyn Park Police Department, was awarded a grant from BJA to work on “building collective efficacy at micro-crime hot spots and building informal social controls”. I can state without a doubt that this work could not have been accomplished without the collaborative efforts we had with our research partners at George Mason University, notably Professor David Weisburd and Dr. Charlotte Gill. In addition, the assistance we received from CNA and the Smart Policing Initiative, including Dr. James “Chip” Coldren and other subject matter experts such as Craig Uchida and Shellie Solomon, with Justice and Security Strategies and Win Moua our own project coordinator. All of these individuals played an important role in the development, training, and implementation of our research project.
What was unique about our project was that our agency was the first police department to undergo such a cultural shift in the way policing is done in America. The focus and goal of this project was to build “collective efficacy in micro-crime hot spots and build informal social controls” by the use of the Patrol division during their discretionary time while out on patrols. This project involved treatment areas that would have this intervention for a period of 15 months. Our entire Patrol force was a part of the program and was directly involved in the implementation of it. Each officer was paired up with a partner and assigned a treatment area. It was their responsibility to utilize their training on how to build collective efficacy and bring residents together through a model we developed called BP-ACT (Assets Coming Together).
Throughout the duration of the implementation of this program, our officers spent a total of 1,920 hours working in these identified treatment areas. They built relationships with residents and established a level of trust which had never existed before in these high crime micro street segments. Throughout the course of the implementation, officers and residents were able to build relationships with one another and identify common goals and concerns that impacted their livability within each of those neighborhoods. Collaboration between our officers and residents was key to the successful outcomes that were made in many of these areas, and the long term impacts the residents experienced are still continuing today.
Evidence based policing helped our agency identify areas of concern that as an agency we were unable to identify, such as crime concentrations in a small number of micro streets segments. It was learned that 25% of our total crime was concentrated in a small number of streets, .04% to be exact and that 50% of our crime occurred in only 2.1% of our total street segments citywide. So one would ask, why are we not using our resources in these small number of streets to get the most impact?
The relationships that were made with our research partners and others with CNA have been extremely valuable. The ability to network with other agencies throughout the United States showed that our issues and concerns with our residents’ issues are the same in many of the communities in which we serve. In a time of police/community relations being strained in the Unites States never more has it been so important to build working relationships with our residents by those who are seen day to day such as our patrol officers.
Now that our project has concluded, our agency has learned that evidence-based policing strategies work, and are extremely effective. Sustainability of this program will continue beginning in July of 2017 with our agency carrying on a model we titled BLUE Blocks “Blocks Learning to Unite and Engage”. This strategy is a direct result of the project we undertook during our ACT program. In addition, we have built upon this program by bringing in additional programs such as “Play Safe Stay Safe” and “Ride on Target”. Both of these programs are additional “tools” for our patrol officers to use while out working in our communities. Officers will have the ability to engage our youth and families during their discretionary time, instead of always enforcing laws and being sentinels. These two new programs provide our officers with some “fun stuff” to give children who are in need and other residents such as footballs, basketballs, sidewalk chalk, and even replacing a bicycle when it has been taken or stolen during a theft or a robbery. Our officers will have the opportunity to engage our youth. All of these new programs were a direct result of our engagement with our community during our ACT program.
- Smart Policing Initiative project page for Brooklyn Park
- News Coverage about the study
- William Barritt’s podcast for the Smart Policing Initiative
- League of Minnesota Cities article about the project
- Transcript of CNA discussion with Inspector Barritt and others discussing body-worn cameras
- Weisburd et al. paper on increasing collective efficacy at hot spots
- Gill et al. paper on crime concentrations in Brooklyn Park