Virtual event featured student research in the fields of law enforcement and emergency management
Delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 10th annual Applied Research Day at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) made its virtual debut recently, when it highlighted research being done by undergraduate students.
Students in JIBC degree programs are required to complete a capstone research project on a relevant issue or topic of interest to the student. The event featured research by students in the Bachelor of Law Enforcement Studies (BLES) and Bachelor of Emergency and Security Management Studies (BESMS).
Students gain more than “transferable” research skills and knowledge that can be used in their future careers, such as conducting investigations and report writing, said Dr. Ron Bowles, Dean of JIBC’s Office of Applied Research and Graduate Studies.
“It’s important for us always to be aware of where we’re standing, what we’re choosing to look at, and how that affects our decisions and our actions in the world,” said Dr. Bowles. “Really, all the research mindset says is that there’s a way of approaching issues in the field and it starts with curiosity, having the curiosity to stop and look closely at the world, the discipline to question and validate the information we look at, and the habit of making informed decisions based on that process.”
Students presented live during the event and through posters outlining their research on a wide range of topics including: the effectiveness of predictive policing, the impact of body-worn cameras, and the use of canines, all in law enforcement; the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder; integrating volunteers into health authority disaster planning; the effectiveness of restorative justice; how employee engagement can assist in the retention of emergency medical technicians; potential barriers to mental health resources for police officers; what parts of psychological treatment can reduce sex offender recidivism rates; potential improvements to reduce use-of-force complaints against police; and how poor urban communities cope with the stress of living with youth gangs.
Student speaker Dagan Nish, a recent BESMS graduate, won the prize for the top research poster among BESMS students. His study was on the potential benefits of integrating harm reduction principles into new evacuation centre policies to address British Columbia’s opioid overdose public health emergency during a disaster situation such as a flood or wildfire. The capstone poster awards are supported by The Justice Institute of British Columbia Foundation, and the Justice & Public Safety and Emergency Management divisions at JIBC.
This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Laura Huey, a professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario and founder of the Canadian Society of Evidence-Based Policing. She stressed the importance of looking at the research evidence when attempting to make major policy changes such as recent suggestions to prevent police officers from responding to mental health-related calls following a number of related fatalities.
Dr. Huey said her research has found that police respond to such incidents more frequently than most realize because many mental health calls are not categorized as such in police records systems. Officers often respond to such calls not fully knowing the situation, only that someone has complained of a disturbance or an assault, for instance.
Police are also often the first to be called to deal with situations involving someone with mental health issues, even by mental health professionals who are no less at risk of being assaulted, she said.
“What we have found is that in many instances, police are mobilized because health care providers do not want to deal with angry, potentially violent clients … The system is actually structured so police are involved.”
“It is hella-complicated [to take police out of the mental health response] and it involves a significant rethinking of the entire system and significant willingness to invest way more money than a fraction of a police budget to deal with,” said Huey, who also encouraged students to not accept statistics at face value and instead to seek out the raw data and make their own conclusions.
“These tricky questions have yet to be answered. In fact, I would argue they have yet to be fully considered. That’s the reason why we do research so that we can understand exactly what it is we are looking at in terms of a significant social problem and how to address it.”