In the book “Talking to Strangers” Malcolm Gladwell talks about how novel scientific approaches to policing ended up finding out that stop and frisk of motor vehicles could drastically reduce crime, and how this was quickly adopted by most of the US.

This reminded me of the movie Money Ball.

What are other famous examples that changed how the police operate? Not necessarily limited to the US.

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    The Macpherson report (theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/22/…) comes to mind Is this the sort of thing. My concern about your question is that there could be lots of different answers, all of them correct.
    – James K
    Apr 13, 2023 at 7:42
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    You mean specifically things that were judged to be effective, or things which were done or stopped being done for other reasons (e.g. because they were considered fair/unfair/cruel/unconstitutional), such as banning torture, body cams, or taping interviews. Broken windows theory is interesting, but there are debates over its effectiveness, as well as whether it's discriminatory. I'm not sure what you'll find that's of certain effectiveness, and I wouldn't necessarily trust Gladwell who simplifies and bends the truth a lot.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 13, 2023 at 10:40
  • By scientific approaches, you could mean effective specifically at preventing crime, or effective at improving attitudes to the police, increasing recruitment, improving subjective feelings of safety, or some other outcome?
    – Stuart F
    Apr 13, 2023 at 10:46
  • @StuartF Or by opening up new avenues to pursue evidence and catch the criminals (i.e. DNA fingerprinting).
    – hszmv
    Apr 13, 2023 at 11:37
  • @StuartF As best as I know, OP's example of Stop&Frisk was also discredited, so don't let Broken Windows weak underpinnings stop you. It should be an answer. Apr 13, 2023 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Arguably the biggest development was the ability to use DNA as forensic evidence as it was able to both secure convictions and exonerations numerous cases, some of which have long gone cold due to a supposed lack of evidence. It also created a new reliance on gathering and preserving evidence, especially biological evidence as some older techniques may not have preserved DNA in usable ways. In terms of changing evidence collection, it placed a greater emphasis on bodily fluids and hair as they became much more likely to provide evidence than previously though (Prior to DNA, bodily fluids like blood and semen could be used to narrow down a suspect by blood type... which didn't allow for a pure identification. It could rule you out as a possible suspect, but if it didn't it still wasn't reliable for proving it was your blood. It just meant if the killer had Type A and the lead suspect was Type B, the lead suspect is not your lead suspect. Now bodily fluid can be used to extract DNA, which can be tied to one person (unless that person is an identical twin, but narrowing it down to "it's one of two guys" is still leaps and bounds over "they have the same blood type")).

A more recent innovation is the use of familial DNA. Genealogy companies can take samples from the cops and identify family members already in their databases (Going back to the twin problem the first criminal convicted using this method was found because his identical twin had sent in his DNA to a DNA Genealogy company... The non-involved brother was approached first, but was ruled out because at the time of the crime, he was not living in that part of the country... but his identical twin was.).


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