Blog Archives

Congress Holds Hearings on Behavioral Health

Over the past several weeks, Congressional Committees have held several hearings to discuss mental and behavioral health care, including mental health parity and emergency response to mental health crises. On April 15, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on “Meeting the Moment: Improving Access to Behavioral and Mental Health Care.” The Subcommittee heard testimony from Chief of Psychology in the Public Interest at the American Psychological Association (APA) Brian Smedley, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Christine Moutier, Senior Vice President of Health Policy at The ERISA Industry Committee James Gelfand, and Founder of Psych-Appeal Meiram Bendat. Witnesses raised several issues with previous legislation such as the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) and argued for stronger federal enforcement, increased use of telehealth, and the encouragement of interstate mental health licensing. The Subcommittee also discussed the need for more mental health professionals across the country, briefly asking witnesses what Congress can do to encourage and aid students through their education and training. When discussing mental health and policing, Dr. Smedley mentioned the fact that state employee health plans can opt-out of MHPAEA protections for essential workers such as teachers, firefighters, and police. The House hearing can be viewed here on the Committee website.

On April 23, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism held a hearing on “Behavioral Health and Policing: Interactions and Solutions.” The Subcommittee heard testimony from the Commander of the Education & Training Section of the Baltimore Police Department Martin Bartness, Co-Director of The Mental Health Strategic Impact Initiative Keris Jän Myrick, Outreach Manager of Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) Ebony Morgan, Executive Director at the Technical Assistance Collaborative Kevin Martone, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute Rafael Mangual, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, and wife of a fallen officer, Terri O’Connor. The Subcommittee generally acknowledged the faults with the current mental health care system and addressed topics such as the implementation of national mental health crisis response teams and some successful examples such as the CAHOOTS program. The Senate hearing can be viewed here on the Committee website.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Nicholas Lynn.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 27), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

CJRA, COSSA Host “Ask a Criminologist” Briefing Addressing Policing and Community Relations

On October 22, COSSA, in partnership with the Crime & Justice Research Alliance (CJRA), hosted the latest in an ongoing series of “Ask a Criminologist” briefings, which seek to connect leading criminologists to policy makers to address prevalent criminal justice issues. The event, which focused on issues related to policing and community relations in the wake of recent protests, featured Dr. Jennifer Cobbina, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University; Dr. Rod Brunson, Thomas O’Neill Chair of Criminology at Northeastern University; and Dr. Everette Penn, Professor of Criminal Justice at University of Houston Clear Lake and founder of the Teen and Public Service Center. The panel was moderated by Dr. William V. Pelfrey, Jr., Professor of Criminal Justice in the Wilder School at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The briefing featured unique perspectives from each of the panelists, with each holding a different stance on recent calls for police reform. Topics of discussion included the policy implications and merits of calls to “defund the police,” the systemic factors affecting the Black community’s relationship with police departments, the role of the Black Lives Matter movement in shifting the discourse surrounding police reform, disparities in policing practices between high-income and low-income communities, and police training and community engagement initiatives such as the Teen and Police Service (TAPS) Academy. The full briefing is available on YouTube on the Virginia Commonwealth University Wilder School’s channel.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 27), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

“Why Social Science?” Features Experts on Policing

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? post features an article from The Conversation that asked several social scientists who study different aspects of policing to explain what their research has found that could help reduce police prejudice and violence. Read it here and subscribe.

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Posted in Issue 14 (July 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Policing Research Bill Introduced as Congress Continues Focus on Police Reform

In the wake of mass protests against police violence throughout the country, Congress has been active in introducing several bills addressing systemic racism and police violence, including a bill for more social and behavioral science research on these issues. On June 18, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (SST), introduced the Promoting Fair and Effective Policing Through Research Act, a bill that mandates that the National Science Foundation (NSF) fund social and behavioral science research on policing practices and the mitigation of police violence. It also directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish a program to study potential bias in policing tools and technology, and directs the Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) at the Department of Homeland Security to establish a program to support the reduction of police violence. More information can be found on the SST website.

In the meantime, Congress remains fixated on broader policing reform legislation. In the Senate, Tim Scott (R-SC) has introduced the JUSTICE Act (S. 3985), a bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated will be considered by the full Senate. The bill requires police departments to implement de-escalation training and report the use of force and prevents police from using chokeholds in most situations. In the House, Democrats have coalesced around the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120) introduced by Karen Bass (D-CA) and endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus. The bill mandates much more substantial reforms to policing, including labelling chokeholds as a potential civil rights violation, denying grants to some police jurisdictions, and making it easier to sue individual police for civil rights violations. COSSA will be monitoring these bills and providing updates when available.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 23), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Message from COSSA on Police Violence and Racial Injustice

We stand in solidarity with those protesting against the abuses of police power and the racist systems that perpetuate this violence. One of the fundamental lessons from the social sciences is that our lives are governed by social systems that were designed to bestow advantages and disadvantages unequally. While the social sciences have helped to illuminate those structures and the inequities and harms they create, the science community has failed to effectively address them within the scientific enterprise itself.

While we cannot undo the horrific injustices of the past, we are committed to eradicating the scourge of white supremacy—both within the sciences themselves and in our own communities. In our collective efforts to confront the daily suffering perpetuated by racism and racist systems, we can bring the strength of the social and behavioral sciences to bear on society’s greatest challenges—to understand and work toward real change.


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Posted in Issue 12 (June 9), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

June’s Headlines Webchat to Feature Deep Dive Discussion on Police Violence with Dr. Kristin Dukes

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on Thursday, June 11 at 2:00 pm Eastern. The COSSA team will break down the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month, followed by a deep dive discussion with Allegheny College Dean for Institutional Diversity Kristin Dukes, PhD, a social psychologist whose work has focused on police violence against racial and ethnic minorities. Participants may submit questions in advance by emailing Julia Milton ( Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 9), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Academies Releases Proactive Policing Report

On November 11, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, entitled Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities. The report evaluates the impact of proactive policing strategies on crime, communities, and racial disparities in policing. Proactive policing differs from traditional policing in that it targets the underlying causes of crime and disorder rather than reacting to crime after it occurs. The report concludes that sufficient scientific evidence supports the adoption of some proactive policing practices and that proactive policing is particularly effective in areas with high concentrations of crime and repeat offenders. Additionally, there was no evidence of adverse community receptiveness in those areas.

The report identifies a significant gap in knowledge surrounding long-term effects of proactive policing and calls for additional comprehensive research on whether police programs to enhance procedural justice improve perceptions of legitimacy and cooperation between communities and the police. During a webinar to mark the release of the report, David Weisburd, Chair of the authoring committee and Director of George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, commented on the “striking lack of social science evidence” available on violations of the law by police and the causes of racial disparities in police-citizen encounters. The report calls for a greater investment in researching what is “cost-effective, how such strategies can be maximized to improve the relationships between the police and the public, and how they can be applied in ways that do not lead to violations of the law by the public.”

This article was contributed by COSSA’s fall intern, Erin Buechele of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 14), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

NIJ Releases New Policing Research Strategic Plan

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research and evaluation arm of the Department of Justice, has released a five-year strategic plan for policing research. Priorities include promoting and supporting research to optimize workforce development for officers and civilian personnel, promoting and supporting research on policing practices, and promoting and supporting research on the relationship between policing and communities. More information can be found here.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)


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