LEMIT Research

Current Projects

The Research & Development Unit is currently involved in a number of research projects, ranging in size and scope, concerning a variety of issues relevant to the practice of law enforcement in Texas. The purpose of this page is to summarize these projects.

Montgomery County Constable Precinct 3 Employee Survey

Project Staff:

William Wells, Professor, Sam Houston State University
Joshua Shadwick, Doctoral Student, Sam Houston State University
Alicia Jurek Doctoral Student, Sam Houston State University

This study will measure perceptions of employees in the Precinct 3 Constable's Office. The Precinct 3 Constable's Office is an innovative and growing agency with leaders who are interested in learning details about their employees' perspectives on many aspects of agency and their work. Data collection will begin spring 2017.

Project Status:

Data collection will begin in spring 2017

Montgomery County Smart Prosecution Grant Program

Project Staff:

Ling Ren, Associate Professor, Sam Houston State University
Joshua Shadwick, Doctoral Student, Sam Houston State University
William Wells, Professor, Sam Houston State University

This is a collaborative project with the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office. The project involves data collection and analysis to diagnosis drug-related crime problems in Montgomery County, which will contribute to a Smart Prosecution grant application. Data collection will begin in spring 2017.

Project Status:

Data collection will begin in spring 2017

Police Chief turnover in Texas

Project Staff:

William Wells, Professor, Sam Houston State University
Rita Watkins, Executive Director, LEMIT
William King, Professor and Associate Dean, Sam Houston State University
Yudu Li, Assistant Professor, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Joshua Shadwick, Doctoral Student, Sam Houston State University

This study seeks to understand the trends and patterns in police chief turnover. Multiple data sources are being combined to understand how often new police chiefs are appointed each year in Texas and to understand the factors associated with police chief turnover. Little systematic information is currently available about this topic in the United States. The data being collected were used as part of Professor Yudu Lis dissertation. Data collection continues and analyses will allow LEMIT to assess trends over time.

Project Status:

Data collection has been on-going since January 2015

Texas Chiefs of Police Panel Project

Project Staff:

William King, Professor and Associate Dean, Sam Houston State University
Alicia Jurek, Doctoral student, Sam Houston State University

Project Status:

Survey data collection and analysis is ongoing

Project Page

Five survey modules are being used to measure: 1) inter-organizational communication in law enforcement, 2) critical incidents and crisis in policing, 3) time allocation and routine tasks of chiefs, 4) employee issues, problems, and misconduct, and 5) the organizational environment of Texas law enforcement agencies. The project entails an ongoing data collection effort to gather information from police executives. We will explore pressing issues facing law enforcement executives. The modules can be altered or replaced with new modules as exigencies dictate. Several graduate students have used these data for dissertations, theses, reports, peer-reviewed publications, and conference presentations. Visit the TCPPP project page for more detailed information.

The Houston Police Department eyewitness identification experiment

Project Staff:

William Wells, Professor, Sam Houston State University
Brad Campbell, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville
Yudu Li, Assistant Professor, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Stryker Swindle, M.A., Sam Houston State University

Project Status:

Completed (2012-2014)

Project Report #1: Sampling, Research Design, and Data Collection

Project Report #2: Analysis and Results

The Houston Police Department partnered with LEMIT and the College of Criminal Justice at SHSU to conduct an ambitious experiment. The study is only the second randomized field experiment to test different procedures for administering photo spreads and live lineups to crime victims and eyewitnesses. Results will inform future LEMIT programming and provide evidence Texas police agencies can use when making decisions about eyewitness identification policies and procedures. This study received the 2014 Gold Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement Research from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Related project publications:

Wixted, J.T., Mickes, L., Dunn, J.C., Clark, S.E., & Wells, W. (2016). Estimating the reliability of eyewitness identifications from police lineups. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113, 304-309. [ link ]

Wells, W., Campbell, B. A., Li, Y., & Swindle, S. (2016). The characteristics and results of eyewitness identification procedures conducted during robbery investigations in Houston, TX. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 39, 601-619. [ link ]

Strategic approaches to sexual assault kit evidence: An action research project with the Houston Police Department

Project Staff:

William Wells, Professor, Sam Houston State University

Project Status:

Completed (2011-2015). Project results continue to be shared through conferences presentations and consultation with stakeholder groups across the country.

Project Page

National Institute of Justice Project Page

This project was funded by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, to better understand the factors that have led to the generation of sexual assault kits that are never submitted to crime labs for testing. The research also identified how sexual assault investigations and prosecutions could be enhanced, in broad terms. The Houston Police Department recognized greater evidence testing must occur so the department sought federal funds to help solve this problem. Sam Houston State University was the lead research partner on this project and collaborated with HPD personnel to identify the sources of problems and ways to overcome problems. A team of researchers from the Institute on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence at UT Austin worked on aspects of the project that focused on victim notification and integrating victim advocates into responses. Once viable responses were identified it was possible to implement solutions and measure their effectiveness.

Opening the black box of NIBIN: A process and outcome evaluation of the use of NIBIN and its effects on criminal investigations

Project Staff:

William King, Professor and Associate Dean, Sam Houston State University
William Wells, Professor, Sam Houston State University
Charles Katz, Professor, Arizona State University
Edward Maguire, Professor, American University
James Frank, Professor, University of Cincinnati
Matt Matusiak, Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida

Project Status:

Completed (2011-2013)

National Institute of Justice Webinar

This is a study funded by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, to better understand how ballistic evidence is processed and utilized by police agencies across the United States. Innovative imaging methods have made it easy to compare ballistic evidence collected from multiple crime scenes. These comparisons allow investigators and crime analysts to understand whether the same gun has been used in multiple shootings. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives manages a national database of images collected from police departments across the country. This database is known as NIBIN: National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. Very little evidence exists about whether local police departments are making effective use of imaging technologies and NIBIN.

The research team analyzed national data on how NIBIN is being used and collected detailed data from 10 sites that appear to be using this technology in effective and innovative ways. The research team examined the way ballistic evidence testing results have been used during criminal investigations. One purpose of the project is to produce information about best practices in using ballistic evidence. Findings from this study can inform police departments across Texas about how ballistic evidence can be used effectively.

The Culture of Female Police Officers: An Examination of Performance, Perceptions, and Promotion

Project Staff:

Kadee L. Brinser, Assistant Professor, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Larry T. Hoover, Professor, Sam Houston State University
Rita J. Watkins, Executive Director, LEMIT

Project Status:

Completed (2015-2016)

Policing has been traditionally viewed as a male-dominated field. With the increase in gender-equality, the purpose of this study was to see if the impact of equality has reached the policing field. The three main focus areas in this study were the performance, perceptions, and promotion. First, field performance was explored through a quantitative analysis with data from the Police Research Center to determine the types of calls for service female police officers are assigned, the length of time spent on each call, and other relevant factors that may differ between genders. Second, perceptions of gender inequality were evaluated by addressing potential factors that may contribute to lack of female acceptance in policing inside and outside of police organizations. Last, the promotion process was explored to determine factors associated with motivation to move up the rank and the potential existence of a glass ceiling in police organizations. LEMIT assisted in the data collection process through online surveys and telephone interviews to evaluate perceptions of gender inequality and the promotion process. The research provides an understanding of the dynamics of female police officers in a traditional male occupation. This project was the basis of Dr. Kadee Briner's dissertation, which was completed in 2016.

Texas major cities research initiative

Project Staff:

Larry Hoover, Professor, Sam Houston State University
Ling Ren, Associate Professor, Sam Houston State University
William Wells, Professor, Sam Houston State University
Yan Zhang, Associate Professor, Sam Houston State University
Solomon Zhao, Professor, Sam Houston State University

Project Status:

Research projects completed and ongoing

Partially funded through LEMIT, this initiative represents an ongoing series of projects between a team of researchers, led by Dr. Larry Hoover, from the College of Criminal Justice and the six largest police departments in Texas. This is part of the Executive Issues Major Cities program offered by LEMIT. The program provides professional development courses for chiefs of the six largest police departments in Texas. A goal of this research initiative is to generate sound and practical research results that police departments in Texas can use.

Dallas Police Department (2007 - 2008)
The purpose was to evaluate the crime reduction efforts made by the Dallas Police Department (DPD) patrol divisions in the designated hot spots (target areas). In January 2008 SHSU and DPD identified 21 target areas or hot spots that accounted for 25% of all violent crimes but merely 5.6% of the city's geographic area. Among them, 20% of violent crimes were contributed by the top 12 hot spots. Then Chief David Kunkle ordered patrol division commanders to develop and submit an action plan of how to reduce crime in their respective hot spots. Interventions began in May, 2008, at both the Division level and by the agency's Crime Disruption tactical unit.

SHSU compiled 120 weeks of pre-intervention period data (from January 1, 2006 to April 30, 2008) and 36 weeks of intervention period data (from May 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008). Time-series analysis was used in the analysis, which focused upon the worst 12 hot spots. The time-series analysis showed that there was a significant decline of violent crimes in 3 of the 12 hot spots. More optimistically, there was a significant decrease in property crimes in 7 of the 12 hot spots. Overall, the findings suggested that the intervention in DPD was more effective in reducing property crimes than violent crimes.

Houston Police Department (2007 - 2009) Published findings
HPD launched its Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) in November 2007 under the leadership of Chief Harold Hurtt. The research team worked closely with Executive Assistant Chiefs Munden and Oettmeier to measure the CRU impact. Results showed the CRU had a measureable impact on property crimes in the areas it worked. In addition, the gun possession arrests made by CRU officers in a small number of beats were associated with reductions in crimes committed with firearms in those beats. A series of research reports and journal articles resulted from this project.

Houston Police Department (2009 - 2011) Published findings
In 2009 HPD and the research team began discussions about whether a hot spots policing strategy would be effective in Houston. Those discussions led to a sophisticated research protocol the HPD implemented throughout 2010. The purpose was to answer research questions about whether proactive, directed patrols in crime hot spots would reduce crime and whether differing deployment periods were more or less effective. In addition, the research protocol would provide an understanding whether crime would rise after the proactive patrols moved out of a high crime location. The descriptive results are mixed, revealing trends that suggest additional patrols were not effective in reducing suppressible street crimes in meaningful ways.