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Queensland Community Engagement Trial (QCET)
The Queensland Community Engagement Trial (QCET) is the world’s first randomised field trial conducted to test whether or not procedurally just encounters between the police and citizens can improve citizen perceptions of police. Working closely with the Queensland Police Service (QPS), the research team randomly allocated 60 Random Breath Test (RBT) stationary operations to the control (business-as-usual) and treatment (operationalized procedural justice script) conditions. The experimental “treatment” RBT encounter involved police following a specific text that operationalized the core ingredients of procedural justice: police fairness, neutrality in their decision making, treating people with dignity and respect, and giving “voice” to the citizen during the encounter. The trial involved over 20,000 breath test stops and the same number of surveys given to motorists to test the differences between the business-as- usual RBT stops and the impact of the procedurally just police-citizen encounters. Over 30 police officers were involved in the trial, conducted from December 2009 to June 2010. The CEPS Police Fellow from the QPS, Inspector Peter Hosking, worked closely with the police RBT units to ensure that the trial met both police operational standards and the conditions of a randomised field trial.
The analysis of the returned surveys showed that the procedurally just encounter had far-reaching and positive effects on citizen perceptions of police. The citizens that received the experimental condition – then procedurally just encounter – had more positive perceptions of police. Not only did they think that police were fairer, they had more confidence
and trust in the police and they reported higher levels of satisfaction with police compared to the citizens that received the control condition of the regular RBT encounter.
Key 2011 project activities and project outcomes
The research team has presented the results in numerous keynote forums: at international conferences (Stockholm International Criminology Symposium, American Society of Criminology); to police executives from various police agencies throughout the world (including Hong Kong Police, UK Police, US Police); and to Australian police audiences (including the Annual CEPS Conference, the Australasian Institute for Police Management, the QPS Senior Executive Group). Two CEPS Briefing Papers on the core results were published and disseminated.
The research team, together with CEPS Visiting Scholar Professor Tom Tyler (New York University) have submitted a co-authored publication with Criminology, and other papers are underway.
Plans for 2012
The research team and QPS are now considering how the results of QCET might be used in other areas of police engagement with citizens, particularly in highly volatile encounters that generate a lot of complaints against police.
Replication: Three police agencies in Australia are considering replicating the QCET study in their own jurisdictions including Victoria Police, South Australia Police and New South Wales Police. Five police agencies elsewhere in the world (UK, US, Hong Kong, Norway and Taiwan) are in discussions with our research team to replicate the trial. A replication of the trial is already underway with our CEPS Adjunct Professor Geoff Alpert in South Carolina.
CEPS funding of QCET created the foundations for Professor Mazerolle’s ARC Laureate Fellowship application to capitalize on the field experimental momentum created through QCET. The ARC Laureate Fellowship was awarded to Lorraine Mazerolle in mid-2010, creating an unprecedented opportunity to build the future of experimental criminology in Australia, to advance theoretical understanding of Third Party Policing and build both academic and field capacity for experimentation in Australia.