Law Enforcement by Positive Reinforcement in Ontario

Source: https://flic.kr/p/cXLXCS

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

2015 has not been kind to the law enforcement community after events in Ferguson Missouri, and others, have put police departments under public scrutiny like never before.  In an effort to counter negative public opinion, law enforcement agencies are increasingly focused on rebuilding their image, often times by encouraging lawful behavior rather than a complete focus on punishing unlawfulness.

A previous article by bSci21 described the efforts of a Farmington, New Hampshire police department in rewarding good behavior with gift cards.  This week, Ottawa Community News reported a similar story among police departments in Ontario Canada.  The program is known as Operation Freeze, so named because officers are tasked with handing out vouchers for free slush drinks to teens caught in community activities such as “picking up trash, deterring crime or observing school crossing rules.”

In addition to encouraging good citizenship, the program aims to build rapport with the community to improve the relationship of police with the citizens they serve.  Since the launch of the program, along with its winter variation called Operation Heat (I think you can guess what they give out in winter.), officers have given out more than a million drink vouchers.

Though Constable Jean Paul Vincelette labels the program a “positive reinforcement campaign” no data is yet available on the effectiveness of the vouchers in increasing lawful behavior, let alone reducing criminal activity.  However, one would be hard pressed not to acknowledge positive reinforcement as a desired outcome of the program, whether departments have the practical means to collect such data or not.

What do you think of this new trend in law enforcement?  Let us know in the comments below!  Also, don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org.

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