To read this content please select one of the options below:

VOICES: a theory-driven intervention for improving relationships between police and the public

Shawn Hill (Santa Barbara Police Department, Santa Barbara, California, USA)
Howard Giles (Department of Communication, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, USA)
Edward R. Maguire (School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 1 March 2021

Issue publication date: 5 October 2021




The purpose of this paper is to describe a theory-driven intervention called VOICES that was developed to improve police-community relations. The intervention was designed based on principles derived from social psychological theories of intergroup contact and communication.


The authors discuss the theoretical basis for the intervention, as well as its development and implementation in the Santa Barbara Police Department. Based on this pilot testing, the authors provide preliminary evidence about its effectiveness using survey responses and qualitative feedback provided by participants.


Although the case study method used here does not allow for causal inferences about the effectiveness of the intervention, the limited evidence the authors present does suggest that participants found VOICES useful and it may have improved their perceptions of police. The next step will be to test this intervention using experimental or quasi-experimental methods that allow for causal inferences about effectiveness.


The paper shows how police can develop theory-driven interventions in an effort to improve trust between police and the public, including communities in which relationships with police have been historically strained. It also underscores how insights from the study of intergroup contact and communication can benefit policing.



The authors are grateful to Chief Lori Luhnow of the Santa Barbara Police Department, and Dr. Carmel Saad of Westmont College, for their support during the development of VOICES.


Hill, S., Giles, H. and Maguire, E.R. (2021), "VOICES: a theory-driven intervention for improving relationships between police and the public", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 44 No. 5, pp. 786-799.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles