Rylan Simpson, Ph.D. Police Officer Perception Project (POPP)

Rylan Simpson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
School of Criminology
Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia
Canada V5A 1S6

Press/Media Coverage

[NEWS] Vancouver police pull 'tactical response' promotional video after backlash
"SFU Criminology Professor Rylan Simpson has studied the way officers’ appearance impacts the public’s perception of police. 'I think now people are wanting much more of a community-focused style of policing. That kind of policing philosophy doesn’t typically align well with the very militarized appearance that we saw the officers depicted in.' ... 'I’m seeing this emerge as a very popular theme amongst police recruitment videos. And so from that respect, it’s not uncommon to see police use the excitement portion of the job to try and excite others about joining the profession,' he says, noting the impact of this is not yet clear. 'Whether or not that is an effective strategy for recruiting the very kinds of people contemporary police want to hire is a whole different question, and one that continues to remain open to empirical research.'" Watch/read the full news segment!

[NEWS] Saanich is latest B.C. municipality to hire civilians for low-risk policing tasks
"'Police are having to do the same, if not more, work, with fewer resources, and that's required some agencies to be a bit creative in how they can ensure that they're still able to effectively deliver service,' says Simpson. Simpson says the idea of community safety officers makes sense, but departments need to make sure they are adequately trained, and be cautious of the scope of the duties that are assigned to them." Read the full news article!

[NEWS] Vancouver police data on stranger attacks raises questions, criticism
"Dr. Rylan Simpson, a criminology professor at SFU, says all violent crime is cause for concern and data-driven policy should be pursued. 'One assault, of course, is too many. In a perfect world we wouldn’t see any of these kinds of incidents happening,' he says ... While Simpson commends the department for analyzing the data, he also says the anecdotes and information provided on Twitter should lead people to ask some 'important follow-up questions.'" Watch/read the full news segment!

[NEWS] RCMP, Edmonton police uniforms stolen from Calgary home
"One expert says the sheer number of pieces taken is concerning. 'Each item in and of itself speaks in some capacity to the police image, but when you have this many images all together, you create the potential to really impersonate police, which is something that we as a society of course don't want and shouldn't want.'" Watch/read the full news segment!

[NEWS] Standing in their field: Constable Scarecrow on duty in B.C.
"Local cops say this is in response to area residents complaining about speeders in their community. “The citizens of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have let police know that speeding is a top concern,” said Sergeant Glen Roberts of the Road Safety Target Team. “You asked and we heard you, states of the RSTT. The detachment says Scarecrow is a new way for them to get creative in response to the public’s concerns around road safety. An independent study does suggest that speeds drop during an inanimate police presence." Read the full news article!

[NEWS] Perceptions of police using PPE during the pandemic
"A Simon Fraser University study on public perceptions of police officers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) during the current pandemic finds that most PPE renders positive perceptions of police, while some equipment, including full-face respirator masks, may be viewed more negatively. The research was published January 9 in the Journal of Experimental Criminology." Read the full news article!

[NEWS] City of Burnaby looks to equip bylaw officers with body-worn cameras
"Simpson said the research is limited because body-worn cameras haven’t really been tested outside of policing, but he believes the 'expensive technology' could be applied to bylaw enforcement in some capacity. 'Both entities have some authority, both can impose consequences upon people and of course, those consequences can be contested,' said Simpson." Watch/read the full news segment!

[NEWS] Study finds cardboard cops effective at reducing speed
"An academic study conducted by SFU School of Criminology assistant professor Dr. Rylan Simpson found that one cardboard cop dubbed "Constable Scarecrow" in Coquitlam had a 'dramatic and immediate effect' in reducing speeding when installed on arterial roads. The study found the cut-out the most effective for the first few days with it gradually becoming less effective until traffic returned to normal." Read the full news article!

[NEWS] Geared up: Questions about police militarization arise again
"Research from Simpson, the professor at Simon Fraser University, finds that how police officers dress and equip themselves can determine what the perception of the community has on law enforcement. ... 'I think it’s really about trying to think critically of when is this equipment appropriate? What are we using it for? And is the perception meeting the purpose?' Simpson said." Watch/read the full news segment!
• Story featured by: InvestigateTV, ABC 7 News, WISTV, South Carolina News Now, WALB, WECT News, NBC12, WFLX Fox 29, Fox 8 WVUE, WTVM, WBTV, News Channel 6, WWSB, WMC Action News, Hawaii News Now, WNDU, among others.
[NEWS] Nova Scotia mass shooting investigation unprecedented in scope, say criminologists
"'The shooter capitalized on the use of police legitimacy to actually enact his shootings and then eventually evade police,' said assistant professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University, Rylan Simpson." Watch/read the full news segment!

[NEWS] Calls grow for more regulation around collecting police paraphernalia in wake of N.S. shootings
"Criminologist at Simon Fraser University in BC, Dr. Rylan Simpson studies the perception of police and says people rely on visual cues like marked vehicles and uniforms to help identify police. 'We’ve historically believed if we’re stopped by someone using what appears to be a police vehicle it must be a police officer. If we see someone wearing a police uniform it must be a police officer, and therefore we obey their commands, trust them and go to them in the time of need,' said Simpson." Watch/read the full news segment!

[NEWSPAPER] VPD recruitment video pulled after being compared to Call of Duty
"Rylan Simpson, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, said the video clashes with some of the skills police more generally need, including empathy, community-mindedness and de-escalation tactics. 'Police work has been glamorized on television,' he said. 'The reality is that it is far more mundane than thrilling.'" Read the full news article!

[NEWSPAPER] Study suggests respirator masks used by police could hurt perception
"In the study, led by SFU criminology assistant professor Rylan Simpson and MA student Ryan Sandrin, the participants were randomly assigned to read one of three fictitious news articles. Participants then rated 12 images of a uniformed male officer wearing various types of PPE alone, in combination or without any PPE. ... 'Seeing police officers routinely use what has traditionally been medical equipment is both novel and important for functionality and perception,' says assistant professor Rylan Simpson." Read the full news article!

[NEWSPAPER] This fake cop will make you slow down — here's why
"Simpson said he is pleased his research has helped the RCMP to make sound decisions based on evidence — a goal of most of the research he conducts as a criminologist. 'Now more than ever, police are needing research to help inform practices,' Simpson said." Read the full news article!

[NEWSPAPER] B.C. establishes standards for police body cameras, but forces balk at high cost
"'Criminologist Rylan Simpson said police body-worn cameras have been a 'very hot topic' among U.S. researchers trying to understand their effect on law enforcement and the balance of costs and benefits. 'The literature isn’t all that clear, even at this point in time, on what, exactly, the benefits can be,' said the assistant professor in the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University, who completed his PhD at the University of California Irvine." Read the full news article!

[NEWSPAPER] What police at Youth Court Summit want the public to know
"Rylan Simpson, a doctoral student in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at UC Irvine, began the panel with an experiment to show that small differences in how police present themselves can affect perception. 'It’s easy to get wrapped up in the dismal, to think there’s no way to improve things,' he said. 'That’s not true. There are things we can do to make things better. By thinking about what the role of police is and what we want it to be, we may be able to change it by changing things like the way police look.'" Read the full news article!

[RADIO] Vancouver council will be voting on a new motion for city police to have body-cams
"Curious about the new motion being voted on this week for city police to have body-cams? We hear from Rylan Simpson, Assistant Professor at the SFU School of Criminology and Meghan McDermot, Policy Director at B.C. Civil Liberties Association for more on this." Listen to the full radio interview!

[RADIO] The effect of PPE on perceptions of police during the pandemic
"A Simon Fraser University study on perceptions of police officers that are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic finds that most PPE renders positive perceptions, but there are some notable exceptions. I am joined by SFU Criminology Assistant Professor Rylan Simpson." Listen to the full radio interview!

[RADIO] How has COVID changed policing?
"COVID-19 is requiring everyone to rethink how we go about our daily lives, including our police forces. How have officers needed to change and adapt to this new world? Rylan Simpson, assistant professor of criminology, Simon Fraser University joined the program to talk about how COVID has changed the way our police operate." Listen to the full radio interview!

[RADIO] Policing during COVID-19
"We are speaking to Rylan Simpson who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. We are going to talk about policing during the pandemic." Listen to the full radio interview!

[RADIO] Body cams being called for after shootings involving police
"In the wake of three fatal police-involved shootings, some local groups are asking why Winnipeg police don't use body-worn cameras while on duty. Marcy Markusa spoke to a researcher who says the study of that technology is still more complicated than you might think." Listen to the full radio interview!

[MAGAZINE] And the award goes to..: 2022 Best Dressed Award Winners
"Rylan Simpson, another contest judge, was struck by the contrasting colour scheme featured on the SPD vehicle. 'This patrol car boldly identifies itself; the navy-blue colour is novel and the addition of the badge adds a unique touch to this otherwise more standard design.'" Read the full magazine article!

[MAGAZINE] A meaningful design: 2021 Best Dressed Award Winners
"'This vehicle represents the nexus between style, functionality and messaging. It clearly identifies itself as a police vehicle with its bold 'POLICE' branding but does so in such a way to highlight its key focus and purpose, which is to help deter gang involvement,' said judge Rylan Simpson. 'This vehicle is a functional and creative example of how police vehicles can be used to both attract public attention to policing interventions while simultaneously promote awareness about important criminal justice topics.'" Read the full magazine article!

[MAGAZINE] Constable Scarecrow: Traffic enforcement via inanimate presence
"The results from the Constable Scarecrow evaluation provide important insight into the theoretical mechanisms which underpin police behaviour and the effects of such behaviour on motorist speed. This project adds to the growing body of literature regarding policing and contributes to the broader evidence-based policing movement which has garnered the attention of police leaders worldwide." Read the full magazine article!

[MAGAZINE] Policing and COVID-19: The balance between risk and service
"The implications of the virus for public health officials, including doctors, nurses and associated medical staff, have been made publicly clear by both the citizenry and the polity. The implications of the virus for public safety officials, however, remain much more muddied. Questions regarding the effects of the virus on police response and response times, the ability for police to maintain staffing levels, and the capability of police to engage in community initiatives continue to strike much debate." Read the full magazine article!

[MAGAZINE] The perceptual effects of police appearance
"In the context of policing, appearance matters for more than just personal taste. From debates regarding the presence of heavily armed officers at community events, to the inclusion of uniformed officers in pride parades, to the designs of new police vehicles, questions surrounding perception and appearance rest firmly at the root of modern police work." Read the full magazine article!

[MAGAZINE] Police cut-outs target dangerous drivers
"Simpson, an assistant professor in the university's School of Criminology, looked at the impact of cut-outs deployed on two arterial roads — where traffic often moves from collector roads to regional highways — and on two residential streets." Read the full magazine article!

[MAGAZINE] Public perception: How does an officer's physical appearance impact public opinion
"'It is possible that even mere presence factors (i.e., absent contact), such as the appearance of police officers in different attire and patrol capacities, may be enough to impact their perceived approachability, accountability, respectability, and so on,' posits Rylan Simpson, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. ... 'Appearance does not not exist in a vacuum: Perceived visual characteristics may shed insight into perceived philosophical characteristics (e.g., guardian versus warrior). Officers must remain vigilant of the effects of their presence and how they can manipulate their presence in order to enhance public/police relations,' Simpson adds." Read the full magazine article!

[PODCAST] Public perception of police vehicles with Dr. Rylan Simpson
"In this episode of Blue Line, The Podcast, editor Brittani Schroeder was joined by Dr. Rylan Simpson, an assistant professor in the school of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. Simpson is also one of the judges in the Best Dressed Police Vehicle contest. Schroeder and Simpson spoke on the importance of police vehicle designs, and the public perception of police based on those designs." Listen to the full podcast!

[PODCAST] CrimeScience Episode 60 – Visual perception of police ft. Dr. Rylan Simpson
"In this episode of LPRC CrimeScience, Dr. Rylan Simpson, Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University, joins Dr. Read Hayes to discuss his criminological background, how people receive, process, and interpret visual information about police officers, how these visible cues set expectations, research methods, his police ride-along experience, and much more." Listen to the full podcast!

[WEBCAST] Canadian Society of Evidence-Based Policing Webcast: Police Officer Perception Project
"The Police Officer Perception Project reflects a large-scale experimental evaluation of factors that impact perceptions of the police." Watch the full interview!

[PRESS RELEASE] Does officer appearance matter? SFU Criminology assistant professor featured as SFU's Scholarly Impact of the Week
"SFU Criminology assistant professor Rylan Simpson was recently chosen to be featured [as the SFU Scholarly Impact of the Week], as his findings are helping police leaders make evidence-based decisions about the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic." Read the full press release!

[PRESS RELEASE] SFU Scholarly Impact of the Week -> Appearance matters: Perceptions of police using PPE in times of health crisis
"SFU Criminology professor Rylan Simpson understands the value of first impressions. He has participated in over 1000 hours of police ride-alongs with dozens of police organizations in several countries, and observed many types of policing in action. Simpson’s research involves various areas of policing such as perceptions of police, social psychology, and police-public relations." Read the full press release!

[PRESS RELEASE] Join @nvanrcmp for a tweet-along Friday, Sept. 18, 9am-5pm
"'This is a great opportunity for us,' said Sgt. DeVries. 'Police and academic partnerships present incredible opportunities for us to explore more effective and efficient ways of solving problems and providing community safety services.' Dr. Simpson's research explores a wide range of topics related to policing, perceptions of police, police organizations, theories of crime, and experimental criminology." Read the full press release!

[PRESS RELEASE] Constable Scarecrow’s success has been validated and he has now been hired full-time
"A recently published study from Dr. Rylan Simpson, an Assistant Professor from SFU’s School of Criminology, found that Constable Scarecrow has a dramatic and immediate effect in reducing speeding when he’s installed on arterial roads." Read the full press release!

[PRESS RELEASE] New criminology professor Rylan Simpson wants to know more about public perceptions of police
"Rylan Simpson brings his expertise in extensive police work in a number of communities around the world to his new role as assistant professor in the School of Criminology. Simpson’s research focuses on public perceptions of the police, and his work is closely connected to the community." Read the full press release!

[PRESS RELEASE] UCI doctoral student teams with IPD to study factors that influence perception of police
"The public’s perception of police is impacted by attire and other factors, a recent study found. The Irvine Police Department (IPD) partnered with University of California, Irvine doctoral candidate Rylan Simpson to examine how attire and patrol strategy esthetics impact people’s perceptions of the police. Simpson’s Police Officer Perception Project, or P.O.P.P., was published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology, with a second article featured in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice. His findings are summarized in a short video produced by IPD that can be seen at https://youtu.be/X2KOedgt5Lk." Read the full press release!

[PRESS RELEASE] What do you see: The officer or their attire?
"Rylan Simpson wanted to know: when people spot a police officer, what do they judge: the officer, their attire, their mode of transportation, or their expression? In the spring of 2015, the question seemed especially relevant, and continues to be today as some sectors of the public view police departments nationwide with intense scrutiny. Police behavior – both good and ill – has much impact on officers’ reputation, but Simpson, a Ph.D. student, sought to find out if attire and other aesthetic factors also made a difference. ... 'A good project that is well-rehearsed and shows value is going to be well-received. Practitioners have an important role in this broader research question. Let them engage in the role and the conversation.'" Read the full interview!


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