Steven E. Clark Named Director of Robert Presley Center of Crime and Justice Studies

Psychologist known for research on eyewitness identification will lead UC Riverside research center

Steven E. Clark, director of the UC Riverside Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies. Photo by Lonnie Duka.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Steven E. Clark, a University of California, Riverside, professor of psychology who is known internationally for his research on eyewitness identification, has been named director of the UCR Robert Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies. His appointment is effective today, April 1.

The Presley Center, established by the California Legislature in 1993,  conducts research on crime prevention and works closely with local governments in Inland Southern California to develop and evaluate evidence-based policies, firmly grounded in social science, aimed at preventing youth violence and crime, said Anil Deolalikar, dean of the School of Public Policy. The center, formerly located within the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, will affiliate with the School of Public Policy.

“The mission of the center is perfectly aligned with the mission of the School of Public Policy – leveraging the world-class research being conducted at UCR to address and solve some of the most pressing problems facing our region,” the dean said. “Professor Clark has consulted extensively with law enforcement and prosecuting and defense attorneys on matters of eyewitness identification and criminal justice policy.  His current research examines the costs and benefits of eyewitness identification reforms, and the interface between social science and public policy.”

Robert Presley

Robert Presley

Named for former State Sen. Presley, who was the Riverside County undersheriff for 12 years before his election to the California Senate in 1975, the Presley Center opened at UCR in 1994. Presley worked for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for 24 years, served in the state Senate from 1975 to 1994, was chairman of the California Youthful Offender Parole Board from 1995 to1999, and served as secretary of the California Youth and Adult Correctional Agency from 1999 to 2003.

“I am very honored to lead the Presley Center as it continues its research mission, and I am looking forward to working with Senator Presley and members of the criminal justice community on important issues for Riverside County and for the people of California,” Clark said.

The Presley Center, the only publicly funded research center in California, started as part of a major $12 million federal effort at six sites across the country and has continued locally with results-based support from the state and the city of Riverside. Its primary mission is to conduct research on issues related to the causes and prevention of crime and effective policy and procedures for corrections and law enforcement. Since 1998, it has worked with local law enforcement to test strategies for steering young people away from gang membership, and for helping those who are already members transition away from the gangs they have joined.

The center has also worked with local agencies to reduce the number of juvenile repeat-offenders; to create wellness centers that emphasize reducing youth violence at schools in the Riverside Unified School District; and to create a Mental Health Court to provide solutions, rather than just punishment, to mentally ill offenders.

Clark is known internationally for his expertise on issues related to eyewitness identification procedures and criminal justice policy.

Psychological science can best assist policymakers by providing a clear and comprehensive picture of the relevant data, and by developing new theories and new frameworks that better connect eyewitness research to public policy,” he said. “The issues are complex.”

Clark’s research has shown that changes in police procedures can reduce the risk of false identifications of the innocent, but many of those procedures also reduce the number of correct identifications of the guilty. Thus, there is a trade-off that needs to be carefully considered by policymakers.

Clark earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Illinois State University and a Ph.D. in psychology from Indiana University, Bloomington. He joined the UCR faculty in 1987.

Much of Clark’s research, which broadly addresses questions about human memory, has been funded by the National Science Foundation. He has published in Law and Human Behavior, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Applied Cognitive Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

He succeeds Robert Nash Parker, professor of sociology, who has been the director for 15 years. Parker will remain actively involved as a senior research fellow and advisor.

“I would like to thank Rob Parker for his many years of service to the Presley Center,” Deolalikar  said. “The center would not be where it is now had it not been for Rob’s visionary leadership.”

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