Much of what we know about problems today was unknown 20 years ago. This accumulation of knowledge is largely due to the sharing of knowledge by police practitioners and researchers in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and other countries. Steps 54 to 57 described how to communicate to decision-makers in your police force and in your community. You also have a duty to improve your profession by sharing your work outside your local agency and community.
There are two approaches to communicating with your peers. The first is through written materials. These may be published in reports, professional periodicals, or popular press articles. The second is through presentations at professional conferences and meetings. The most effective strategy for communicating information is to use a combination of these approaches.
Written reports can present a wealth of detailed, useful information that others can use as reference material. There are a number of ways of disseminating written information. It can be made available in a downloadable format from websites. It can be published in professional periodicals. Shorter pieces designed to capture people's attention can be published in professional newsletters and other periodicals. Finally, encouraging professional journalists to write about your efforts can reach even a wider audience. Shorter and more easily accessible pieces reach a wide audience, but contain less information.
Conferences allow face-to-face communications, questions and answers, and discussions of the latest developments. Informal discussions are useful for exchanging viewpoints on ideas that have not developed enough to be published. And they allow you to seek advice from peer experts on difficult problems.
The United States and the United Kingdom hold annual conferences on problem-oriented policing. There are also a host of crime analysis and other police conferences around the globe where you can present new information on problem solving.
Finally, you should also consider conferences of other professions, particularly if you have been working with partners from other fields. The principal drawbacks to conferences are the limited time available to present material, the lack of detailed permanent records of conference proceedings, and the relatively small numbers of people who attend. But attendees can spread information to those not present.
A comprehensive communications strategy should include the following:
- For people interested in the details, a technical report downloadable through an easily used website.
- For a large audience of general interest, one or more short articles in professional or popular periodicals, with references to the website.
- For professional colleagues and academics, a longer article in a professional journal.
- For a small but influential group of professional colleagues, at least one presentation at a professional conference.
Additionally, it is helpful to send copies of articles to people who are interested in the topic you are investigating. This not only communicates your ideas, but also allows you to solicit advice as to how to communicate your ideas to others.
Professionals are particularly interested in the following:
- Discoveries of new or changing problems.
- Advances in analytical techniques that can answer new questions, or answer old questions more precisely and with less error.
- New responses to problems or new applications of old responses.
- Evidence about the effectiveness, lack of effectiveness, or side-effects of responses.
Each of these topics can be written as a case study of your particular problem. The basic outline for a useful case study covers four points:
- Dissatisfaction with the old situation - why the standard understanding or practice is insufficient in particular circumstances.
- Search for alternatives - how a new understanding or practice was discovered.
- Evidence supporting alternatives - comparison of old and new approaches.
- Conclusions and implications - summary of what people should consider, given this new information.
This outline follows the SARA process. Scanning reveals dissatisfaction with a particular circumstance. Analysis is a search for a new understanding of the problem. Response requires a systematic comparison of alternative approaches and the selection of a particular new approach. And assessment summarizes what one has learned from the experience.
The table shows how this outline can be applied to each of the four case study topics. These types of case studies can be combined, as circumstances require. A new technique for problem analysis might reveal a new type of problem, for example. In such a circumstance, the first two types of case study can be combined.
Similarly, a description of a new response to a problem might include evaluation information, thus combining the last two types of case study. Other combinations are possible.
Finally, we offer a plea on behalf of crime analysis as a profession and crime science as a discipline. However much you want to make yourself clearly understood, never give in to the temptation to exaggerate your evidence.
Nothing is more likely to damage your reputation, and that of your colleagues, than being seen to stretch the facts. Other people may cut corners or leap to conclusions. Crime analysts lend diligence and integrity to what is sometimes a haphazard process. If you don't know the answer or only partly understand the problem, say so. That way, when you do know the answer, people will be more willing to trust your professional judgment.
The 21st century is becoming the century of analysis in policing, and you can make a large contribution. A hundred years from now, analysis will be firmly established in policing, and much will have changed. The technology will certainly be different. But more importantly, our successors will know a great deal more about crime and its prevention than we do. And they will know this because you and people like you asked important questions, collected and analyzed data, and reported your results with honesty and clarity.
Four Types of Case Studies
|Outline||1. New Problem||2. New Analytical Technique||3. New Response||4. New Evidence on Effectiveness|
|1. Dissatisfaction||Discover of an anomalous situation||Why old technique is limited||Why old response is limited||Uncertainty of effectiveness of response under particular circumstances|
|2. Search||Exploration of what is different||How the new technique was discovered||How the new response was discovered||Difficulties in evaluating response in these circumstances|
|3. Evidence||Comparison of old problem to new problem||Systematic comparison of old technique to new based on objective criteria||Systematic comparison of old response to new based on objective criteria||Evaluation methods used and their results|
|4. Conclusions||What this implied for problem solving||Circumstances where new technique is particularly helpful||Circumstances where new response is particularly helpful||Circumstances where response should be used and expected results|