Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Implementing Responses to Problems

Tool Guide 7 (2007)

by Rick Brown & Michael Scott

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Introduction

This guide deals with the process of implementing responses to problems in problem-oriented policing (POP) initiatives. It addresses the reasons why the responses you plan to implement do or do not get properly implemented, and how you can better ensure that they do. The guide does not address the broader issues relating to implementing a problem-oriented approach to policing within a police agency, matters that have been more fully explored elsewhere. 1

The POP literature has paid a fair amount of attention to the processes of analyzing the nature and extent of problems and developing suitable responses to them. Relatively little attention has been paid to the actual process of implementing the responses, and to the factors that are important in getting it right. 2 It is clear from POP studies, however, that implementation failure is common.

Implementation takes place in the "response" phase of the SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment) problem-solving model. The response phase actually comprises at least three different tasks: (1) conducting a broad, uninhibited search for response alternatives; (2) choosing from among those alternatives; and (3) implementing the chosen alternatives. 3

There are four basic reasons why any particular problem-solving initiative might fail:

  1. The problem was inaccurately identified: the underlying problem was something other than what it first appeared, the problem was not as acute as initially believed, or the police agency or the community was not as concerned about the problem as first thought.
  2. The problem was insufficiently or inadequately analyzed: the real contributing or causal factors were not discovered, or insufficient or inadequate evidence was mounted to persuade others to take interest in the problem.
  3. The responses developed from the problem analysis were improperly or insufficiently implemented, or not implemented at all.
  4. The problem was properly identified and analyzed, and responses were implemented, but the responses did not have the desired effect.

This guide concerns itself principally with the third of these four reasons: successful or failed response implementation.

The guide is divided according to the four key stages of implementation:

  1. The pre-implementation stage, which addresses the factors you should consider before implementation.
  2. The planning stage, during which you should consider the specific implementation mechanics and systems.
  3. The implementation stage, in which you should put responses in place, monitor them, and make adjustments.
  4. The post-implementation learning stage, in which you should consider implementation successes and failures.

Bear in mind that POP initiatives are of varying scope and complexity, ranging from highly localized projects that a lone police officer might address as part of his or her routine duties, to ambitious projects affecting the entire jurisdiction that require a team of specialists to address. Therefore, the factors and recommendations discussed here will have more or less importance, depending on the POP initiative's scope and complexity.