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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

6 - Advocate Science, values, and problem-oriented policing: why problem-oriented policing?

Summary

Problem-oriented policing is so logical it is surprising it needs justification. Problem-oriented policing is based on the premises that (a) the public demands much of police; (b) the causes of these demands are often complex; (c) the police serve the public better when they make systematic inquiries into these complexities; (d) knowledge helps build new approaches to police services; and (e) learning from successful and unsuccessful innovations makes police more effective in handling the demands of the public. The validity of these premises can be seen if we pause to look at their opposites: (a) the public demands little of police; (b) the causes of these demands are simple; (c) systematic inquiry into the demands is of little use; (d) knowledge will not help build new approaches to police services; and (e) there is little to be learned from successes or failures, so examining them will not improve police effectiveness. None of these stand up to close scrutiny.

So why is problem-oriented policing often misinterpreted? One reason is that problem-oriented policing fundamentally redefines policing. It restates the police mission by creating a new unit of analysis for evaluating police actions: the “problem.” It shifts policing to a scientific approach to preventing crime and away from the routine application of the law. And it replaces the notion of the police as gatekeepers to the criminal justice system with the idea that police are central to many networks that affect public well-being.

This chapter describes the evolution of problem-oriented policing.

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