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Exploring evidence-based policing
Exploring evidence-based policing

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5.4 Power, politics and careers

Career progression can be an important driver of professional behaviours. Hence it is important to understand what kinds of behaviours are valued and rewarded by the organisations in which we work, and in particular by the managers and leaders of those organisations. The most important question from our perspective is: ‘Do senior professionals and managers get to their positions by being evidence based in their decision making?’

One of the ways we can begin to recognise the importance of power and organisational politics is to reflect on some of the differences between the standards we aspire to as professionals (often referred to as our ‘espoused goals’) and what drives our day-to-day work (our ‘implicit goals’).

Table 2 is an example, based on the work of the Center for Evidence-Based Management.

Table 2 Aspiration and practice in professional behaviour
Espoused goals Implicit goals
  • to do what works
  • to help our organisation/service fulfil its mission
  • to identify and solve important problems
  • to do what matters
  • to treat everyone equally
  • to speak honestly and truthfully to colleagues and managers.
  • get things done
  • further my career
  • avoid trouble
  • fix immediate problems
  • meet targets and do what gets measured
  • favour those who can help advance my personal goals
  • say what those people want to hear.
(Adapted from www.cebma.org)

Politics can also play out in other ways, most particularly in terms of resource allocation. Kadry, for example, argues that a real challenge in undertaking evidence-based research in policing can be a lack of engagement and cooperation due a lack of time and resources:

Another consideration is that an EBP approach that seeks to understand the successes and failures of long-term operations and policing initiatives is highly dependent on the cooperation of the police officers carrying out the work. ‘Cooperation’ here is not used to denote willingness to be a part of an evidence-based policing test, but rather whether police officers have been assigned enough time and training to be able to carry out the duties and deliver the information needed for the integrity of a test to be upheld. In other words, ensuring that any evaluation does not commend or condemn the tactics used in a policing initiative, where it may have been the deployment (or lack thereof) of the tactics that may misrepresent the efficacy of the tactics.

(Kadry, 2019, p.10)

Ultimately, while EBP may be beneficial for some policing problems it is not a universal panacea. By recognising these challenges, we can begin to establish how evidence-based approaches might be applied most effectively for the benefit of communities, police and other stakeholders.